LONDON: Jose Mourinho, after 15 years as a manager, is undergoing a new experience.
Always Mourinho has led from the front. He has come to new clubs and built his own teams and successes. Never has he been faced with the challenge of reconstructing a team collapsing as badly as Chelsea had slipped since the glory of Premier title victory last season.
The evidence is that Mourinho does not know how to cope with the experience or how to put matters right. Instead he expends his angry invective on everybody else – club doctor Eva Carneiro, the referees, media and even his own players. Mourinho’s latest escapade, during a fifth league defeat of term by 2-1 at West Ham, almost suggested he was trying to talk himself out a job.
Chelsea’s flat-footed defence were caught out by Mauro Zarate after only 17 minutes and events from bad to disastrous just before half-time after referee Jonathan Moss disallowed a Cesc Fabregas ‘goal’ for offside.
The Blues’ jittery nerves were revealed within the next minutes as Nemanja Matic was sent off for a second bookable yellow card. Two of Chelsea’s protesting players were also shown yellow and assistant coach Silvino Louro was sent from the dugout for haranguing the fourth official.
Mourinho received a similar punishment after trying to continue the debate with Moss at half-time. Gary Cahill equalised for Chelsea in the second half but the champions were undone – deservedly – by a 79th-minute header from Andy Carroll.
Chelsea ended the match with six players booked, a rate of offending which secures an automatic fine from the Football Association (for more than five yellow cards). Then no-one from Chelsea attended the post-match press conference, another punishable offence.
On top of all that Mourinho has already been fined £50,000 and handed a suspended one-match stadium ban after criticising referee Robert Madeley following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat by Southampton at the start of the month. Chelsea are appealing against that sanction but clearly Mourinho is at risk of more of the same.
Saturday was not such a happy 49th birthday for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich either but it is thought that he, like the vast majority of Chelsea fans, still have faith in Mourinho to turn the team’s fortunes around.
This will not be a simple task with a perception that relations between the manager and his dressing room are not as united as they should be for the challenges ahead. Even the Champions League prospects – a good fallback for Mourinho – are not clear as they sit third in Group G behind Porto and Dynamo Kiev.
Cahill, one of the few Chelsea players to ‘front up’ over their worst start to a season since 1978-79, said: “The lads are devastated. You’re left scratching your head sometimes.
“In the first half the Fàbregas goal could have been given and we had a [Kurt Zouma] effort that was nearly over the line. That sums up the way we’re going. We’ve not had the rub of the green but we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. We have to work hard to turn this round.”
Chelsea face a tough physical test from Stoke in the League Cup tomorrow and then welcome Liverpool and ‘Normal’ Jurgen Klopp to Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea would welcome a touch of ‘normal’ themselves. Mourinho is not looking special any more.