You will be forgiven for thinking the above quotes from Chelsea’s manager were his round of applause for his team turning in a fine, match-winning display culminating in a win. Control Chelsea had last night against Stoke City, but the most important conclusion coming out of the League Cup tie was that holders Chelsea were knocked out of the competition.
It’s been a testing start to the 2015/16 campaign for Mourinho and his players. Of the 15 matches they have played thus far, seven have resulted in a loss including last night, a statistic that makes Mourinho’s situation at the club even more untenable. Whether the Portuguese serial winner remains at the club for much longer remains to be seen, and should Chelsea persist with him and trust him to save the sinking ship, there will always be a few things out of Mourinho’s hands, at least until next season.
Overhaul Of Personnel
The most basic and seemingly easiest thing to stop a rot and start afresh is to make changes to the playing squad. Which is, of course, not as easy as it is made to look and certainly not the obvious solution to all the problems. It is true the addition of quality players to Chelsea’s struggling lot will ease the increasing pressure on the under-performing stars, but the winter transfer window is still more than two months away.
And considering how January is not the best month to bring in the best talents available makes it ostensibly clear Mourinho will have to wait until the end of the current season to make some much-needed alterations to his playing personnel. Whether he stays in his job for that long is open for debate, but one thing is for sure that Mourinho has to work with basically the same set of players for the entire season, unless clubs become more charitable towards Chelsea.
Change Of Approach
One plausible and feasible thing to do is to effect a change of approach to impact the growing list of poor results, but will it be possible with the players clearly lacking motivation to perform and turning in one poor performance after another? There have been plenty suggestions about why Mourinho should bin his template 4–2–3–1 set-up for something more dynamic, like a 4–3–3 or a two-striker set-up. Considering how poorly he rates both Loic Remy and Falcao — judging by their minutes on the pitch this season — it will need more than his current options to force him into a philosophical change.
Which again takes us into next summer’s transfer window, where he will at least have the options of handpicking his choice of players. There is a caveat in there as well; this summer’s drawn-out John Stones saga which left Chelsea losing the battle means nothing can be taken for granted, at least in the prevailing scenario, where even the likes of Everton can have their way against the behemoth of Chelsea.
It would’ve been somewhat kinder to Mourinho’s current predicaments if he had the choice of a restart to the season. Alas, such things only exist in the world of virtual reality, and while Chelsea fans will be keen to point to the fact that no team has successfully defended their Premier League title in the last five years, the issue remains with Chelsea’s bizarrely limp title defence. At this stage last season, Manchester City were third with 20 points from 10 games and in the season previous, Manchester United had 17 points from 10 games.
Some might even point to the Blues’ late start to pre-season as a factor behind their slump. Chelsea kicked off their pre-season fixtures on 23rd July, just a fortnight before the season-opener. While there wasn’t much of a difference with the other clubs like Manchester United and City who both played their first pre-season games on the 18th, Arsenal’s one week-long headstart clearly had them in advantage in their Community Shield win over Chelsea.
As football in England offers no scope for a mid-season restart along the lines of winter breaks in Spain or Germany, it seems Mourinho might have to face a wait until next summer to properly assess the problems he is facing and have a perspective on things, pressing the restart button.