Chelsea under attack

Progress? What progress? At our hearts we’re still a street mob baying for blood, be it the arena in Rome, witchhunts in Salem or Chelsea’s form in the 2006-2007 Premiership season.

Chelsea and Mourinho are under tremendous pressure, all of it created and exploited by the English media.

Rumours of a massive rift between Mourinho and Chelsea are rife, fuelled by Mourinho’s blunt comments to the press, Shevchenko’s fitness and Chelsea’s unwillingness to splash money on a stop-gap solution to Chelsea’s defensive troubles (oh, the horror of Chelsea refusing to spend money!).

I’ll talk about one or two of these points in more detail, but let’s get the basics straight.

Is it wrong that Chelsea are being prudent in the transfer market?

Absolutely not! The club has a prerogative to think long-term and not make purchases for short-term impact. This prudence also means that Chelsea should not pay ‘too much’ over the top for players – and thus Chelsea’s decision not to pursue Ben Haim after a 2 mil deal was rejected by Bolton. I think they’ve taken an admirable stance and seeing that they’re good to finish at least second in the Premiership, Chelsea should think long-term and not be rushed into expensive buys.

Is Mourinho leaving?

Why would the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history be shown the door? Mourinho, like other managers, has made his share of bad transfer buys but his man management skills mean he’s still first choice for Chelsea’s top brass.

Mourinho has talked about ‘needing support’ from the owners and the management, which could be a reference to anything from team selection to backing in the press. Understandably, Kenyon has talked to the press about this and publicly confirmed Chelsea’s support for the manager, a smart move although it may have come a bit late.

The only three reasons I see Mourinho leaving for are:

1) A major disagreement with the club management – this includes Kenyon as well as Abramovich
2) The incessant media attention
3) If he’s offered a coaching job he can’t refuse, like Barca (little chance of that happening though), Madrid, Milan / Inter, or Portugal.

All parties are doing their best to avoid option 1, and while the media would love nothing less than a bloodbath at Chelsea and a dissolution of the bonds that hold the club together, I don’t see this happening, especially after Terry made a public show of supporting the manager AND so did Shevchenko.

Option 3 – more of a chance, but it would take a spectacular offer to take Mourinho away from Chelsea. Milan looks like the most likely option but why would he move now when he’s still got so much to do at Chelsea?

Option 2 – there are signs that the media war on Chelsea has gotten to Mourinho, but it’s the price of being rich and being that damned good, and Mourinho will grit his teeth and bear through it.

Should we cut Shevchenko some slack?

Such claims cheapen football, and are usually not even worth mentioning. However, this particular rumour (rather, Sheva’s response to it) does underscore the respect Shevchenko has for Mourinho, as well as remind us that it’s less about Sheva’s friendship with Abramovich than about the 31 mil Chelsea paid Milan for a striker that’s scored just 3 goals so far.

You can’t ask more from a player than to give his best in training and on the pitch. If he doesn’t fit in with Mourinho’s plans then he can either leave the club (which is not an option) or he can get on the training pitch and adapt his game. That’s what he seems to be trying to do, and hopefully it can work out.

I seriously doubt that Mourinho is the sort of player to hold grudges against his players the way Ferguson has done in the past. Last season Gallas was more at odds with the club management than Mourinho (not that it made things easier between them) and even now it’s more of an issue between the manager and the management than the player and the manager.

So let’s cut Sheva some slack, shall we? He might actually start playing better once the pressure wears off a bit.

Ditto for Chelsea.

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