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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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England

Time To Deliver – Excuse Well Runs Dry For Jose Mourinho at Chelsea



Jose Mourinho, the master of mind games, worked relentlessly last season to paint Chelsea as the underdogs in the Premier League title race. Supposedly, they could not compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, despite fielding experienced leaders like John Terry and Petr Cech along with match-winners such as Eden Hazard and Oscar.

“The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump", the Portuguese claimed at the time. "Maybe next season we can race."

And Mourinho was proved right, in a sense, as the Blues stuttered down the home straight, finishing third, four points behind champions Manchester City.


However, after a busy and extremely productive summer, Mourinho can no longer play that card. No doubt, the Portuguese will find other psychological tricks to deliver his message while taking the pressure off his players – but a lack of championship pedigree must be struck from the list of credible material.

From the “little horse” in last season’s title race, Chelsea suddenly find themselves wearing the favourites tag – a curse for some, but Mourinho will no doubt turn that into an “us against the world” mindset. The Blues boss routinely pointed to his team’s woes in front of goal last term, openly acknowledging that the trio of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba was not potent enough to land the Premier League title.

 



Diego Costa’s arrival gives Mourinho the world class striker that he craved. Costa has wasted little time making his mark in English football, including a ruthless hat-trick against Swansea. The Brazilian-born Spanish international has not been shy about embracing the physical side of the game, earning him few friends among his opponents – just ask Pablo Zabaleta and Seamus Coleman – but making him an instant hero for the Stamford Bridge faithful. In crucial clashes with stubborn, organised defences, Costa looks set to be the difference-maker.

Cesc Fabregas has filled another void from last season. With Frank Lampard entering a different phase of his career, Chelsea were without a midfield spark to support the energy and graft of Nemanja Matic and Ramires. Fabregas’ silky touch and vision have already had a huge impact this season and his link-up play with Costa has been integral in a number of Chelsea goals. The Blues also splashed out on Atletico Madrid left-back Filipe Luis, who won La Liga last season and was seconds away from lifting the Champions League trophy too.

Mourinho’s smile will be all the wider at this stage given the struggles encountered by the rest of the title contenders. Liverpool have suffered a string of defeats while Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United have all dropped important points against weaker opposition. Meanwhile, the Blues have burst out of the gate with some bruising performances.

 



The Portuguese will know that there is a long way to go – but the early signs are promising. He has played his hand expertly, extracting the maximum from his squad last season while presenting his team as an undermanned underdog, then flipping the script with a positive summer in the transfer market. He now has a team that are fully capable of winning the Premier League title and, it should be said, the Champions League.

Of course, there is pressure that comes hand-in-hand with the current situation. Mourinho has been given everything he asked for – a big money striker, the return of Didier Drogba to supplement the attack, a talented midfield playmaker, a proven full-back to replace Ashley Cole – and now he must deliver. There can be no excuses – it is title or bust.

And that is why Mourinho is reluctant to let even a hint of complacency sneak into his squad.

"Are we better than last season? We believe so", he explained recently. "Do we have more potential than before? I believe so but we still have lots of work to do."

Mourinho seems to be back at Stamford Bridge for the long haul and, with Chelsea already displaying ominous steel and confidence, that spells trouble for the rest of the title-chasing pack.

 

 


TomOWriters

Tom Oldfield

Published: Sunday, 28th Sep 2014