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Jose Mourinho felt 'betrayed' by his Chelsea team but is he right?
Last Updated: 15/12/15 5:31pm
Chelsea's 2-1 defeat to Leicester on Monday Night Football left Jose Mourinho feeling that his work had been 'betrayed' by his players. As Chelsea's problems continues to worsen, Adam Bate examines where this leaves their beleaguered manager...
Betrayed. It's a powerful word with signification connotations and it seems reasonable to assume that Jose Mourinho had weighed all that up before allowing the words to fall from his mouth in conversation with Patrick Davison on Monday Night Football.
His comments will reverberate and the man who once thrived on conflict will risk becoming further engulfed by it. Jamie Carragher even argued that it is difficult to imagine that Mourinho and this group of players can continue along this path beyond the summer in light of these latest comments.
Leicester beat Chelsea to go top
Leicester moved back to the top of the Premier League with a stunning 2-1 victory over Chelsea.
However, it's worth acknowledging too, after witnessing Chelsea's latest disappointment at Leicester, a ninth Premier League defeat of the season that leaves them just a point above the drop zone, that Mourinho does have a point.
He had shown faith in this line-up, naming the same team that had impressed against Porto in midweek. "Nobody deserves to be out of the team," he told Sky Sports beforehand. "They played well individually and collectively and they deserve that confidence."
And yet, Mourinho had to then watch his players concede two goals that he described as "unacceptable" in his post-match interview. "I know one of my best qualities is to read the game for my players," said Mourinho, "and identify every detail about the opponent."
Indeed, Mourinho is famed for his exhaustive dossiers and prides himself on the details. He once boasted of spending 18 hours at a computer working out how to exploit the weaknesses in Claudio Ranieri's Roma. This time, his opposite number just needed to unleash Riyad Mahrez.
For Leicester's first goal, Mahrez was afforded too much time. Neither Cesar Azpilicueta nor Nemanja Matic closed down quickly enough, allowing the winger to cross with his stronger left foot, while John Terry and Kurt Zouma failed to track Jamie Vardy's run.
Mourinho quotes in full
Jose Mourinho said he felt betrayed by his players and ruled out Chelsea finishing in the top four.
"The movement of Vardy between the two central defenders, the cross with the left foot," said Mourinho. They were the despairing words of a man who knew he'd done the work but that it had not been heeded. And yet, the second goal barely required complex homework to prevent.
Mahrez was made to look like Lionel Messi as Azpilicueta again let him shift the ball onto his left and, with no midfielder doubling up, it proved costly. "Mahrez in the box one against one - I want one against two because I want the midfield player to close the best foot," added Mourinho.
With his team unable to recollect the lessons of the first half let alone the midweek meetings, it seems apparent that Mourinho is struggling to get through to some of these players. And from his exasperated demeanour, that situation appears to leave him as baffled as anyone by events.
Mourinho is in unfamiliar territory and can only take refuge in the hard work that's been so successful for him in the past. But it's far from reassuring that he now seems to be floating the notion that the players at his disposal - title winners last term - are not that good after all.
There is some logic to this given that the likes of Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa have now been underperforming for longer than they did well in a Chelsea shirt. But it's no defence for a squad like this being eight times closer to the relegation zone than the top half of the table.
How will the players respond to this message? Mourinho has long been praised for his ability to utilise the media in order to ease the pressure on his team and send messages to his players. But this felt more like self-preservation - using the players to send a message to owner Roman Abramovich.
It may succeed in buying him some time. Chelsea's all-time record goalscorer Frank Lampard, speaking on Sky Sports, made a valid point in noting that there is little point in making a change now. But that leaves a long period in which to plod on with fractured relationships and fragile confidence.
There was a time when the length of the season was reassuring, but that feeling has long since passed. Indeed, Mourinho gave short shrift to any lingering notion that Chelsea can still salvage a top-four finish from the wreckage of this season.
Besides, he has little choice but to keep his focus on a game-by-game basis. After all, defeat to struggling Sunderland at the weekend would see even them move level on points with Chelsea. Mourinho will be looking for an immediate response.
Whether or not he gets one is likely to depend on whether the players agree that they let down their manager on Monday. If, on the other hand, it is they who feel betrayed by Mourinho's outburst then it is impossible to rule out the prospect of Chelsea's season getting even worse before it gets better.