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Jose Mourinho's Chelsea struggles: A problem for a novice in failure
Last Updated: 05/10/15 3:42pm
Jose Mourinho’s own brilliant record means he has little experience of struggling sides. As a result, it seems the solution is in danger of eluding him, writes Adam Bate.
There is a joke doing the rounds linking Sam Allardyce with the Chelsea job. That's how it should stay but it does hint at a truth about the predicament the club finds itself in. They are just two places above the Premier League relegation zone. This is a challenge with which Jose Mourinho is unfamiliar. His own success has precluded such an experience.
Mourinho meets board
Jose Mourinho met with the Chelsea board after Saints defeat, according to Sky sources.
Porto were uncharacteristically fifth when he was given the job in 2002 but Mourinho has not taken over a team outside the top three since. He brought success to Chelsea but they had finished second in the Premier League and reached the Champions League semi-finals in the season prior to his first stint. Inter, meanwhile, were already the champions of Italy.
Real Madrid had finished second - with 96 points and 102 goals - under Manuel Pellegrini, while Rafael Benitez's Chelsea were the Europa League champions having finished third in the Premier League. In each case, Mourinho's brilliance made the team better. But it would be wrong to suggest these were teams in turmoil prior to his arrival.
When you win and you win titles and you are champion, life is easy.
Taking over a successful side and adding focus and discipline is Mourinho's forte. Throughout his career he has infused his teams with the mental resolve to sustain success over a long league season. In the case of Porto and Inter, his big-game mentality helped to mastermind unlikely Champions League triumphs too.
Mourinho himself seems to acknowledge this is different. It serves as both a reminder of his record and an admission of his plight. "I get it as a fantastic experience - an experience that I don't want to repeat," he said last week. "I think it comes too late, to come after 15 years is too late, but it's something that is helping me to be better, a great negative experience."
Put simply, turning things around for a struggling team is a different challenge altogether. And thus far, Mourinho has given the impression of a man floundering in search of a solution. There are only so many weapons at the disposal of a manager in charge of a faltering team and - unfamiliar with defeat - Mourinho has reached for most of them already. To no avail.
Jose: I'll go if players want
Jose Mourinho says he will only walk away from Chelsea if the club's players say he's not wanted.
Referees and rivals have been put under the spotlight. The media have been targeted. It can be assumed that players have been criticised in private because, for a manager who has often inspired fierce loyalty from his teams, the surprise decision to go public with his frustration has already followed.
John Terry has been dropped. Eden Hazard too. Nemanja Matic even suffered the indignity of being substituted 28 minutes after being introduced from the bench himself. Perhaps most troubling of all was the decision on the opening weekend of the season to make Dr Eva Carneiro the subject of his ire.
Apparently all out of sparring partners, his weekend comments appeared to aim a dig at the ribs of the one man most likely to dictate how and when this drama reaches its conclusion. Mourinho chose to switch the attention to Roman Abramovich and his hire-and-fire policy. "I think this is a crucial moment in the history of this club," he said.
"Do you know why? Because if the club sacks me, they sack the best manager that this club had and secondly, the message is again the message that bad results, the manager is guilty. This is the message that not just these players but other ones before, that they got during a decade. I think this is a moment for everybody to assume responsibilities."
It's tempting to conclude that it's the last resort; a plea for patience and a reminder of his record as "the best manager that this club has had." But it's also further evidence that nobody - neither employer nor employee - is safe when it comes to Mourinho's antagonism.
At its best, this ability to thrive on conflict can foster a dynamic working environment that breeds excellence. At its worst, as appeared to be the case at Real Madrid, his machinations can exhaust a football club. A siege mentality only works if the threat is from outside. If it's internal, mutiny might just be the easier way out.
As Mourinho admits, Chelsea's players could yet be tempted by this alternative solution. "I think you should go straight to the players. Get a table at Cobham next week - John Terry doesn't go to the national team, Diego Costa doesn't go, Ramires doesn't go. Ask them. If they tell you they don't trust me, that is the only thing that can make me resign."
It's quite the turn of events. "I am so happy with myself with the way I am facing this," insisted Mourinho, but whether that's a sentiment shared by anyone else at Stamford Bridge is up for debate. So as the so-called 'specialist in failure' Arsene Wenger safely negotiates his latest mini-crisis, it's the novice in failure in danger of seeing his first blip become terminal.