Jose Mourinho plots strategy from afar

On Thursday afternoon, a day after Dynamo Kiev had been beaten 2-1 for Chelsea’s first win in five games and all the players had gone home, Jose Mourinho was finally able to corral his coaching staff for an intense session of their own.

Jose Mourinho plots strategy from afar

He sat with them for hours, going through every single possible situation for today’s trip to Stoke City so there could be no doubt as to what his decisions are.

This is of course because he has to sit out the game due to his stadium ban, and the scene of concentration at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground on Thursday was rather different to the firecracker scenario that prompted the sanction in the first place.

The FA yesterday released their written reasons for the scale of Mourinho’s punishment for his behaviour at half-time of the champions’ 2-1 defeat at West Ham last month. It was revealed he had to be escorted from the referees’ room after twice refusing to leave following an “aggressive” rant in which he bizarrely referenced Arsene Wenger’s recent comments about officials being weak and naive.

The document, which publishes referee Jon Moss’s report, states that Mourinho shouted: “You fucking referees are weak. Wenger is right about you. You are fucking weak.”

The FA went to the lengths of giving the Chelsea manager a stadium ban because it was felt mere financial penalties and touchline bans were no longer enough to curb behaviour like that.

His “disappointing record of misconduct to date” was cited, and how he had shown a “total lack of respect for the Match Officials and the sanctuary of the dressing room”.

Since any touchline ban would still allow him to be “around the dressing room areas during match day”, and he has never shown any sign of reining his approach in, it was felt they had to go to a stadium ban.

In short, they pushed the red button because they were fed up.

That just gives Mourinho another new challenge in a season of unprecedented difficulties for the Portuguese, as he admitted that the stadium ban makes today’s trip to Stoke the most difficult match preparation he’s ever had.

What’s more, how the Chelsea manager navigates the day will pose almost as much intrigue as how he has navigated the last few weeks, as he stated he would travel with the squad by coach, before leaving them at the Britannia Stadium.

There, his staff will have clear instructions, and will be “in trouble” if they deviate from them.

Mourinho doesn’t expect that, though, as Steve Holland and Rui Faria are so in tune with his thinking. He also revealed they went to remarkable detail, as he wants to take full “responsibility” for the match.

“After Dynamo, I started organising the information for them. I went through every point, leaving them all the notes and the indications. We were together for a long time. With Rui 15 years, with Steve three years. They understand me.

“We try to reduce [the unpredictability of the game]. The most incredible scenarios you can imagine [we prepared]. Let’s go to extremes: At half-time winning or losing 4-0. In between this, you have 1,000 options: Be dominating and controlling the game; being dominated and not controlling the game; having problems with this or that area; injuries or red cards of the goalkeeper, the right-back, the centre-back, the striker, the winger.

“We went through all these different scenarios. They are prepared. Also, what is also important is for them to feel protected by the fact that it’s my responsibility.”

As regards Mourinho’s own plans? He is allowed communicate with his staff during the match, and is expected to do so from the club’s Belfry Hotel, but seemed rather dismissive of watching it from afar. “I have no plans,” he said. “Maybe I sit in the street corner with my iPad. I don’t know. Maybe I watch a movie.”

It would do well to match the drama of Chelsea’s season so far. He could really do with an entirely undramatic win at Stoke today.

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