Jose in spin over toughest title race yet

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Chelsea v Southampton
It may well just be spin covering the fact he hasn’t yet got Chelsea up to full speed, or he could have genuinely been speaking truthfully.

Either way, Jose Mourinho was prepared to make quite the claim yesterday.

The Stamford Bridge boss says winning the league this season would be a greater achievement than breaking Chelsea’s 50-year drought in 2005. To emphasise the point about the volatility of this campaign, Mourinho also claims a team that suffers six defeats out of 38 can still lift the title.

“Yes, I think so,” Mourinho responded when asked whether winning this season’s league would represent a superior feat to eight years ago. “To win when a club is not historically a winner is a hard step to give, but winning the title this season would be a really good achievement, yes.

“Everybody will lose two matches, or lose one and win then lose again... it’ll happen every one of us. So these situations of five, six or seven consecutive victories? No. Everyone has to understand how it is. I did 100 points with Real Madrid. In the Premier League, no. I’d say maybe a team with six defeats can win.”

At present, Chelsea have lost two. The last of those in the league was the 2-0 defeat away to Newcastle, which was followed by further dropped points in the controversial 2-2 draw at home to West Brom. Chelsea displayed that typical Mourinho resilience by responding to those setbacks with such a commanding 3-0 win at West Ham United last week, but also showed he hasn’t yet developed anything like that relentlessness of 2004-06 by then losing 1-0 to Basel on Tuesday with such a tepid performance.

This is the cycle Chelsea find themselves in.

As such, tomorrow’s home game against an upwardly mobile Southampton represents a genuine test.

“They have an identity,” Mourinho said approvingly of Mauricio Pochettino’s team. “I think they have been together for a year now, almost, and the players are very adapted to that style of play.”

Perhaps part of the issue with Chelsea is their newer squad is not yet fully adapted, which is what Mourinho was getting at, if also overplaying. The team is certainly not as complete as 2004-06, either in terms of positional balance or profile. Mourinho has had to compromise rotation a little and admitted as much after the Basel defeat.

Mourinho hinted he may consider signing a midfielder in January, especially after the injury to Marco van Ginkel.

“Let’s see what happens, but in the Champions League I will obviously change Van Ginkel with Michael Essien. In Basel, if I wanted to make changes in midfield, I couldn’t... we will try to find balances.”

In that regard, Mourinho denied he would be signing a striker, despite on-loan Romelu Lukaku’s supreme form for Everton bringing more focus on Chelsea’s front line. The Belgian’s comments about not speaking to the Portuguese in two months also brought a slight rebuke from Mourinho.

“One day he scored and said he hoped Jose was watching,” the Chelsea boss said. “Next time, ask him why he left on loan one more season.”

Mourinho was unwilling to expand but the Irish Examiner understands he was referring to the somewhat hasty Lukaku transfer request. Chelsea sources say the forward was so upset at missing a key penalty against Bayern Munich in August’s Uefa Super Cup that he verbally asked to be sold the next day. The club immediately rejected that because Lukaku is part of their long-term plans, and they absolutely will not sanction an eventual sale to Everton.

Because the incident conformed to some concerns about whether such a young player is ready to handle the extra pressures of a title-challenging side another loan deal was agreed. Everton were chosen as the Toffees represented another step up.

So far, Lukaku has encouragingly managed it too.

Now, Mourinho is expecting the same from his team.

“Let’s see. I think first to sixth will be our position.”

That was undeniably a bit of spin.


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