The wonder, as they prepare to face Maccabi Tel Aviv, is whether it’s all getting to Chelsea’s heads. Jose Mourinho actually claimed his newly shorn scalp wasn’t the “war haircut” of 2006 as he came into his Champions League press conference with a new look, and initially tried to stay composed amid so many questions over his side’s dismal form. But it wasn’t long until he got combative — and very defensive.
After what has been the worst league run of the Portuguese’s entire career, with just four points from five games, he was asked about the theory that his third season is when the fire starts to run it. It’s when results falter. He exploded, raising his voice to shout down the question.
He also offered a rather one-sided and revisionist history lesson.
“In Porto, I didn’t have a third season. In Inter, I didn’t have a third season. My third season at Chelsea, the first time, I won the FA Cup and the Carling Cup, and I played the Champions League semi-finals. These are my third seasons.
“So click Google instead of asking stupid questions. You spoke about the third season, and I’m telling you the question is stupid.”
By then, the questioner attempted to say winning cups wasn’t quite the point, but Mourinho again interrupted.
“I know the point is that the question is stupid.”
On a very simplistic level, Mourinho is right. If you were to Google his third seasons, you would see campaigns superior to the vast majority of managers’ best seasons. The real point, however, is that they show a clear regression from his own best seasons and lend credence to the view that his intense style of coaching does not lend itself to the long term and building a dynasty.
“I think that’s another question,” Mourinho eventually responded. “I haven’t done that [built a dynasty]. This is the first time I’m going for that, and I don’t have experience of it in the past.”
But, as regards the third season?
“I have nothing to show to anyone. Nothing.”
It was just that he then made a big show of talking about how many medals he can put on the table.
“It’s the same music the fans sing every game: We know what we are, champions of England. Nobody can steal our trophies, our history. Nobody can do that. You can try, but you can’t do that. We know what we are. Champions of England.”
A further curiosity is that this goes against much of what Mourinho has said in his career. Here was a man talking about how much his greatest past results still matter, despite propelling most of his greatest seasons by preaching that nothing matters except the next result.
The current reality is that Chelsea badly need a positive result in their next game against Maccabi to restore confidence. Mourinho admitted that after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Everton — which left him with just four points, the worst return from a five-game spell in his career — but went back on it a little here.
He said the players are “frustrated and not happy” with results, but denied a listless atmosphere, as well as stories of in-fighting and tension. He again tried to put it down to mere circumstance.
“It’s sad that it’s like that,” the Portuguese said of all the speculation. “It’s so simple to accept the results are not good, because that’s football — bad luck, bad moments.
“The only real problem we have is we don’t have good results. Our lives are about getting good results but, you know, at other clubs you have to go back two, three, five, six, ten years to remember good results. In our case you have to go back three months. Three months we were the best team in the country, the best manager, the players. So we’re not happy, but we know what we are.”
As regards why they are where they are, he was still unwilling to publicly pin-point a reason. Mourinho is trying to change things, though. He has attempted to foster a sense of business at training — which is why so much attention was paid to his “war haircut”, which is what he called it in 2006 — and he admitted he will alter the team.
“Yes I will make a couple of changes because I have to try a different dynamic, I have to try a couple of different faces, and to give chances to people who have not been playing but have been working hard.”
That is also why this game has a hard edge. On the one hand, Maccabi are the perfect opponents to get back on track. On the other, another failure to win would only deepen the crisis. Chelsea will have to keep their heads.
Begovic; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Kenedy; Matic, Ramires, Oscar; Pedro, Remy, Hazard.
Maccabi Tel Aviv (4-2-3-1):
Rajkovic; Spungin, Ben Haim I, Carlos Garcia, Tibi, Rikan; Ben Haim II, Igiebor, Alberman, Mitrovic; Zahavi.
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