Just a few minutes before Jose Mourinho appeared for his Friday press conference, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was driven into the club’s training ground, for a very rare appearance at the complex.
The Russian’s infrequent visits haven’t usually coincided with prosperous times for the team and, given the tide of problems that Mourinho has already endured this season, it was impossible not to ask certain questions.
Are we seeing a repeat of September 2007, when Mourinho first left Chelsea? There are parallels. The Portuguese has been in moody form, the business in the transfer market has been unsatisfactory, and results so far this season have been unacceptable.
Things must have got even worse as Chelsea yesterday confirmed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will be out of action for three months after undergoing surgery on his right knee — having controversially sold Petr Cech to Arsenal.
So, is he also colliding with Arbamovich again?
Mourinho suddenly got very snippy.
“You think, if we collide [then], I would be back [six] years later? I collide with Mr Abramovich and [six] years later I’m back with his club?”
But Mourinho did leave?
“It doesn’t mean we collide… Let’s be objective. I don’t want to leave the club, in any circumstances, and the club doesn’t want me to leave. I’m not going to walk away. The club is not going to sack me.”
Mourinho then pointed to the seven managers that Abramovich has sacked since then — in other words, those the Russian has realised are inferior to Mourinho —- as another reason why he won’t be dismissed.
“Look, when I was here in 2007, I had two things in my mind. Go to Spain and go to Italy, just to give you an example. Today, I have been in Spain and Italy. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here. That’s enough. That makes a difference. Mr Abramovich, in 2007 in his football life, he knows only two managers: [Claudio] Ranieri and myself. In this moment, he knows a lot of them. He knows a lot of them. It’s a difference too.” Or, put as Mourinho might like to have said it, Abramovich knows he won’t do better than someone like the Portuguese despite how bad Chelsea’s start has been. The manager did acknowledge the latter.
“We have one problem. We are not getting the results we always expect to get. That’s our problem. That’s our problem.”
It is also one other reason why today’s trip to Everton is so fractious, and potentially so far-reaching. Even if Mourinho doesn’t need to win to keep the owner at bay, he does need to win to keep in some sight of Manchester City. It hardly helps that they face an Everton desperate to hurt Chelsea after all the ill-feeling over the pursuit of John Stones, and that without the injured Thibaut Courtois.
The wonder is whether Mourinho’s side can recover their old resilience, or will they be as haphazard as their four games so far, which have only brought four points. The manager claims he has “an idea” as to what has gone wrong, but wouldn’t reveal it here. There are a number of theories, all with some evidence behind them.
The first is a complacency brought on by a lack of business in the market, and there’s certainly been a slackness to the opening games. At the same time, that might have been brought on by the changed pre-season, and Mourinho has previously said the beneficial effects of that will be seen in mid-September. Then there’s the tactical changes, as the manager has sought to play a higher defensive line.
Finally, there’s the feeling that Mourinho’s third season generally brings difficulties, and a change. He doesn’t feel like that.
“The moment I’m happy losing matches, then I’ve changed a lot. And I don’t want to change. I’m not happy but I work harder than ever, I’m optimistic, I trust the players, I repeat, the players trust me, I know. So it’s not such a hard situation because you feel that better results will arrive, so it’s not depressing.”
Mourinho was braced for bad news about Courtois, indicating the Belgian would be out for “quite a long time” prior to the exact prognosis being revealed.
“It’s not easy to have the best goalkeeper in the world injured. But it’s easy to have one of the best goalkeepers in the world to play. And we have (Asmir) Begovic to play.”
Meanwhile Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes talk of a Chelsea crisis has been over-hyped.
“They have not lost any of their top performers from last season, they won the league by a clear distance, and I expect to see this side competing for every trophy they were competing for last season.”
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