Defending Premier League champion Chelsea have been in a bad way since the start of the 2015-16 campaign. They are currently 14th in the table through 15 games. That is the worst showing for a reigning title holder in Premier League history. The latest setback, a 1-0 loss to promoted side Bournemouth, has left manager Jose Mourinho on the thinnest of ice. The feisty Portuguese coaching legend has never been one to back down. He surely won’t now as his men look for answers to an ever changing list of questions. Owner Roman Abramovich has sacked Mourinho before. Combined with their league form, it should be safe to say it may be a second time if the Blues don’t advance out of Champions League Group G this week.
The troubles for Mourinho and company all began to germinate this offseason. Much like what happened to Manchester City in their latest title defense, Chelsea stood pat instead of improving the roster heading into the year. They started training camp late and during their preseason schedule in the US you could just see that something wasn’t quite right with the Stamford Bridge residents. Roman Abramovich is no stranger to dropping a pretty penny in transfer fees, so it is safe to say the call for stagnancy came from Mourinho. As Chelsea began their latest title defense, that call was proving to be the wrong one to make.
Chelsea struggled for form early, but there was still positivity surrounding the team. It was viewed as an early season rut which would work itself out. This was a defending champion whom had been picked my many men smarter than myself to repeat after all. It would soon become clear that this was much more than a blip on the footballing radar.
As the losses piled up the tension mounted. John Terry, a man who played every minute during their run to the title, was dropped from the starting XI. The same happened to Diego Costa. Player of the Year Eden Hazard was no different. It was clear that the Special One was looking to send a message to his seemingly complacent players, but said message wasn’t received. Instead of his antics spurring his squad, it created derision and an overwhelming sense of paranoia. Nobody was safe from his wrath and while that be a useful tactic with a young team, it is nowhere near effective with a conglomeration of national team stars like Chelsea has at their disposal.
Maybe Mourinho will be allowed to bring in reinforcements in January. He was given Barcelona man Pedro before the summer window closed, but the Spaniard has been a ghost since a bright debut. The next three weeks should determine whether or not Mourinho will even be shopping for his proverbial groceries in the new year. It isn’t even that pessimistic to believe that he won’t.
But in the meantime we’ll deal with the Mourinho Paradox. For a man with entirely too much to say, usually blaming everybody but himself, he finds himself often having nothing to say. His hubris is both his greatest strength and his most crippling weakness. If you’ve ever played the children’s board game Don’t Break The Ice, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that Jose is trapped in the center. One more strike of the mallet means it is game over. Will FC Porto’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday be that final wallop? Or did Glenn Murray’s cracking header 99 seconds after his substitution provide the final blow to bring the board down on one of the most decorated managers in world football?