Spectre of Chelsea’s miserable ‘Mourinho’ season looms large over opening day defeat
It was a day of unbelievable and genuinely unprecedented action at Stamford Bridge… but also a few unsaid words, if obvious thoughts.
After his Chelsea side’s sensational 3-2 defeat to Burnley, Antonio Conte was asked how worried he was about thesituation,whetherthereweredeeper concerns. No-one mentioned 2015-16 or, a “Mourinho season” — to use the Italian’s own words — but it certainly hung there, infusing an edge to everything. It also added fuel to what was already a difficult summer.
Andthat’stherealconcernhere.Ifthe ideaofasimilarcampaigntotwoyears ago remains exaggerated for now, it’s fair to wonder if the champions could at least get into the type of early slump that greatly affects what they can do in this season as a whole.
Chelsea after all still have a fine core squadandsupremebestXIwhenavailable, while Conte himself remains one of the best and most cutting-edge managers in the game, but they can’t really benefit from any of that when theysimply don’t have so many of those players now. That was the deeper significance ofthisresult,beyondthesetbackofjust getting defeated in your first game. Chelsea have a very tricky spell coming up with games away to Tottenham Hotspur and home to Everton and, without so many key players for both of those games, almost needed to get a win in this notionally more forgiving fixture—athometoasidetippedforrelegation—inordertoofferthatcushion.
There is now already the possibility that they could go into the international break with an awful lot of work to do once they get back.
They could of course well beat Spurs at Wembley just as they did in the FA Cup in April, but Conte is going to have to be even more creative with his XI becauseheisnowmissingalotofplayers, especially in midfield.