Jose says fate in play­ers’ hands

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Hav­ing dared Ro­man Abramovich to sack him, Jose Mour­inho has is­sued a sim­i­lar chal­lenge to his play­ers. Amid re­ports that the dress­ing room has turned against him, the Por­tuguese said if it had, he would re­sign.

The Chelsea man­ager, who left Real Madrid in part be­cause of a play­ers’ re­volt, said of claims his play­ers are no longer re­spond­ing to him: “Peo­ple can say what they want. You should re­ally ask the play­ers and not go with sources and fake sources, and the play­ers told a friend, and the friend told the agent, and the agent is not happy with me be­cause I don’t play his player.

“You should go straight to the play­ers. Get our me­dia of­fice to ar­range a ta­ble at Cob­ham (Chelsea’s train­ing ground) next week.

“John Terry doesn’t go to the na­tional team, Diego Costa doesn’t go, Ramires doesn’t go. Ask them.

“If they tell you they don’t trust me, [that] is the only thing that can make me re­sign. The only thing. But not fake sources. The play­ers at the ta­ble, face to face.”

No one expects this meet­ing to be ar­ranged, or the play­ers to speak out if it was.

A former Chelsea man­ager, Gian­luca Vi- alli, once wrote that in England play­ers never crit­i­cise a man­ager un­til he is gone.

Terry, re­called for Satur­day’s 3-1 home loss to Southamp­ton af­ter a month on the side­lines, kept to script when he said: “We have the best man­ager who we re­main be­hind and we re­main to­gether. I have seen man­agers come and go and if any­one is go­ing to get us out of this hole it is go­ing to be Mour­inho.”

It was Mour­inho who put his fu­ture on the agenda by stat­ing that he would not quit and the club should not sack him as they would not find a bet­ter man­ager. It was time, Mour­inho said, for Chelsea to stop sack­ing man­agers at the first bad run.

On Satur­day night, Abramovich, who was at the game, at­tended an in­for­mal board meet­ing about the sit­u­a­tion - but the mes­sage from in­side is that this was sup­port­ive and a change of man­ager is not in the off­ing.

The last time Chelsea be­gan a sea­son this badly, in 1979, they did fire the man­ager, but Danny Blanch­flower, though a great player, was a novice boss, not a se­rial win­ner. That team, boast­ing Ray Wilkins, Ron Har­ris and Pe­ter Bonetti, fin­ished bot­tom of the old First Divi­sion but no one expects that to hap­pen this time.

Mour­inho, who in­sists Chelsea will fin­ish in the top four, blamed his team’s predica­ment on a loss of con­fi­dence and bi­ased ref­er­ee­ing. The lat­ter, en­tirely un­founded al­le­ga­tion ought to lead to an­other charge from the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion; the former re­quires deeper in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“They need luck to ar­rive at half-time win­ning two or three-nil,” said Mour­inho, “Not to feel this pres­sure, panic and neg­a­tiv­ity - de­ci­sions against, un­lucky, mis­takes. Time will bring it but I don’t know if it will be next match or in three games’ time.”

This might make sense if it were not that mid-septem­ber Chelsea scored 10 times, con­ced­ing one, in beat­ing Mac­cabi Tel Aviv, Arse­nal and Wal­sall. Even when they sub­se­quently went 2-0 down at New­cas­tle, they drew. Th­ese are sea­soned, suc­cess­ful play­ers. Their con­fi­dence should not be so frag­ile that, in Mour­inho’s anal­y­sis, “the first neg­a­tive thing that hap­pens the team col­lapse”.

This sug­gests there are more fun­da­men­tal prob­lems than just a loss of con­fi­dence. Chelsea stag­gered over the line last sea­son, the team ek­ing out wins, ex­hausted by Mour­inho’s re­liance on the same core group of play­ers in all com­pe­ti­tions, even in a Cham­pi­ons League dead rub­ber.

With no ma­jor tour­na­ment, most had a quiet sum­mer and they should have re­turned feel­ing re­freshed.

To Mour­inho, how­ever, be­ing re­laxed is dan­ger­ous. He has spent most of his ca­reer pick­ing fights - with own­ers, ref­er­ees, gov­ern­ing bod­ies, jour­nal­ists, even fans and, this sea­son, med­i­cal staff.

It is as if he needs a sense of griev­ance to mo­ti­vate him­self, but while it may work for Diego Costa, this men­tal­ity can be ex­haust­ing to live with.

With play­ers, Mour­inho’s man­age­ment is in­creas­ingly more cold shoul­der than arm round the shoul­der. The spine of his first team - Terry, Frank Lam­pard and Di­dier Drogba - loved their man­ager and went to war for him. This time there seems more dis­tance with some, like Kevin De Bruyne and An­dre Schür­rle, find­ing tough love too tough.

Lam­pard and Drogba have gone, Terry may soon fol­low. Mour­inho seems to have de­cided, in a divi­sion where most op­po­nents now have a player with the pace Saido Mané used to de­stroy Chelsea on Satur­day, that he is past it.

Mour­inho was ex­pan­sive post-match, but not all the ex­pla­na­tions made sense.

For ex­am­ple, Branislav Ivanovic keeps his place de­spite his mis­er­able form be­cause “if you don’t have a min­i­mum of five tall play­ers good in the air, you are dead on set-pieces”.

But new £14m full-back Baba Rah­man has not shrunk since he ar­rived in Lon­don, he was 5ft 10in when he ar­rived. If Mour­inho needed a six-footer, he should have signed Mat­teo Darmian, based on the Ital­ian’s per­for­mance.

Of course, Mour­inho wanted John Stones and Paul Pogba, both 6ft 2in. It may be his ap­par­ent an­tipa­thy to­wards the club, and the play­ers, is be­cause a pre-sea­son fear that the lat­ter would let him down is be­ing re­alised. — The In­de­pen­dent

Chelsea man­ager Jose Mour­inho

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