Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why Chelsea are not in it

As one of the many people skeptical about the return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea, reason wound around the material that was at his disposal in his first stint, both what he found and brought in. There was no Didier Drogba, the pair Frank Lampard and John Terry of old. There has never been a question of The Special One’s tactics and proven by his track record. Neither would one doubt the squad he was inheriting at the time, but no one really thought The Blues would be the same, except the die hards.

Traditionally, Mourinho is a natural man-manager who believes in his wits and enjoys calculations and juicy controversy and soft propaganda. That has been the key to get water from rocks at times. With a certain set of players and the conducive environment, that worked wonders in that fruitful year at Chelsea and previously at Porto.

The same momentum and quality for his use saw him conquer Italy and Europe. It was however the gritty work ethic that spelt his unsavory moments in Real Madrid and that is exactly were my skepticism comes from. The Only One got blessed with an array of talent that could be divided into departments to perform a winning act, but he always chose to be a work in a way Sepp Blatter described Cristiano Ronaldo – a commander-in-chief.  That is how coaches work but here is the problem.  

In an environment littered with an array of talent, not all artists are workaholic. While few may try to please their master, it is not everybody who is capable, exactly the reason Chelsea sold Juan Mata to United. He was accused of not working for the team and at this rate, Edin Hazard is getting praises for fighting for each and every ball. If he can cope with the workload, he will be a greater player, but this may end his promising career.

The reason Mourinho was not as successful in Madrid as expected, is exactly the willingness of sacrificing the careers for the Special One. He felt betrayed and the relationships soured. Usually, Jose manages such cases but there is a limit of how far he can go and that is determined by how much he is allowed in the personal spheres of the individuals.

At this moment in time, Chelsea plays with good tactical discipline associated with his previous team, showing a consistent management style. Their solid defensive work coupled with grit to grind out results and points is borne out of the desire to earn the hard to get complement from the man considered the best in the game right now. How much this will continue will be determined with how much they get out of this campaign.

As it is, they play like a team that has hit the ceiling but still pushing. That is what you do not want in a team halfway through a grueling season. It would not matter with five or so matches left. Chelsea will accumulate many good wins and points but are far from being the best. This was strangely recognized and admitted by the manager himself who confessed that they are just good enough for Champions’ League spot. He said this in his prayers for Manchester City to beat Tottenham Hotspur, and not for his victory over West Ham United. His prayers were answered word for word and all they have left is a battle with Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United, if the Red Devils themselves enter a revival mode.

Within his revered tactics, Mourinho should find it in himself to be flexible enough to work around his material and acquire certain specialist to suit his taste. At the moment, his situation is dire and nobody can pick out who is suitable for what he intends, neither is it possible to see if what he intends is achievable. It is a game of football after all and the goals count. Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres are scorers of note and neither has been utilized to their potential. If it continues like this, despite the personal friendship, Roman Abrahimovic‘s patience will be tested, not now but soon.