It's not easy being Jose Mourinho. All you've got to do is go absolutely ballistic at one of your members of staff who's just doing their job, refuse to back down, have them leave the club, go on a massive run of bad form, perform some bizarre press conference rants and then suddenly you've got the media saying that you're cracking under pressure? Honestly, it's enough to make you think there's some kind of campaign.
As fun as it is to pile onto the Chelsea boss at the moment (goodness knows, all the cool kids are doing it), the circus has started to get a bit boring. As bad as Chelsea have been, there are good reasons that he's still in a job. No, really. And with all the firings in English football already this season (15 clubs of 'the 92' have already seen a manager depart this term), it's almost refreshing to see Mourinho being given a chance to turn things around.
It's the obvious knee-jerk reaction to blame the manager when a team falls apart suddenly, often paired with the justification of "well, the players didn't become bad at football overnight," but that argument necessitates a fairly narrow view of things. For a start, the players can't become bad overnight, but the manager can?
Mourinho's famous 'third season syndrome' has been cited as a reason for his personal collapse, but to be polite...it's complete nonsense. In his two previous managerial spells which have lasted into a third season, his teams haven't really dropped off. In his third season at Chelsea first time around, he won the domestic cup double, came second in the league and was a penalty shootout away from a Champions League final. Syndrome? What syndrome?
The one thing that Mourinho does tend to do by his third season? Begin to fall out with some of his clubs' more senior players. It happened with Iker Casillas at Real Madrid and Claude Makelele alleged a few years ago that John Terry was instrumental in forcing Mourinho out of Stamford Bridge in his first spell after he'd clashed with the manager about his fitness levels.
There are rumblings once again of 'senior figures' in the Chelsea dressing room actively working against Mourinho, with one player reportedly saying that they would 'rather lose than win for him,' but that claim has been hugely overblown.
It's not that there's no discontent at the club, there clearly is, but that smacks of a frustrated player venting rather than a serious statement of deliberate under-performance. It's the kind of thing that an employee says when they've just had a rough day at the office, before suiting up and heading out to do their job the next day.
It might seem like a minor issue to focus on when the performances on the pitch are what Mourinho will ultimately be judged on, but it's really not. Teams can recover from slumps in form, but it's a lot harder to return from a mutiny against the manager. If he can keep the team relatively on-side, Mourinho is probably still the best man to lead this team back up the table.
Let's not forget: he saw this coming. He spent the summer trying to bring in defensive reinforcements and was frustrated by Abramovich's refusal to give him the funds that he felt he needed. Lo and behold, two months after the end of the window, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic have looked utterly geriatric and the defence is a disaster.
As is so often the way, the real cause of Chelsea's malaise looks to be far more straightforward: the players are either old or exhausted. In a chart of number of games played by all Premier League players over the last three years, Blues players make up five of the top seven. You want to know why Eden Hazard looks off the pace? It's because he's played far more games than any other player in England over the last three years and he's knackered. There are problems here, but they aren't the type that'll change with a new manager.
So let's recap. Mourinho knows where the problems are in his team, is one of very few managers in the world whose track record suggests that he's got the skills to turn the current situation around and is stubborn enough to make the changes that are needed.
If nothing's changed by, say, March, then the conversation becomes very different. But until then, as the kids say, #JoseIn.
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