Connect in the back of the net

Sam Allardyce led the reaction to the news of Jose Mourinho’s sacking from Chelsea by saying he was “shocked and saddened”. In this case the feeling of shock was inescapable but there is an overriding inevitably about Mourinho’s departure, any lingering hope that the Portuguese could turn this wretched season around starting with Allardyce’s Sunderland on Saturday abolished by Roman Abramovich whose patience had finally ran out.

Diego Costa ended a run of three straight defeats with his goal against Norwich, followed up by a decent performance away at Spurs, but what seemed to be a corner-turned became another false start as defeats at home to Bournemouth and Leicester followed.

The latter hastened Mourinho’s exit as he embarked on an extraordinary post-match dissection in which he accused his players of “betrayal” and that last season’s success was down to his own “phenomenal work”. This amplified a growing squad mutiny and for a manager whose success has largely been owing to the togetherness of his teams and the loyalty to him, there was no way back.

 

Leaves with a whimper

Mourinho leaves with Chelsea 16th having won just four of their opening 16 games, astounding form given they were crowned champions as recently as May. There is a perception that the decline set in towards the end of last season but the league was won at a canter and for a team that had negotiated the campaign with the same core of players throughout, it was no surprise to see them drop off towards as they approached the summer. Even then they lost only one of their last 18 games.

The summer break, with no international tournament, was expected to see Mourinho and his squad recharge for what promised to be an intent title defence, an opportunity for the Portuguese coach to show that he is able to sustain success into the third year that has so often proved to be his barrier.

However, with Chelsea failing to land Mourinho’s principle transfer targets and instead landing a rag-bag assortment of signings, it did exactly the opposite. Costa returned visibly unfit, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic became limp shadows of the forces they were last year while Eden Hazard, last season’s talisman and FWA and PFA player of the year, has produced a series of anonymous displays.

 

Hazard’s regression and the Carneiro debacle — turning points

The regression of Hazard has been an underlying factor behind Mourinho’s downfall as it was his decision to waive team doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn onto the pitch at the end of the 2-2 draw with Swansea on the opening day that set the unsavoury note for the campaign.

They were both swiftly removed from first-team duties and Mourinho is still awaiting a court hearing as Carneiro seeks damages for sex discrimination, aggravated damages and personal injury compensation.

With that hanging over him Mourinho has lurched from between controversies and questionable decisions, axing John Terry, Hazard and Matic but persisting with Ivanovic as the Serb wrestled with an awful run of form, then receiving a substantial fine and a one game stadium ban for his outburst at referee John Moss in the aftermath of the defeat at West Ham. He returned to Stamford Bridge as the “happy one” but that has quickly evaporated into storms of vitriol and anger.

 

Friction with Costa

There has been friction with Costa, who scored 20 goals last season to fire Chelsea to the title and who Mourinho trusts to be his on-pitch reflection as the waspish attacker leading the fight from the front, and Mourinho has possibly indulged him too much as a result.

There have been reports that Chelsea players aren’t happy with how Costa got away with throwing a bib at the manager after he wasn’t subbed on in the draw at Spurs, and with the dressing room atmosphere already toxic it was only exacerbated with events on Monday night, with Hazard again involved after Mourinho hinted towards the Belgian faking the hip injury that was behind his 31st minute substitution.

So once again Mourinho has shown that he is unable to steer a reign past a third year. His first spell at Chelsea was curtailed as results soured and while he left Inter Milan on his own accord after winning everything, preparing to take over at Real Madrid, his time in the Spanish capital ended acrimoniously with harmony in the squad severed.

 

Flawed brilliance?

With an ingrained nature to search for a fight wherever he can find it, he can grow easily agitated which translates onto his band of players that were once so loyal. He would leave Inter still revered by his players, Marco Materazzi was in tears as he bid goodbye to his coach, and his players, so the cliché went, would run through brick-walls for him. Somewhere he has lost the ability to command such devotion and, mixed in with a confrontational nature which immediately attracts scrutiny and therefore pressure, squad discord can quickly set in.

Blend that in with an alarming lack of patience that refuses to hand youth players a fair go, another factor that laid behind Abramovich’s decision to sever ties as he understandably demands a return on his £100 investment into the club’s academy system at Cobham, and you get a man tailor-made for the shorter term.

Possessing an unparalleled genius to land results within 1-2 years but too acerbic to go on any longer, the Portuguese now finds his brilliance is deeply flawed.

 

No shortage of offers, but seemingly not a long-term option

Still, his habit of winning trophies will see Mourinho not go short of offers from across Europe to return to management and Chelsea, with their current position false and still possessing a squad of quality, will surely start to pull away from relegation soon. Possibly that will come with Guus Hiddink, who has fought fires for Abramovich before and seems set to do it again.

But Chelsea and their Russian owner are still looking for their holy grail of a manager who can ensure long-term stability. Mourinho, upon his second coming and after his third title win with the Blues, seemed to be every inch that man but confirmation has arrived, in incredible fashion, that the “Special One” soon runs out of lustre.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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