Chelsea’s board have met to discuss the future of manager Jose Mourinho following yet another Premier League defeat, this time away at table-topping Leicester City.
A 2-1 reverse for the Champions has left them just a single point above the drop zone with only Swansea City, Norwich City, Sunderland and Aston Villa below them in the table.
Mourinho Dilemma for Abramovich
Roman Abramovich has so far steadfastly stuck by his man, with some tensions being eased by the previous weeks’ Champions League win over FC Porto and qualification to the knockout phase of the competition subsequently secured.
Chelsea’s Premier League season is in tatters and with Mourinho seemingly blaming his players’ lack of tactical discipline for the loss at the King Power stadium on Monday night, there is a serious dilemma for Chelsea over Mourinho’s future.
The club’s board, and more importantly Abramovich, still believe that Mourinho is the best option available to them despite the horrendous start to the season and the ongoing legal case regarding Dr Eva Carniero. The conundrum facing the board is how far to trust Mourinho to turn the team around. It is a desperate situation which has seen them lose nine of their sixteen league fixtures this season, and has impacted on the sales of corporate ticket packages, a key source of match-day income at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho’s public denigration of his players broke an unwritten rule of the dressing room which dictates that a manager doesn’t directly criticise individuals in an open media forum. He didn’t hold back in the post-match interview when implying that Eden Hazard didn’t have the mentality to play through the knock which he sustained in a first half challenge with Jamie Vardy. He has routinely named other members of the squad as under-performing, and claimed that it was he that took his players to the title, making them play above themselves last season and suggesting that maybe this year is a true reflection of their abilities.
Such suggestions will have been unacceptable to the squad, and the atmosphere at their Cobham training base on Wednesday as they returned to training after a day off will have been tense; a source describing the mood as Mourinho took training as ‘subdued’.
Cesc Fabregas, one of the subjects of Mourinho’s recent criticism, spent part of his free day doing a question and answer session in London. When asked about the Blues recent form he was characteristically open and honest in his assessment.
“If you are a big player and paid like a big player, you must play like a big player and behave like a big player. I am not saying you can’t have a bad season and bad games but the attitude must be spot on.
“We must always be at the top of our games and the behaviour has to be better than what we are seeing right now from every single Chelsea player.”
This is exactly what fans will want to hear, as well as Fabregas’ words being music to Mourinho’s ears. The Chelsea board will want to see if the players do show the desired attitude and aptitude for change, as so far this season Chelsea have had many false dawns and appeared to turn more corners than F1 champ’ Lewis Hamilton.
If the game against Porto was a must win for Mourinho, this weekend’s game against Sunderland is a must-not-lose, relegation six pointer. Another home loss would surely be curtains for Mourinho’s time at Chelsea, as although he remains popular with fans, his credibility would be gone. He already looks like a man walking a tightrope with his squad, moving from stick to carrot, and back to stick again in his attempts to motivate his troops.
Abramovich has shown remarkable restraint so far in sticking by Mourinho. How long his patience can last will depend largely on Mourinho’s ability to cajole his squad into a performance this weekend, or more importantly, how much his players allow themselves to be receptive to his guidance.