German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared that “one ought to hold on to ones heart; for if one lets it go, one looses control of his head too.” There is one man currently employed in football that this phrase looks as if it was designed for; Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
In this country we are so used to seeing Mourinho operate with a degree of calm, composed, dexterity more associated with a James Bond villain than a Premier League manager; however, like the fading of a mirage we have slowly seen this Machiavellian façade tumble to the floor. Gone are the humorous quips and rebuttals that accompanied press conferences, this current incarnation is a snide, sarcastic, neurotic man seemingly goading his bosses into sacking him. You could argue that this is always the manner in which Mourinho conducts himself; it is only the near unprecedented number of losses that has caused us to view him in a different light.
This season has seen the Chelsea gaffer meander from one mishap to the next; from his total mishandling of the club doctor – Eva Carneiro to his re-subbing of Nemanja Matic, this season has been a total disaster. All of which has been played to the tune of Mourinho’s constant bemoaning of governing entities and match officials, leading to the unenviable record of becoming only the second manager to receive a stadium ban. (After Alan Pardew and his “headbutt” on David Meyler)
16th place Chelsea go into Saturday’s 3PM kick-off sporting a remarkably similar record to opponents Norwich City, who have carved a snug position one place above. From 12 games both have won 3. Chelsea have drawn 2 and lost 7 compared to Norwich who have won 3 and drawn 6. More remarkable is the fact they have identical records in terms of goals; both have scored 16 and conceded 23 displaying a -7 in the goal difference column.
Whilst it is easy (and fun) to get wrapped up in the Stamford Bridge turmoil it is important not to ignore Norwich. Alex Neil has finally arrested a slump of winless games with the mature home victory against Swansea, a game in which they failed to concede a single shot on target.
Despite adjusting to the rigours of the Premier League reasonably well, it is hard to see the remainder of this season being anything other than a slog for survival. A more robust, well organised side is hard to find yet they lack the cutting edge to turn losses into draws and draws into wins. Mbokani and Jerome are hardworking, competent strikers yet they are more renowned for their physical attributes rather than their technical ones. The same applies for the midfield pairing Tettey and Howson. This leaves an incredible burden to create on the shoulders of Brady, Hoolahan and Redmond (currently injured).
Even considering Chelsea’s recent demise a win in London would still be a massive coup for the newly promoted Canaries. In the League at home Chelsea have already lost to Southampton, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, boss Alex Neil will have serious aspirations of seeing his side join their company.
For Chelsea and Mourinho a victory is imperative if they are to turn their dismal season around. What, though, can Chelsea consider success at this point in the season? A top four position? A run in Europe? Cup success? Winston Churchill defined success as “going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.” If Jose Mourinho is serious about reversing his club’s fortunes and rehabilitating his own decaying image, it is a mantra he would do well to hold close to his heart.
Begovic; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry (c), Kenedy; Matic, Fabregas; Pedro, Willian, Hazard; Diego Costa.