Kevin Palmer: Isolated Jose Mourinho leaves himself horribly exposed
Isolated leaders rarely win bitter wars, yet Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been determined to test that theory in the last six weeks and now his side’s slump in form has become a desperate crisis.
As Chelsea’s miserable start to the season saw a fresh chapter of despair added as they lost their Champions League Group G tie 2-1 against FC Porto in Portugal, Mourinho’s grip on power at Chelsea appears, remarkably, to have been loosened yet again.
The iconic coach who led the Blues to Premier League title glory last May and who signed a lucrative new Chelsea contract a few short weeks ago looked certain to shed his tag of being a manager who cannot extend his stay at any club beyond three seasons, but not any more. All of a sudden, Mr Chelsea looks horribly exposed.
How has this serial trophy collector allowed the team that dominated the English top flight last season to fall apart in such rapid and unexpected fashion since the start of August?
Mourinho’s move to hand skipper John Terry a new contract and then seemingly dispense of his services as a first team member just a game and a half into this season was hard to fathom.
Equally confusing is the alarming slump in form being displayed by Eden Hazard, with last season’s Player of the Year dropped for the Porto game after a succession of uninspiring displays.
Read more: Porto pile misery on Jose Mourinho
The indifferent form of midfielder Cesc Fabregas has been a theme throughout this calendar year and when you cast a glance over team Mourinho picked for his trip back to his former club Porto, it was hard to identify which player was close to finding anywhere near his best form.
Make no mistake, Chelsea did not deserve anything from their trip to Portugal, even though they should have been awarded a late penalty and missed chances to draw level, but this is a sporting collapse that has been designed, promoted and carried out by the wrecking ball that is Mourinho.
From his row with his medical staff on the opening day of the season, to cull of his captain Terry midway through their clash with Manchester City and on to his team selection for his side’s latest Champions League game against FC Porto, the Chelsea boss has been to be all too eager to press his nuclear button over the last six weeks.
Quite why the manager who led his team to a comfortable Premier League challenge has been conductor-in-chief in a mission to destroy all the momentum his side built up last season is a question only he can answer, yet this has been Mourinho serving up a cluster bomb approach on his own dressing room.
How it has backfired. After he rated his team’s efforts for the first half of their game at Newcastle on Saturday as a collective minus one, his comments ahead of his side’s trip to face his former club Portugal suggesting he was ready to drop his star names and select Chelsea’s youngsters in their place may have been a ploy to try and spark his team into life.
However, the tried and tested Mourinho shock tactics was never likely to be successful in the current climate, where his own army appear to have grown tired of his instructions, exhausted with his explosive rhetoric.
Mourinho relishes any chance to create an ‘us against them’ mentality among his players that appears to convince them that the world is out to get them and it has tended to produce a team eager to show defiance against the forces of injustice.
Last season’s suggestion that there was a ‘campaign’ being orchestrated against Chelsea by the Premier League and their match officials was a classic Mourinho play that was designed to inspire his players and the end result proved it worked, with the two pieces of silverware in the Blues Stamford Bridge trophy room evidence of his success.
Yet all the credit he has built up during his time at Chelsea is being spent at a rapid rate and he may soon be bankrupt after a series of inexplicable decisions.
A Chelsea team that started without the inspirational Terry, midfield kingpin Nemaja Matic and the dropped Hazard against FC Porto were truly woeful once again in the first half, with Willian’s sublime free-kick goal covering up a display that was as lifeless as any the Premier League champions have served up this season.
The second half wasn’t much better from Chelsea and when Mourinho gathers his battered troops at the club's vast training ground ahead of their home game against Southampton this weekend, the allies he needs in his biggest managerial crisis may well be in short supply.
Alienating your chief lieutenants on the battle field is a recipe for disaster for any general and as a result of his catalogue of mistakes this season, Mourinho has left himself horribly vulnerable.