Mourinho demands Chelsea learn to 'kill opponents'
Chelsea 2 Crystal Palace 1
As Manchester City delivered their latest head-turning performance at the Etihad Stadium, there was at least one interested viewer who continued to look straight ahead.
Jose Mourinho watched the second half of the nine-goal extravaganza between City and Arsenal in his Stamford Bridge office before overseeing a rather less entertaining victory for Chelsea. His analysis of the earlier game was revealing. "A feast of football? Yes, for Manchester City," he said.
At that point Mourinho had to make a visible effort to bite his lip, presumably to stop himself saying something withering about Arsenal's defending. He was less reticent when the subject turned to Manchester City, who have scored 15 more goals this season than Chelsea. It was put to him that his team need to be more like City.
"Manchester City is one point behind us, so they need to be more like us," he said. On the basis of recent performances, it seemed almost necessary to double-check the Premier League table to be sure that Mourinho was telling the truth. Of course he was. While City and Arsenal have been playing easily the best football this season, Mourinho's Chelsea can go top at Christmas should they win at the Emirates Stadium this day week.
There are two ways to look at this. It could be argued that Chelsea cannot possibly maintain their challenge without significant improvement. Equally, we might look back at this period when they regularly 'won ugly' as decisive.
Mourinho is clearly unhappy with his strikers: Fernando Torres' goal on Saturday was his second league goal all season and the Chelsea manager again offered a blunt analysis of what is missing. "He was the Torres that we know," Mourinho said.
"Without the ball he presses a lot and he's not a comfortable opponent. When the team has the ball, he's the kind of guy that makes movements and tries to open space. When he has the ball on his feet with the back to the goal, he's not a very skillful player. We know that."
After his failure to buy Wayne Rooney, Mourinho sounds almost resigned to this weakness, but he does still expect more from his forwards during the rest of the season. "We are not saying 25 or 30 goals because our strikers are not these kind of killers, but two goals for each one of them is too short. They have to come -- and they will."
He is also concerned that the failure to "kill opponents" is causing moments of defensive panic. After Torres had put Chelsea ahead on Saturday following Willian's shot being turned on to the post by Julian Speroni, Crystal Palace repeatedly threatened. Marouane Chamakh capitalised on a David Luiz mistake to equalise while John Terry made a brilliant goal-line clearance to deny Stuart O'Keefe. Ultimately only an exceptional 25-yard strike from Ramires settled the match for Chelsea.
"It's a bit of a contradiction," Mourinho said. "In my opinion we are playing very good attacking football, very good ball possession, but you don't kill and because you don't kill, sometimes you can be in trouble.
"Because you shake, you make mistakes. You put yourself into trouble and you panic a little bit." How does he solve this problem? "Score goals. The way is to kill opponents."
The way Mourinho applauded Palace's travelling support also suggested that he wants more from Chelsea's home fans. "They are what they are," he said.
"Our fans are very, very passionate about their club. Sometimes more in the street than in the stadium, but it's their way of being. I never complain about that.
"I simply told the players that they must have big personality to play the way they have to play and not to play the way the supporters want them to play."
Petr Cech, the winner of 11 major trophies with Chelsea, believes the glass is half full. "It is great to be in the position we are," he said. "We have topped the group in the Champions League, two points off the Premier League leaders and, after Tuesday, we can be in the semi-final of the League Cup.
"And we know that we haven't reached our peak. There is room for improvement."
One manager who has found plenty of room for improvement is Tony Pulis at Palace. His team were always in the hunt for a point here and, following wins against Cardiff City and West Ham United, no longer look like certainties for relegation. Pulis hopes this will have a knock-on impact in the transfer window.
"We need to bring a few in," Pulis said. "If we hadn't picked up points it would be difficult to convince the powers that be to spend a little money." (© Daily Telegraph, London)