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Mourinho's stuttering start prompts plenty of questions


Jose Mourinho: there are plenty of issues for the 'Special One' to ponder

Jose Mourinho: there are plenty of issues for the 'Special One' to ponder

Jose Mourinho: there are plenty of issues for the 'Special One' to ponder

Beaten by Basel in the first group game of the Champions League on Tuesday night, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea face Fulham at Stamford Bridge tomorrow on the back of two straight defeats and having won just twice all season.

Even this early into his second reign at the Bridge, there are plenty of issues for the 'Special One' to ponder.


John Obi Mikel was one of the few players to speak candidly about Chelsea's shortcomings on Tuesday, saying that "individually we didn't turn up".

He added: "With the kind of players we have, with the calibre of players we have, I don't think we should be afraid of anyone. But if we play the way we did (against Basel) we have a chance of losing to anyone."

Certainly it was a bad evening for Mourinho. Marco van Ginkel looked out of his depth. Willian, who had not played since August 2, was off the pace and out of position on the left side. Basel's winner was conceded from a set-piece.

Juan Mata – Chelsea's player of the year for the last two seasons – remains on the outside as does Kevin de Bruyne, who started the season brightly but has not figured since the draw with Manchester United on August 26.

It is understood that Roman Abramovich's visit to the dressing-room after the defeat was not in reaction to the result and was something he intended to do regardless. There is no sense that anyone is panicking just yet, especially given all the pledges to work for the long-term in the summer.


Last out the changing-rooms on Tuesday, Mata would not entertain speaking to the press about his season so far, which has been one frustration after the other.

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Mourinho is understood to have left him out the team for both the trip to Old Trafford and the Super Cup final against Bayern Munich because he favoured a more physical approach. Mata has started just two games all season.

His lack of game-time meant he was left out of Vicente del Bosque's ultra-competitive Spain squad for the last international break and trained with the U-21s at Cobham. A huge favourite with the supporters, Rafa Benitez played Mata last season regardless of whether the player was fully fit.

At Chelsea the feeling is that Mourinho simply has not built up that level of trust in Mata yet. He may yet do so, but as it is, Mata is struggling for momentum.

Mourinho brought him on against Basel, having substituted him before the hour against Everton. Will he pick Mata against Fulham tomorrow?


Letting Daniel Sturridge leave in January was a difficult decision that those at Chelsea accepted at the time may give them some cause for regret. Were Sturridge still at Chelsea, in his current form, picking a striker would be an easy choice.

Last season, Chelsea scored 75 league goals – more than any team apart from Manchester United. Yet their top goalscorer in the league was Frank Lampard with 15, followed by Mata (12), Eden Hazard (9) and Fernando Torres (8). This season they have managed just seven in six games in all competitions. Both Torres and Demba Ba, who have one goal between them this season, have passed the point where they can be regarded as the solution.

That leaves Samuel Eto'o, for whom it is still very early days. Chelsea hung a great deal on signing Wayne Rooney this summer and probably should have switched their attentions elsewhere earlier.


Mourinho has established a narrative in his introductory press conference that this Chelsea team were "kids" who required nurturing rather than "ready to win" like, he said, Manchester City's squad.

The feeling at Chelsea is that Mourinho is still in that difficult early period with his squad. He has very clear ideas of how he wants to play and the kind of rotation of players that will be successful. The players themselves are adapting, but that has taken time.

Mourinho bemoaned his team's lack of "maturity" on Tuesday night. But he was definitive in June about how he would effect change. "It (the Chelsea job) is not about saying: 'Mr Abramovich and members of the board, I need some money with a lot of zeros at the end, I need to change half the team'."

He always accepted that this would be a challenge that he had to solve, in a large part, by developing his players. The last two results have confirmed that they are a long way from complete. (© Independent News Service)

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