Sunday 25 March 2018

Chelsea's title defence looks doomed already as Martial hits the target first time

Anthony Martial celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game
Anthony Martial celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game

Dion Fanning

On Friday, Jose Mourinho made the kind of emphatic statement that only managers of a certain stature make. "I don't want to leave the club and the club doesn't want me to leave. I'm not going to walk away. The club is not going to sack me."

Mourinho belongs to the small group of coaches who feel they have control over their own tenure. Yesterday at Goodison Park, Chelsea lost for the third time this season as Steven Naismith scored a hat-trick and it was tempting to wonder how long he would have that control.

He is not the only manager under pressure. Manchester United's victory against an unambitious Liverpool at Old Trafford last night will add to Brendan Rodgers' problems.

Arsenal had briefly moved into second before United defeated Liverpool 3-1 last night. The £36m signing Anthony Martial came off the bench and scored United's third to ease the strain on Louis Van Gaal.

Rodgers is not a manager who can feel as secure as Mourinho even if both will have difficult weeks.

Mourinho said these were the worst results he had ever experienced in his career and the Premier League champions have now made their poorest start to a season since they were in the old second division in 1988. They have lost back to back league games for only the second time during Mourinho's two spells at the club and no team has ever won the Premier League with so few points after five games. Manchester City's win yesterday puts them 11 points ahead of Chelsea.

Chelsea have conceded 12 goals already this season and Mourinho joked afterwards that his side wouldn't be relegated but their defence of the title looks over long before the clocks go back. Mourinho said he didn't know if Chelsea could win the title but he said they could win their next league game against Arsenal.

Mourinho might take the pressure off his old friend Rodgers this week. Yesterday Mourinho said his players couldn't be faulted.

"We don't deserve this result. The results are going wrong. The players deserve much better than they are getting."

Mourinho's day ended with him sounding like many other managers in a jam. He was the best man for the job, he insisted and nobody could do it better. "The biggest concern is that everything goes against us. We need the players to smile again. We need confidence and confidence is fundamental."

It was, he said, an "honour and a happiness every day" to be manager of Chelsea. He must hope that Roman Abramovich shares his happiness.

Mourinho was asked if he felt under pressure. "No, no. I think the refugees are under big pressure."

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