Have we witnessed the beginning of the end of Jose Mourinho’s second coming as a Chelsea manager?
On a night when he dramatically challenged his bosses to back him or sack him, Mourinho left his future as Chelsea manager hanging by the thinnest of threads after Southampton hammered the final nails into his hastily prepared Stamford Bridge coffin as they beat the Premier League champions 3-1.
We all know how Mourinho operates and he doesn't tend to hide his emotions like many in his position try to do.
That, in many ways, is part of the fascination with this compelling sporting giant, but even by his standards, his post match comments were extraordinary, as he offered this appraisal of his side’s current dramatic collapse.
“One, I don’t run away,” stated an animated Mourinho. “Two, if the clubs want to sack me, they have to sack me because I am not running away from my responsibility, from my team. I am convinced we will finish top four and when the season is so bad, top four is okay. In December or January, we will be top four.
“Third, even more important that the first and the second, this is a crucial moment in the history of this club and do you know why?
“If they sack me, they sack the best manager that this club has had and the message is again the message of bad results, the manager is guilty.
“This is a moment for everyone to assume responsibility. I assume my responsibility, the players have to assume theirs. There are other people in the club that have to assume responsibility and stick together.
"Do the players trust me? We had a meeting and the answer I got wanted. As I said when we were champions, I will stay as long as the board want me and I say that again now.
“I have big self esteem and a big ego, but I consider myself to be the best. This hurts me, hurts me twice that it is at Chelsea. I want to carry on.”
What does Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich do with that set of pronouncements?
After wriggling uncomfortably in his seat high above the Stamford Bridge pitch, he must have pondered whether he would now need to sack the manager he has twice picked to lead his fantasy football team for a second time.
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Make no mistake, Southampton fully deserved the 3-1 win they secured at Stamford Bridge on a night when they were denied two clear penalties and bullied Chelsea’s rapidly ageing team into submission.
All credit should go to Ronald Koeman’s vibrant team that secured their famous victory courtesy of goals from Steven Davis, the magnificent Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle, yet the spotlight after this game will inevitably fall on Chelsea’s remarkable demise and Mourinho’s role in it.
Never mind that he signed a new contract just a few weeks ago. Never mind that this celebrated coach brought the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge last May. This is a crisis of Mourinho’s making and for the first time in his decorated career, he appears to have no idea how to get out of the hole he has dug for himself.
On an evening when the Chelsea manager drew up Plan H just eight games into a disastrous title defence for the Premier League champions, the flaws that have been in evidence in each of their games this season were on show again and not even the barking presence of Mourinho on the touchline could save them.
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Mourinho bowed to pressure from the Chelsea fans as he recalled skipper John Terry to his line-up, in a move that appeared to offer compelling evidence that this serial winner was clutching at straws after six weeks that must have shaken his confidence to the core.
Mourinho made a stand to replace Terry at half-time in his side’s second game of the season at Manchester City and since then, he has become a high profile spectator as Chelsea’s season has melted in his absence.
His messy row with is medical staff was an ugly and poured shame on Chelsea, while his constant sniping at Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was an unnecessary sideshow that did not camouflage his own side’s deficiencies. It’s childish behaviour from a grown up who should know better.
So much of what has gone wrong for Chelsea this season has been invented without any merit by Mourinho and even on a night that may be etched into history as his last in the managerial role he claims to cherish more than any other, he was going looking for trouble.
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The sight of Mourinho taking off Matic 25 minutes after he was sent on to recuse Chelsea was evidence of the chaos being overseen by this ‘special’ manager will continue for as long as he is allowed to remain in place.
For that reason, Abramovich and Stamford Bridge decision makers now have no choice other than to consider replacing the manager who could do now wrong just a few short months ago.
Back him or sack him? Abramovich has been here before with Mourinho and few would be surprised if he now comes to same conclusion that he arrived at when the not so special one left Chelsea for the first time in 2007.
Just eight games into this unfathomable Premier League season, the biggest name of them all is now waiting to hear his fate.
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