Wednesday 25 April 2018

Ian Rush: Jose Mourinho earns his Spurs with a tale of two Chelseas

Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas has made a huge contribution from midfield this season
Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas has made a huge contribution from midfield this season

Ian Rush

Boring, boring Chelsea. The irony is we heard the chant at Arsenal, the club the song was invented for. Yet here they were, the same fans who used to complain about victimisation, now giving it out in spades.

Are they right? Well, there is no doubt we have seen two Chelseas this year: the one up to New Year's Day, who attacked at every opportunity, going into games with the attitude that if the opposition could get two then they were capable of scoring three, the one who went to Everton and won 6-3.

Then Tottenham happened. More to the point, Harry Kane happened. Exposed to the Englishman's pace, Chelsea were ripped apart. Five goals conceded, three points dropped, one big lesson learned.

From that moment on, Chelsea forgot about entertainment. Points were the only thing on the agenda.

And they kept getting them, the three at Leicester in midweek bringing them to the brink of their fourth title in the Abramovich era, the third under Jose Mourinho.


Clearly, he is the best manager in the business. That 5-3 defeat at Tottenham was a watershed. He studied the tape of that match, realised their mistakes and adjusted accordingly.

From that moment on, Chelsea weren't once exposed at the back, Mourinho setting up his side to ensure John Terry and Gary Cahill had a protective shield in front of them.

Additionally, their full-backs curtailed their forward runs. Yes, they still ventured upfield but no longer with the regularity that was their custom pre-Spurs.

For me, Terry was their player of the year. I know Diego Costa offered so much in attack. I know Cesc Fabregas made a huge contribution from midfield and that Eden Hazard walked away with the PFA Player of the Year award.

But when the chips were down, Terry always stood tall. The last month or so, when Chelsea were accused of being boring, they were actually on the rails.

Had Terry not been around then I have no doubt they would have dropped points against Stoke, against QPR, against Hull. Instead they won those games, collecting nine points rather than three.

As a result, Arsenal couldn't get close to them. Last week's game never became do-or-die, simply because Chelsea had proven too good over too long a period.

Yet you also have to look at the weak efforts from elsewhere.

Arsenal raised a gallop far too late. Manchester United are only marginally better off in terms of winning points than they were under David Moyes, although their league position suggests improvement has been made. Worse again, Manchester City, the defending champions, were exposed for being a team in decline.

They should have seen the signs. They should have noted the age profile of their side and realised they had too many players around, or over, the 30-mark.

They should have bought and sold more wisely as Chelsea did. Fernando Torres was offloaded. So too Frank Lampard, Demba Ba, Ashley Cole and David Luiz.

In their place came Fabregas and Costa. Thibaut Courtois returned from his loan at Atletico Madrid and all of a sudden Chelsea were refreshed with hungry, talented players who had a point to prove.

Mourinho too felt he had to make his mark.

Managers, by their nature, worry about their reputation and legacy. Ego is at play here. Mourinho wants to be remembered long after he retires. He wants his CV to look good.

Yet from May 2010 to March 2015, he won just two trophies, which by his incredible standards was unimpressive.

Some suggested he had lost his touch, that his ideas had become outdated, yet I never thought as much.

To me, he's still the world No 1, not just in terms of his tactical understanding of how football operates, but in his man-management.

Players love him. He protects them. He respects his players - even if he can be disrespectful to referees. He places the pressure on his shoulders, deflecting attention away from his players when key moments in the season arrive.

He manipulates the press, knowing how controversy will heap headlines on him, not his team.

It's a risky strategy, that one, because if results go awry, and if you have been antagonising people, then your policy can come back to bite you.

Mourinho doesn't care, though. He can handle the heat, essentially because he has been coping with pressure for nearly 15 years now.

Chelsea are lucky to have him, a point Abramovich must have realised when he sacked him in 2007. He corrected that mistake just as Mourinho corrected his, after that 5-3 defeat to Spurs on New Year's Day.


Bournemouth have pulled off a football miracle - and Here's Howe

Big dreamers and big men fill the walls of Bournemouth's gym.

Abraham Lincoln's speeches are written up there. So too a quote from Muhammad Ali. "What you are thinking is what you are becoming," said the Greatest.

Last Monday, Bournemouth, managed by Eddie Howe, got what they wanted, a ticket to the Premier League, a chance to dream.

It is hard to believe how far they have come and how quickly they have got here. Second from bottom of the Football League six years ago, they are now getting ready for the visits of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and the other 15 teams who will be typing Dean Court into their sat-navs from August on.

This is a real fairytale. Okay it is a fairytale bankrolled by a Russian businessman, Maxim Demin, yet the money they have spent hasn't been astronomical. At £2.4m, Tokelo Rantie is their most expensive signing and at £4,000, Harry Arter, their tigerish Irishman, represents the bargain of the decade.

For a while, Bournemouth's fans doubted his talent. Gradually he won them over and this season he was voted their fans' player of the year.

Along the way, Martin O'Neill noticed. The Ireland manager, who was introduced to Arter in the Craven Cottage car-park by Harry Redknapp, watched Bournemouth play more than any other club this year.

Arter, specifically, was the guy he was interested in. Called up for the Poland squad, he is in line to make his debut against England next month.

Then it's Premier League time. "It's what I have always dreamed of," he said.

Now that daring dream has become a staggering reality. And you have to credit Howe, as well as Arter, for that.

"Before I signed, I met Eddie Howe and it was almost like a job interview," Arter said of his manager.

"He was asking me my likes and dislikes, my philosophy on football, what I wanted to achieve in the game.

"I still had dreams of playing in the Premier League and I told him that. I was confident in my ability. I remember him probably thinking he shared a similar ambition. I think he judged me on that one meeting."

Clearly Howe is a good judge. Other Championship clubs have spent more money than him this year. Yet they haven't challenged for the top. Bournemouth have. There is a reason for that. It's name is Eddie Howe.

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