Sunday 19 November 2017

Jose Mourinho has tried every trick in his book to turn Chelsea around, now he must adapt or die

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Jason Burt

It appears the narrative enveloping Chelsea and Jose Mourinho right now could be heading to an inevitable, familiar conclusion with a manager being sacked.

Defeat away to Stoke City in the Capital One Cup this week followed by another loss to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Saturday – both results would hardly be a surprise – and it would be no shock if an announcement was made on Sunday lunchtime stating that Mourinho had left the club by mutual consent and the search was beginning for a 11th manager in the 12 years of the Abramovich era.

Chelsea continue to insist otherwise They insist the support remains for Mourinho and that they did not take the unprecedented step of backing their manager publically three weeks ago lightly. The statement was meant and still holds, they say, so it cannot be discounted.

It followed the loss against Southampton and after a discussion among board members that evening as to whether he should continue.

The “full” support was not unanimous for Mourinho – but it was not unanimous among the club’s hierarchy that he should be brought back in the first place – although everyone knows that the only support that matters is that of owner Roman Abramovich even if the manager’s key ally is director Marina Granovskaia, the de facto chief executive, who engineered his return two years ago, and her influence should not be under-estimated.

But it would be a deep shame if Mourinho is sacked. Not least because what is so fascinating to see is whether the best manager of his generation can turn this – and turn himself – around. If only he can stop the feuding and end the brooding. In the past that is the fuel that has fired him. Now it is burning him up.

It would be a shame if the images of Mourinho’s final days will include a stupid camera phone video taken by an actor called Danny Dyer and filmed in the West Ham United directors’ box on Saturday trying to goad him with “you alright sunshine?”

It would be a shame if the memories were of him reacting with irritation to teenagers, who followed him for 20 minutes, pestering him and filming him in a London street.

These kinds of incidents simply should not happen. They should not happen to a manager like Mourinho and point to a manager on the edge, in danger of falling off that precipice.

There is a theory that Mourinho is trying to engineer his own sacking by his increasingly provocative behaviour. I do not buy it. I do not think, either, that Mourinho’s pronouncements and actions are as thought through as others have claimed. Instead he is simply lashing out.

Contrary to what people believe Mourinho usually does not go into press conferences with a prepared line. He did not call Arsene Wenger a “specialist in failure” because he planned to. It was an instinctive response to a question – and, interestingly, a phrase he later came to privately regret.

Mourinho was sent off at half-time at Upton Park by referee Jonathan Moss because of his behaviour. But he did not stand in the technical area before confronting the official planning in his head what he was going to say. It just happened.

Neither did he, probably, pre-plan his indefensible actions towards club doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn when he publically humiliated them for simply doing their jobs on the opening day of the season. Instead that appeared to betray his personal disquiet.

Mourinho is far more instinctive, far more ‘gut’ and, dangerously at times, far more emotional than people think. It means, in periods like this, he does not seem in complete control. He can also be destructive in his absolutism. Them and us. But life, even sport, is not always black and white.

Maybe it is karma for his treatment of Carneiro. That is extremely far-fetched but whether he wanted her as Chelsea’s first-team doctor or not his treatment of her was wrong and has also impacted on the atmosphere.

In that particular case, by the way, even now it is not too late for him to apologise. And maybe that could be part of a way back for Mourinho whose usual weapons have all mis-fired. He has tried blaming the authorities, dropping and bawling out players, alleging conspiracy theories – although he has not blamed the club, something he also usually does, because there is nothing to blame them for.

Mourinho is stuck in a rut. Chelsea are not adrift but are sailing close to being so. They are 15th in the Premier League, they are nine points behind Manchester United who sit in that precious final Champions League qualification spot, but it is not an irretrievable situation.

Mourinho’s – and Chelsea’s - history points to an inevitable parting of the ways. So this is where he needs to apply the brake on proceedings. It is up to him. Mourinho’s track record, and his extraordinary status, should point to Chelsea sticking with him and he must capitalise on that.

But maybe he has to change and try and different tactic. Maybe he should try a little humility. Maybe he should drop the corrosive arguments and that feuding. He should make his peace; apply a little balm. What would it be like if, say, he came into his next press conference and said “look, I’m going to drop this silly ‘weak and naïve’ phrase I’ve been using about referees”? What if he made a joke of it?

There is a constant negativity. It is weighing down the players and affecting their performances and certainly the results. So something has to change. Maybe Mourinho’s approach will work but it only appears to be heading in one direction at the moment as the pressure constantly builds.

In such scenario the release only usually comes with sacking the manager. Despite some of his behaviour Mourinho does not deserve that. But he has to change.

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