Wednesday 18 July 2018

Mourinho smokescreen act can't mask Chelsea's vulnerable side

Chelsea 2 Swansea 2

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Chelsea players gather around Referee Michael Oliver awarding a penalty to Swansea
Andre Ayew of Swansea City scores his team's first goal
Lukasz Fabianski of Swansea City reacts after the own goal by Federico Fernandez (not pictured) of Swansea City

Ian Winrow

The broadside directed by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea's medical staff after the game served as only a limited smokescreen.

Utterly dominant at Stamford Bridge for so long, Chelsea began their title defence with a performance that demonstrated a vulnerability which was mostly kept hidden last season.

Mourinho's frustrations were clear, compounded by the fact Thibaut Courtois' dismissal means his side will now travel to face Manchester City next Sunday without the first-choice goalkeeper and with the scrutiny of his club's efforts in the summer transfer window set to continue.

The manager was forced last week to defend the decision not to significantly strengthen a squad that won the title in May by eight points, although he conceded that policy was not without its risks.

Only Asmir Begovic and Radamel Falcao have been brought in as replacements for Petr Cech and Didier Drogba, both of whom were used as back-up last term.

The wisdom of allowing Cech, in particular, to leave for Arsenal has been debated throughout the summer, not least by Mourinho and his board, and the quality of his replacement has already received an early examination during the final 38 minutes of Saturday's game, one which will continue at the Etihad Stadium next weekend.

Begovic, like Mourinho's team as a whole, has experienced an unconvincing pre-season, but the goalkeeper, signed for £8m from Stoke City, performed well to prevent Swansea claiming a surprise opening-day victory, and Mourinho (left) insisted the loss of Cech would not be felt.

"We don't miss Petr," he said. "We've got a good keeper. The problem with Petr is not that we miss him, because we have two excellent keepers. The problem with Petr is that an opponent is better than before.

"Thibaut and Asmir are two fantastic keepers. My club did very well by getting a keeper on time and not on August 31, because if my club gives me a keeper on August 31 then we have a problem not just for today but also for the next match - unless the people understand it's not a red card and they clear the suspension."

Courtois' ill-judged challenge on Bafetimbi Gomis, which earned the keeper a 52nd-minute red card and conceded the penalty from which Gomis levelled, inevitably changed the momentum of the game.

Prior to that, Chelsea had threatened to take control, leading initially through Oscar's 23rd minute free-kick and regaining the lead with the help of a deflection off Swansea defender Federico Fernandez, 60 seconds after Andre Ayew equalised.

Mourinho said he was satisfied with his side's performance and gritted his teeth to avoid criticising referee Michael Oliver. Instead, it was the medics who took a hit, with the manager complaining they were too quick to treat Eden Hazard on the pitch, leaving his side further depleted in the final seconds.

Gary Cahill, however, provided a different perspective. "It was two points dropped," said the centre-back.

"I feel a bit flat and disappointed after the game. A draw at home isn't ideal, but give a lot of respect to Swansea.

"From a neutral's point of view, it was probably a good game, but we prefer to have it a lot more controlled. We got our noses in front, but the sending-off turned the game for us."

Having already lost to Arsenal in the Community Shield, a second defeat by one of their main rivals next weekend would reinforce the view that the champions will not have it so easy this time around.

Mourinho once again dismissed the notion there would be more new arrivals, although he admitted last week the club were seeking a left-back to replace Filipe Luis.

"I know the market is open but the market is closed for me now," he said.

"If until the end of the season, I lose a player or if I lose a player before the end of the window and I get a new player, then OK, but I don't think about the market now."

An unsatisfactory result on Sunday may well prompt a rethink. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Indo Sport

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport