Monday 19 February 2018

Pressure builds on Mourinho within Chelsea

Jose Mourinho at a press conference in Cobham yesterday
Jose Mourinho at a press conference in Cobham yesterday

Matt Law

Jose Mourinho is still fighting to save his Chelsea job as he prepares his side for the trip to league leaders Leicester City on Monday night, with domestic results not the only factor putting pressure on him.

The Chelsea manager has admitted that he is "embarrassed" by the support the club's fans are still giving him, but the 52-year-old needs more than just the backing of the Stamford Bridge faithful.

The midweek Champions League victory over Porto and qualification to the last 16 relieved some of the immediate pressure on the Portuguese, but he still needs to turn around the club's Premier League form and allay concerns surrounding his transfer strategy and handling of young players.

Chelsea travel to the King Power Stadium 17 points behind Leicester and desperately needing to win to cling on to any chance of finishing the season in the top four.

Eight league defeats already this season have raised questions over Mourinho's future and his case has not been helped by the success of former players whom he allowed to leave and often did not play.

Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne became frustrated by their lack of playing time at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho, and were reluctantly granted transfers away from the club.

Chelsea were initially pleased with the fees they received - a combined total of £46m - but their success at Everton and Manchester City has left some within the club asking whether more could have been done to keep them happy.

While Diego Costa has lost his form and scored only four goals this season, Lukaku has scored 14 goals for Everton and has seen his value rocket to more than £40m. Hazard has yet to score at all this term and has also struggled to find his best form, while De Bruyne has nine goals in 20 appearances since moving to Manchester City for £54m.

Mourinho allowed Lukaku and De Bruyne to leave because he felt they were not willing to fight for their places at Chelsea, but they are not the only players to enjoy a renaissance since finding new clubs.

Juan Cuadrado joined in January and was allowed to leave on loan in the summer after failing to hold down a place in Mourinho's team, and Juventus now want to make the winger's move permanent. Mohamed Salah has similarly impressed in Italy.

There were few questions over Mourinho's decisions last season, as he got the very best out of Hazard and his new signings, Costa and Cesc Fabregas, shone.

But, as well as Costa, Hazard and Fabregas all losing form, this summer's signings have made virtually no impact, and the decision to take Radamel Falcao on loan has caused particular dismay behind the scenes.

Falcao, who shares an agent with Mourinho, was offered a new start in England at Stamford Bridge after suffering a dismal season on loan at Manchester United.

Despite the fact Chelsea managed to halve the £265,000-a-week -salary that he was paid at Old -Trafford, Falcao has still been an expensive flop at Stamford Bridge. The 29-year-old striker has scored just one goal and has not played a single minute of Champions League football because of poor form and injury. Chelsea would allow Falcao to leave in January, but need to find another club willing to take him in order to cancel their agreement with his parent club Monaco.

Assuming he is still at Chelsea in the new year, it remains to be seen whether Mourinho retains the final say over incomings and outgoings in the January transfer window.

Owner Roman Abramovich's obsession with seeing young players integrated into the first team also remains an issue. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was not in the match-day squad for the Porto game and has only 18 months remaining on his contract, while highly rated Charly Musonda has asked for a loan move after spending the first half of the season with the U-21s.

There was frustration at board level over Mourinho's decision to substitute Loftus-Cheek at half-time against Aston Villa and then criticise his work-rate.

Mourinho's bid to hold on to his Chelsea job has so far been helped by the backing of the club's fans and he said: "We like to play at Stamford Bridge, the fans are being unbelievable. I even feel a little bit unsure how to react when they sing my name and I feel a bit embarrassed.

"When you are champion you wave and share the emotion, but I know for sure the Chelsea fans don't need to be reminded of the memories.

"They don't need that special vitamin for their memories because if not they would not sing 'Stand up for the special one to me', or to treat the players the way they do."

Swansea sacked Garry Monk this week and Mourinho admitted every manager was in danger of losing his job. "To be sacked, you only need to have a job," said Mourinho. "If you have a job, you risk being sacked. This is a new tendency in English football, with some contributions because the opinion-makers have an influence and lots of people without ethics are surrounding the houses." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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