Monday 18 December 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Deluded Jose Mourinho cannot hide Chelsea decline

Read Ronnie Whelan every Monday only in The Herald

Chelsea's John Terry sat on the bench behind manager Jose Mourinho after being substituted at half time
Chelsea's John Terry sat on the bench behind manager Jose Mourinho after being substituted at half time

Herald Sport

According to Jose Mourinho, the result at the Etihad was fake. That was a delusion.

In the recent history of the Premier League, I haven't seen a more comprehensive win for one big team over another.

Mostly, these games are nip and tuck and very rarely does one team completely outplay the other but this was one of those occasions.

Manchester City made another significant statement and their win over Chelsea made just as big a declaration about the condition of Mourinho's team as it did about their own title ambitions.

Mourinho went to some lengths after the game to justify his half-time substitution of captain, John Terry, but this was more deflection.

Taking Terry off was one of those grandstanding gestures which Mourinho often relies on and publicly blamed a club legend for an opening 45 minutes completely dominated by Manchester City all over the pitch.

Read more: Jose Mourinho has made John Terry his latest scapegoat

It was unfair but it means that everyone is talking about Terry today instead of the fact that Mourinho got it badly wrong for the second week in a row.

Perhaps he saw a chance to begin the process of easing Terry towards retirement and to underpin his interest in Everton's John Stones but the consequences of his actions mean that we will have another week of lurid Chelsea headlines.

Remember, all last week we were talking about the Stamford Bridge doctor. This week it will be all about the club captain.

If I was a Chelsea fan, the thing that would disturb me most of all about their club is not that they've had a bad start or have been quiet in the transfer market.

I wouldn't even be overly concerned about the fact that Mourinho seems to be losing the plot.

No, the biggest thing they have to worry about us the sense I have that the Chelsea players don't seem to be playing for Mourinho as you'd expect.

This was a physical battle first and foremost between Manchester City and Chelsea and the team in the lighter shade of blue won it hands down.

Any Mourinho team I've ever seen would die for the manager and would never lose a physical fight. For two weeks in a row now I've seen players who look less than wholehearted.

Diego Costa's bad-tempered battle with several Manchester City players looked all the more significant because the rest of his team-mates weren't engaged in the game at the same level as he was.

As I said at the start, his assertion that the result didn't reflect the game was simply wrong. But for Asmir Begovic, Manchester City would have been out of sight by half-time and they comfortably dealt with a brief Chelsea resurgence before putting them away in a clinical fashion.

The key for City is their four pillars, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, have all started the season on fire.

Last term, only Silva maintained the level of performance which delivered a title to the Etihad. Aguero was in and out because of injury, Kompany was badly out of sorts and Toure almost went on strike.

But now the four men look strong and committed. Manuel Pellegrini has done a tremendous job to bring them to the starting post in such fine form and with everyone very clearly on the same page.

I can only hope that Brendan Rodgers has done as well. He was lucky to get three points on his first outing against Stoke but tonight's game against Bournemouth sets him up to make a statement of his own.

Read more: Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic: We have to be better for the next 36 games

I think we have seen from the opening two series of games that this will be an ultra-competitive Premier League season and that a lot of the lesser teams have spent well and improved. They will be harder than ever to beat.

That offers both an opportunity and a threat to Rodgers' hopes for the season but Bournemouth is the perfect opposition in front of your home crowd for the second game of the campaign.

I know this is very early but Chelsea's difficulties must be seen as a chance for all title aspirants and I include Liverpool among them even if I don't have any great confidence about the attempt.

Herald Sport

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