Jose Mourinho. One of the most decorated coaches in footballing history. Eight league titles. Eleven domestic cups. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’. Went over nine years without defeat at home in the league.
And yet, his Chelsea side, pretty much the exact same side who won the Premier League title last season by an eight point margin, currently see themselves in 16th place in the league, ahead only of West Brom, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle, not exactly an all-star cast to say the least! And thus, they are behind newly-promoted trio Watford, Norwich and Bournemouth and a whopping ten points adrift of early leaders Manchester City after just eight games.
So how have they ended up in this position? The reigning champions opened their campaign with what appeared to be a moderate opening day fixture at home to Swansea. Despite taking a 23rd minute lead through Brazilian midfielder Oscar, Andre Ayew’s clever twist, turn and finish drew the scores level before Federico Fernandez scored an unfortunate own goal a minute later. However, in the second half, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, now out for a lengthy period with a serious knee ligament injury, took out Bafetimbi Gomis and was subsequently sent off as Gomis converted the resulting penalty to earn Garry Monk’s side a point.
Chelsea were then comprehensively dispatched by early pace-setters Manchester City at the Etihad, with stand-in goalkeeper Asmir Begovic keeping the 3-0 scoreline respectable. The Blues claimed their first win of the season in the third fixture, away at West Brom, with a rather unconvincing performance won via a Cesar Azpilicueta goal before captain John Terry was sent off. Chelsea then concluded the month of August with a home league defeat, Mourinho’s second in charge of Chelsea, at the hands of Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace side. It was the Portuguese manager’s 100th home league game in charge of Chelsea having only previously lost once at the backend of the 2013/14 season when Sunderland surprised everyone by claiming all three points from Stamford Bridge.
After the international break, Steven Naismith made light work of the Chelsea defence as he scored a hat-trick for Everton at Goodison Park, despite a wonder strike from Nemanja Matic pulling a consolation back for the visitors. In their opening Champions League match of the season, there was some positivity as Maccabi Tel Aviv were confidently dispatched 4-0 in a more assured performance from Mourinho’s men before they faced Arsenal at The Bridge. In a hotly contested encounter, Chelsea were victorious as they beat Arsene Wenger’s team 2-0, with the Gunners having both Gabriel and Santi Cazorla sent off but Diego Costa remained on the field of play despite a confrontation with Laurent Koscielny and then Gabriel. It looked as though Chelsea were putting their poor start behind them as they overcame one of their fiercest rivals, as they attempted to push on from an impressive result. A third successive victory in all competitions came as Chelsea saw off League 1 Walsall in the Capital One Cup Third Round.
However, Chelsea then faced a trip to St. James’ Park to face an out-of-form Newcastle side under pressure from media and fans alike. Mourinho had failed to record a victory at Newcastle and his poor record continued as Newcastle took a shock 2-0 lead before Ramires scored a belter and Willian’s free-kick went all the way in to rescue a point for the Blues. Matchday 2 of the Champions League was up next for Chelsea as they travelled to Mourinho’s former side FC Porto but again suffered defeat, by two goals to one, despite another direct free-kick from Willian.
On Saturday, Chelsea returned to Stamford Bridge hoping to recover the form that saw them win the title last season. They faced Southampton and took the lead through yet another Willian free-kick, which caressed the far post as it went in. However, after having two clear penalty shouts turned down, Southampton drew level on the stroke of half-time as Graziano Pelle held the ball up for Steven Davis to fire home. After the break, Radamel Falcao was denied a penalty claim (he did appear to already be going down before contact was made with Martin Stekelenberg) before Sadio Mane and Pelle scored to condemn Chelsea to a sixth defeat of the season in all competitions.
This terrible start to the season, Mourinho’s worst spell in his illustrious managerial history, leaves Chelsea with eight points from their opening eight league fixtures, their worst start since 1978/79 (where they went on to be relegated from the old First Division), piling the pressure on the manager. After the Southampton defeat, in a post-match interview, Mourinho gave a seven-minute monologue where he proclaimed that he will not leave the club and if they want him to go, they must sack “the best manager this club had.”
If it were anybody else, surely trigger-happy Roman Abramovich would have seen enough and sought to replace the failing manager. But there is something about the ‘Special One’ which inclines one to believe that if anyone is able to turn this mess around, it is the Portuguese man. After a difficult relationship during Mourinho’s first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge, the pair appear to have settled their differences but how long will the Russian owner remain patient with his manager, who certainly doesn’t lack confidence that’s for sure!