Jose Mourinho’s tactics and his uber-confident personality in press conferences have made him one of the most intriguing managers in the game today. However, this season football fans have questioned Chelsea’s style of football and lacklustre displays at many points throughout the season.
Mourinho was propelled into the limelight back in 2004 when he managed a Porto side to Champions League glory despite being complete outsiders at the beginning of the competition. Mourinho then made his big move to Chelsea after being headhunted by billionaire Roman Abramovich. Jose was very successful at Chelsea where he guided them to their first ever Premier League title and helped them dominate English football for the three years he was at Chelsea.
Some would argue that Chelsea’s dominance was inevitable considering the amount of money that Roman Abramovich invested into the club. It was allegedly a rift between Mourinho and Abramovich that caused Mourinho to part ways with Chelsea and the Portuguese went on to have stints at Inter Milan and Madrid before returning to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2013. Jose;s credentials cannot be questioned, as he has written himself into the history books by becoming the first manager to ever to win titles in four different countries after his successes in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
There is no arguing with Mourinho’s achievements from the past ten years although this season there has been moments that Mourinho has come under scrutiny for his team’s style of play. He is known for coaching his team to play an overly-defensive style of football which often sees his side grind out low-scoring results against oppositions. This style of football has been witnessed in recent weeks against Atletico Madrid and Liverpool.
Chelsea played a minimum attacking role in their away leg to Atletico Madrid and had as many as 10 players playing a defensive role for the majority of the game. It was clear from the outset that Chelsea were playing for the 0-0 draw and wanted to bring the tie back to Stamford Bridge where they have an unbelievable record under Jose Mourinho. These tactics were also shown in the Liverpool game where according to Brendan Rodgers,
“It was like a back six with three midfield players in front of that”.
This was highlighted by the fact that it was only Ba and Schurrle at times who were playing in attacking positions. Chelsea’s style of play on that Sunday was to purposely frustrate the attacking style of Liverpool and wait for a chance to catch them on the break and this proved to be successful as they managed to win by two goals while having only 27% possession in the game.
Jose’s tactics against Liverpool and in the Atletico Madrid away leg were seen as being successful but there has been many questions over whether such a big side as Chelsea should be playing this unattractive style of football. Brendan Rodgers questioned Chelsea’s style of play by stating that,
“It’s the opposite of how we want to play. It’s not difficult to coach 10 players in the 18-yard box. I think there was two buses parked today, never mind one”.
Chelsea were also playing a dangerous game after forcing the 0-0 in the away leg of their semi-final as Atletico Madrid managed to score three times at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea had no choice but to change to a more attacking style of football to win the tie. It didn’t work in Chelsea’s favour that they haven’t played an overly-attacking style in many games this season (besides their trashing of Arsenal and their heroics against PSG).
Chelsea’s lack of attacking intent has cost them a Champions League Final place as, if they attacked in Madrid, an away goal could have given their chances a major boost. A lack of attacking intent has cost Chelsea hugely this season especially against teams they were expected to beat, for example the losses to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland. This lack of attacking intent but successful defensive play is shown through their incredible 17 clean sheets in the league but only 69 goals scored compared to Manchester City and Liverpool who have scored roughly 100 goals each.
It is fair to ponder what could have been had Chelsea taken advantage of the attacking qualities that Torres, Ba and Eto’o possess rather than put shift their focus to defensive play and counter-attacking football. It is their inability to finish off games early that has cost them to drop points numerous times this season.
It is also Chelsea’s behaviour both on the pitch and the sideline that has raised many questions about frustration and arrogance in the Chelsea camp. In Chelsea’ s defeat to Crystal Palace, Mourinho was seen threatening a Crystal Palace ball-boy for wasting time, while in their defeat to Sunderland, Chelsea coach Rui Faria took his temper out on the fourth official after Sunderland were given a penalty. The FA charged Faria with two counts of misconduct for his outburst while Mourinho was charged with misconduct after he sarcastically praised the referee for giving Sunderland a penalty.
The behaviour of the Chelsea players has also been ridiculed following constant time-wasting throughout games. This has been frustrating for football fans watching their games and recently, Ramires was given a four-game ban by the FA for elbowing Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson. Stand-in goalkeeper Schwarzer can be seen delaying every goal kick during the Liverpool game which resulted in multiple warnings from referee Martin Atkinson while multiple players were seen strolling to collect the ball for a throw in the same game which resulted in a booking for Ashley Cole. In fact, during the first 10 minutes of the Liverpool v Chelsea game, the Blues managed to waste four-and-a-half minutes by having the ball out of play for throws, goal kicks and set pieces.
It may be nearing the end of the season but Chelsea surprisingly have nothing to play for. Chelsea are out of the title race as they fell short once more in a drab 0-0 with Norwich which ended any chance of them becoming champions. In fact, they ended their season with two poor home games within a week, something that has been alien to Jose Mourinho’s side at The Bridge.
It was also interesting to see the tactics Mourinho played against Atleti at Stamford Bridge as it raised many questions as to whether Chelsea have a back-up plan to their defensive and counter-attacking play. This indecision came to the fore when Atleti took the lead, as it seemed as if Chelsea had no answer and it ultimately cost them a place in the final.
More questions were raised after the game as it became clear that Eden Hazard wasn’t happy with Chelsea’s style of play. Mourinho himself could be interpreted as blaming Hazard for Chelsea’s Champions League exit as he claimed that,
“(Hazard) is not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100% for the team and for his mates, if you see the first goal, you understand where the mistake was and why we conceded”
This is a strange comment for a manager to make about one of his star players and a rift between Mourinho and Hazard is worrying for Chelsea fans, especially considering the young Belgian has scored 17 goals this season.
Chelsea will finish the season trophyless and Mourinho will be kicking himself when reflecting on games such as Sunderland, Villa and Crystal Palace as they lost highly valuable and equally attainable points. There will be questions asked about Chelsea’s season because a team who invests over £100m on transfers and already has stars such as Hazard, Oscar, Lampard, Cech, Cahill etc. is expected to add to their trophy cabinet come the end of the season.
This is Mourinho’s first season back in the Premier League and the league has changed since his last stint in England. This could prove to be a learning curve for the Chelsea boss but for next season Mourinho will have to address issues such as unrest within the Chelsea camp, their lack of attacking intent and a Plan B for when their defensive and counter-attacking footballing is not working.
It will be interesting to see how Mourinho chooses to improve his Chelsea side. Expect a lot of noise emanating from Stamford bridge this summer.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.