It’s been a tough week for Jose Mourinho.
First his team suffered a humiliating elimination from the Champions League at the hands of ten-man Paris St Germain. Then they were held at home by a Southampton side whose only victories since January have come against QPR and Crystal Palace.
That Manchester City’s miserable run continued away at Burnley was fortuitous.
Certainly, it has allowed Mourinho to gratefully deflect from a disappointing result, but there is still a vulnerability about the Chelsea manager at the moment which opens him up to scrutiny.
Paul recently wrote about how Mourinho’s attitude towards games shows his limitations, his cowardliness.
The real question is: will it cost him?
CHELSEA’S TO LOSE
This weekend’s point moved Chelsea six points clear with a game in hand.
The way City are playing at the moment (allied to a tough run-in) makes it hard to foresee any champions other than Mourinho’s men, and yet there have certainly been greater turnarounds in Premier League history.
Manchester United have twice turned around twelve point deficits, while Arsenal overhauled a thirteen point gap in the 1997-98 season. The real difference this season, though, is that there are just nine games left for the chasing pack to haul in Chelsea.
The West London side have four of the bottom six to play, and although they have still to face United and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on top of their trip to the Emirates, it would certainly have to be a collapse of huge proportions to see anyone other than this Chelsea side lift the Premier League trophy.
So why is Jose so touchy?
Asked after the Southampton game if Arsenal are now more of a threat than Man City because of their momentum, the Chelsea manager responded with a terse:
“What momentum…3-1 against Monaco?”
Well, probably the momentum that has seen us win eight games on the bounce at home, and the momentum that,, aside from two sub-par performances against Tottenham and Southampton has seen us win every domestic game we have played in 2015.
Played 14, Won 12, Drawn 0, Lost 2.
Twelve out of fourteen victories, Jose – but of course, a naive Champions League performance undoes all that momentum.
You’d assume, then, that Chelsea’s domestic record in 2015 must be pretty good for Jose to be that critical?
Played 14, Won 8, Drawn 4, Lost 2 – pretty poor for a team hoping to emulate the Invincibles.
In fact, if you convert those games into points, Chelsea are eight points worse off than Arsenal over the same period.
By my count, we’re only seven points behind right now.
I don’t for one moment think that we have a chance of winning the League this year, but it is a sign of how far we’ve come that Mourinho suddenly feels the need to have his two pennies worth on Arsene and Arsenal.
That he’s talking about us at all shows that we must now be forward in his mind.
He admitted so somewhat later on, saying “Of course Arsenal are in the race.”
Perhaps he realised his previous comment would only serve as dressing-room wall motivational material.
One of the greatest ever rivalries in football was of course Arsene Wenger v Alex Ferguson.
For years the two most revered managers of the Premier League traded titles, insults and grudging respect, until Arsenal’s austerity period put an end to it all.
One of the worst parts of that period of our history, despite its necessity, was the way Ferguson no longer felt the need to wind us up.
Instead of the mind games that usually overtook any action on the pitch, the rivalry degraded to the point where Ferguson and Wenger were singing each other’s praises with some regularity.
It was a rather depressing indicator of our decline, yet it demonstrated the respect the two managers had for one another.
WHAT DOES IT MATTER TO YOU?
Jose Mourinho on the other hand has always had a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to Wenger.
It started when he arrived in English football back in 2004 off the back of a domestic league win and more importantly, Champions League success.
Winning the league in his first season with Chelsea, Mourinho was irked by Wenger’s accusation that he parks the bus too often, effectively labelling his side as boring.
Mourinho’s childish response was to call Arsene a ‘voyeur‘, and in throwing his toys out of his pram, demonstrated the first signs of his own insecurities.
After all, playing too boring a brand of football is exactly the issue which saw his first spell at Stamford Bridge come to an end.
On his return to the club in 2013, it didn’t take Mourinho long to get back into the swing of things (indeed, he continued slinging mud at Arsene from afar in between) branding Wenger a “specialist in failure” and that in itself was more eye-opening than his previous insults.
It completely ignored the context of Arsenal’s circumstances over the last few years, and demonstrated that when Wenger suggested Mourinho might have a “fear of failure” he was spot on.
In recent weeks, the Chelsea manager gave a telling interview in which he compared himself to his peers and rivals managing at the top level over a similar period in time. “My happiness first of all is when I compare myself with the others. I see just a few that are with me in terms of success. And the others? I see a huge difference, a huge distance.”
He went on to name check the managers he felt were in the same bracket – Louis van Gaal, Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and…Arsene Wenger.
The importance that the Chelsea manager places on his own personal ‘success‘ is clear, and explains why he has such a fractious relationship with Arsene.
There is also the vast differences in footballing philosophies between the two managers – Mourinho believes that he has to sacrifice style on a regular basis to maximise his returns, where Arsene aspires to play truly entertaining football.
Mourinho believes that the here and now is all that matters, despite knowing it will leave the club a mess when he departs where Arsene wants to safeguard the future of our club and build a legacy.
Mourinho believes that the destination is all that matters, while Arsene wants us all to enjoy the journey too.
The Arsenal fanbase is rather divided between whether our Frenchman’s race is run or whether he can return the club to the big time now that we have the funds to compete, but few can argue that he has earned the chance to have a go.
Mourinho seems irritated that where he sees Wenger to have failed, the majority of people see him as having to operate with his hands tied behind his back, and instead focus on his earlier successes.
In short, Jose is envious.
It goes against his measures of success and means he can’t understand what he has to do to be ranked above this dignified and respected manager.
It’s eating him up inside.
That’s why, when asked if Arsenal are building some momentum, he reacted defensively and bitterly.
It’s all very well poking fun at our first leg result, Jose, but your first leg result didn’t do you much good either. After all, you have to be in it to win it and, for a day at least, Arsenal are in the Champions League while Chelsea are most definitely not.
Arsene, take it all with a pinch of salt.
You should never hate people who are envious of you – after all they’re people who think you’re better than them.
And you have a chance to prove it against Monaco.