Such is the profound idealism that pervades the Chelsea fan base’s perception of Jose Mourinho that even the mere expectation of his return this summer, has seen the morale and the mentality surrounding Stamford Bridge boosted tenfold. The past two performances, a Mourinho-esque boringly easy brushing aside of Swansea and last night’s semi-final thumping of Basle, made Chelsea look like a team, who for the first time in a long time, had some direction/idea where they are headed in the short term.
After expertly playing the ‘hard done by’ coach on Tuesday night after his team had lost to Borussia Dortmund, the Portuguese’ now famous quote that he wants to where he is “loved” has removed virtually all doubt where he is next job will be. Andre Villas-Boas has already asserted his conviction that Jose wouldn’t be so blunt about leaving Madrid were a job in West London not lined up. Whatever your opinion of Mourinho, whether your ecstatic or reservedly sceptical at this point in time, I think it’s now safe to start discussing/asking ourselves certain questions. Who will he sign? How will we play? What does this mean for Lampard? How quickly will we improve? Will any club officials have to step down? All to be answered in due time, no doubt…
Last night would’ve been a great indication to Mourinho of what he has to work with. Eden Hazard showed what he can do to create a chance out of absolutely nothing; when he decides to just run at goal it usually takes a quality bit of defending to stop him legally. Moses, Ramires and Ivanovic all demonstrated their worth as quality and reliable utility players. In Bertrand and Azpi he’ll know he’s got two of the most promising young fullbacks in the English game.
Perhaps the relationship that’ll be most interesting to observe however is the one between Mourinho and the heir apparent to John Terry’s captaincy, David Luiz. The work that Benitez has done to polish and cultivate Luiz as both a defender and a midfielder has been exceptional – the past few months have been his best for Chelsea without question. As a player, a leader and as a symbol for the team he continues to grow immensely; Mourinho must realise that getting the best out of the Brazilian will be crucial to building a successful team out of this current group of players. As far as I can see, everything is there for the two them to guide Chelsea back to the top of European football. They have the same first language, the same uncompromising disposition in the face of a challenge and yet the same drive to strive for quality and excellence in everything they do.
The only problem to solve is one that perhaps will never be fully answered – where is Luiz’ best position? We’ve asked ourselves this question relentlessly since his arrival at the club and the debate has only intensified since he was first used there against Monterrey in the CWC in December (to great effect). Personally, if I’m ever asked if Luiz is a defender or a midfielder, my answer is “he’s an everywhere” – I honestly believe he has the talent and the skill set to be world class in any outfield position.
Ultimately however, I’m pretty sure his long term future is as a centre half. Attribute for attribute he’s the best central defender I’ve ever seen play for Chelsea. At his best he’s every bit as physical and mechanical with his positioning as John Terry was in his prime, but he’s also a lot better with ball at his feet. Recently against Fulham I think he showed he doesn’t need to start in midfield to have an attacking influence on the game either.
Too many people still disregard Luiz, refusing to consider his personality beyond the baroque appearance and demeanour – dismissing his wonder goals as an irregular manifestation of natural talent otherwise smothered by a temerarious abandon. Thankfully the heinousness of this claim is becoming more and more apparent. A year ago, the thought of Luiz usurping Terry as the symbolic lifeblood of this football club might have been a disconcerting one, but those worries have all but gone for sure. The player might not demand it himself, but when you’ve captained Brazil and you’re soon to captain a Jose Mourinho side, you simply give people no choice but to take you seriously – And in Luiz’ case that’s a courtesy overdue by far too many fans and pundits. Let’s hope Mourinho can dispel the last of his clueless critics.
So, five games left. None of them easy – all of them important. Starting with a trip to Old Trafford and then a home tie against Spurs in what is essentially a cup final. As far as a top four finish goes, the good news at least is it can be sealed within a week with wins on Sunday and Wednesday. The reality is however, seven points will see us home.
With our goal difference advantage ahead of Tottenham and the likelihood of Arsenal slipping up at least once in their last three games, I think we’ve got some decent reasons to be optimistic. Factoring in our current form, our incentive to win and the fact Utd’s season was effectively over weeks ago, I think we’ll win at Old Trafford this weekend, giving us an opportunity to seal top 4 and ruin Tottenham’s season once again on Wednesday night, which is always nice.