Disclaimer: The following is a bit of a rant. If you aren’t in the mood for some acrimonious, semi-hysterical criticism of other people’s writing then read no further. You’ve been warned.
The man in the title image of this blog is Tony Evans of The Times and after the Hull City game he wrote an article, still available on the current Times Sport home page. Contained in the piece are three ideas/assertions about Chelsea that I’m getting so tired of reading this summer; I find them totally nonsensical and I’m yet to come across any serious evidence or reasoning in their favour. I wanted to take a brief look at each of them:
1) The first is this claim that Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea is a ‘marriage of convenience’, because apparently the owner would’ve preferred to hire Pep Guardiola and because Jose wanted the United job. I don’t have a problem so much with the former, given it’s no secret Abramovich did approach the now-Bayern manager multiple times. However, when he was rebuffed for the final time in favour of the Munich club, Mourinho’s position at Madrid, whilst not the safest it had ever been, was hardly in a state where a summer exit looked likely. I’m not saying I know whom Roman would’ve picked out of the two had he known they were both free (hypothetically), but I think that anyone who says they know for sure is being disingenuous.
It’s the second part of this derogation of Mourinho’s appointment that bothers me the most however. Evans writes in his piece that Mourinho “flirted outrageously” with Manchester Utd. Firstly, whether or not admitting your side were victorious against a better side constitutes outrageous flirting is certainly up for debate. More importantly however, Ferguson admitted that he had only informed his brother of his decision to retire a few weeks before the announcement was made public. How is it Evans thinks that Mourinho would know there would be a vacancy at a club months before the manager’s own brother? And does Mourinho continuous encomium of Chelsea as the only club in England he truly loves, mean absolutely nothing?
2) Another point made in this article, comes across uncomfortably to me as a patronising warning to Chelsea fans of what might happen if Jose doesn’t get his own way. We’re told, “His power to choose potential recruits this time around is restricted. The selection of players has been largely taken out of the manager’s hands at Chelsea and run on a committee basis. It will not be up for discussion.” This portrayal of Mourinho as an immature delinquent, who goes round looking for fights and sulks when he’s told ‘no’, is not only insulting of an extremely serious professional but it’s boring too, and by the sounds of it in this case is being asserted groundlessly. The only evidence Evans gives of Mourinho being on a ‘tighter rein’ is that he hasn’t ‘wielded the chequebook’ since his arrival. Except of course, he has. £26 million on two young players is hardly an irrelevant investment, whilst a £30m+ deal for Wayne Rooney is still being attempted with a reported plan B and C to fall back on. Who honestly expected the Portuguese to come in and spend tens of millions on half a dozen players given the quality and depth he already had to work with? I guess when Mourinho talks about how much he loves the profile of the current squad; Evans thinks he’s lying once again.
3) The final, and easily most annoying observation in the article, is this idea certain members of the current Chelsea squad are not “Mourinho-type players”. Evans writes, “That Juan Mata was left on the bench was no surprise. The Spain midfielder frequently slows the play and takes the pace out of the counter-attack. Mata is not the only one. Oscar and Eden Hazard do not look like Mourinho players, nor David Luiz or Fernando Torres”. The prevalence of this opinion truly baffles me. What is it about Oscar for instance that makes him not a Mourinho-player? Is it his selfless covering and providing of space for other attackers? Is it his intelligent and consistently progressive use of the ball? Is it his exceptional creativity and decision making in the final third? Seriously, what the hell is wrong with Oscar that makes him incompatible with Mourinho’s tactics? Can anybody explain to me this thought process?
My best guess is that this centres around the issue of ‘directness’ in an extremely simplistic way. There is obviously more to playing direct football than just running towards goal and shooting and show me anyone who sincerely worried our play in the opening half hour against Hull was too indirect and I’ll show you an idiot. The fact that Rooney is one of the most mobile and least direct (in that sense) forwards in the country just compounds all of this bullshit perfectly.
In a way, I suppose these criticisms of Chelsea are a good thing. Slating the club has become, it seems, such an integral part of a British football journalist’s occupation, that when they find themselves with nothing to criticise then they’ll resort to laughable exclamations like these. If nothing else I suppose it’s a nice break from reading about the fundamental character flaws of John Terry and Ashley Cole.