Whilst we saw nothing new yesterday evening, it felt to me like a line was crossed; as though we had come to a point where persisting concerns and frustrations had morphed into a deeper, more urgent form of anxiety. Aside from a single gorgeous strike from Willian there wasn’t a single positive aspect to draw upon from our performance. The evident deficiencies are hardly even worth listing – we’re all very familiar with them by now.
I hope very much that the line that was crossed in the minds of supporters with this latest defeat was also crossed in the minds of the players and the staff; it seems to me now that a severe change in mindset might be exactly what is required. It is no longer important (nor should it be) for the team to focus on remaining close to the league leaders. Neither is it important that we try as soon as possible to rediscover our form and momentum of last season.
Our next few matches should be about nothing more (in the minds of the players) than preserving the dignity of the club, preserving future competitive prospects and for many in the squad, preserving their own futures. If they cannot improve on their current form, many should be concerned about still being at the club this time next year.
I think at this stage, having had our worst start to any season since the 1970s, all we really want to see is serious commitment to clear plan to turn things around. At the moment, the aimless rotation within the same system isn’t inspiring much confidence. The way we continue to crumble as soon as things go wrong is truly pitiful. Whether it’s bringing in young players for an extended run in the team; whether it’s dropping big names for an extended period of time; or whether it’s a change in system, or overall approach, we just need to see something different – something clearly definable which everyone can get fully behind. Because the routine apathy of our current approach to matches is beginning to create something wholly unsavoury.
Namely, it’s fostering a culture of blaming certain players far beyond what they deserve. The level of animosity being directed at Branislav Ivanovic at the moment is shocking. In particular given the demands of his position, the lack of support he has from any of his teammates, and his wonderful contribution to the club for more than five years, I think the criticism currently aimed at him is absurdly spiteful.
More to the point, blaming individual players who are particularly bad when everybody else is underperforming terribly also, seems to me not only pointless but self-defeating and only conducive to eventually harbouring more pessimistic emotions. When frustration or disappointment in a player turns into resentment then I think it’s worth stopping and reflecting on your priorities as a supporter.
Mourinho’s press conference after the match was as choleric and as convulsed as you would expect. Two impressions were generally made upon the media. The first being of a flustered coach who has never experienced form like this before and has no idea how to handle the situation, the second being a man who is impassioned to the point being ready to fight and do whatever is necessary to improve and to defend his team. Personally I think there’s more than an element of truth to both of these notions.
I’m still sceptical of the notion Mourinho suffers from a ‘third season syndrome’. His first third season at Chelsea was actually very successful, even by his high standards. And even after the meltdown of his third season at Real Madrid, he still reached a Cup final and the Champions League semis (and was only very narrowly beaten in both). That there is always a notable comedown after his second seasons in undeniable however.
Could it be as simple as his training methods are just that much more intense than other coaches? Or is it more likely to be a mental issue? Where he winds his players up so much to succeed and to keep improving over two years, that after so long, a drastic and painful comedown is simply inevitable.
The club is in crisis right now, there’s no denying the severity of the situation, nor is there any point attempting to do so. After winning just eight points from our first eight games, we are in position from which no team has ever finished higher than 5th in the league. That isn’t to say a Top Four place is impossible, especially given the respective quality of Liverpool and Spurs, I think 65 points will be enough.
As long as the club is (if not in, then very close to) the top four by New Year, I don’t see why Jose’s job security should be called into question. I think he has enough credit with the board from last season to last at least that long, regardless, if for no other reason than the total lack of available candidates who could feasibly do a better job. The man’s talent and commitment cannot be questioned (unlike that of some of his trusted players), and having an adored coach to collectively get behind is a huge advantage in a situation like this. When trust in the competence of leadership is gone, a club can only go downhill.