Jose Mourinho embodies everything Chelsea have been since Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003. Ruthless, erratic, passionate, combative, flippant, pragmatic and successful.
Mourinho is the perfect poster boy for Roman’s Empire which took English and European football by storm in the mid-naughties. No Chelsea fan will break a sweat recalling the ecstasy of back-to-back title wins in 04/05 and 05/06 – where it seemed no team could come close to matching the Blues dominance on or off the pitch.
Once again when he returned in 2013, Jose reclaimed his thrown by the spring of 2015, as his Chelsea side ran out worthy winners ahead of a chasing pack whose inconsistencies and failings all crumbled to the Portuguese’s formidable outfit.
Four years later and Chelsea are in a very different position.
The west London club has been battling for Champions League qualification the previous two campaigns, going through two Italian coaches in the process, as Manchester City under the brilliance of Pep Guardiola have dominated proceedings.
Now, 15 years since Mourinho took his first steps down the Fulham Road, a player who he helped become one of the greatest midfielders in the world is in the dugout where he once sat.
The 56-year-old, now working for Sky was in the studio at Stamford Bridge to analyse proceedings as Chelsea lost 2-1 to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.
Jose’s tussles with the Reds, specifically Rafael Benítez, helped forge a bitter rivalry between the two clubs that increased exponentially as they faced each other a ridiculous 14 times over three seasons, across the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
Jose Mourinho knows the significance and the history of this encounter more than most and took pleasure in spoiling the Liverpool party, most notably in the spring of 2014 at Anfield.
Following the game, where Chelsea fans applauded and sung their team off after seeing the Blues put in a valiant second half display. Nearly clawing back at two-goal deficit, Jose Mourinho took centre stage to give his verdict on the reaction.
“When you start accepting defeats just because your team played well and just because your players gave their best, a performance for people to be proud of. I think when you get used to it, that’s when a big club stop being a big club.”– Jose Mourinho
As is always the case, social media was ablaze with strong reactions either way. If you disagreed, you would dismiss the comment and bemoan the amount Jose had at his disposal to impose his vision. Or on the opposing end you agreed and believed Chelsea fans were “accepting mediocrity” by being so upbeat after a defeat.
As is always the case, the truth lies somewhere in the centre.
Jose Mourinho instilled a “win-now” mentality. When he was Chelsea’s manager the expectation was a league title, anything less was seen as a failure. Jose set high standards, which ran through all facets of the club and impacted the expectations of those who entered Stamford Bridge every other Saturday.
This win-now mentality has been the set vision of the football club arguably all the way up to Antonio Conte’s departure. You rely on ready-made players – mostly 25-30 in age, you play a pragmatic, effective counter-attacking style of football and be ready to abandon any principle dependant on the game, all bowing down to one thing – the result.
The fallback of this mindset, as was present more in the disaster that was the first half of the 2015/16 season, is that if (and under Jose, when) it blows up – it leaves you with little infrastructure. There is no better club to deal with a maverick and short-term storm like Mourinho than Chelsea.
18 months after his second sacking by Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were lifting the Premier League crown under Antonio Conte.
Though with the fall in domestic places, big player departures and an apparent distant owner – it felt like that short-term model was running out of steam.
The transfer ban might have set the club back, but many including myself feel it was a blessing in disguise to properly hit a reset button. Frank Lampard has entered a club with lower expectations, infused with young, fresh faces and a feeling that given time, Lampard can build something that can leave a lasting impact past his departure.
Everything in that last paragraph is in opposition to Mourinho and “Modern Chelsea”.
A core belief in youth development, implementing a clear philosophy, developing a culture all came second to silverware – which we massively benefited from.
Sadly Jose, the game has changed.
Chelsea lost to a side on Sunday that are miles ahead in their evolution under the vision of one coach. Liverpool have trusted one manager through setbacks, through dark days and the wait for silverware.
At the top of the English game, two clubs are ahead of the chasing pack after making a host of very good decisions charting back to 2015. Both Guardiola and Klopp have lasted longer than any of Jose’s three reigns in England.
What this tells us is that short-term, isolated thinking isn’t what is winning anymore and instead leaves you behind the curb, instead of ahead of it.
In November of 2015, Liverpool netted a late equaliser at home to West Brom earning them a 2-2 draw. In an act that was widely mocked at the time, Jurgen Klopp took his players, hand-in-hand to face the Kopp and celebrate the adulation and appreciation of their home fans.
Irregardless of the wide mockery and “banter” from outside voices, what this was doing only a month into the German’s reign was forging a connection with his new fanbase and making them believe in his team that they can prove doubters wrong.
Four years later and the Reds are overturning a 3-0 first leg defeat to Barcelona to make it to a Champions League final, which they would go on to win.
Sunday’s show of support from the Harding Lower was as loud even if it wasn’t in reaction to a late equaliser. It demonstrated that the mood around SW6 is one of optimism and belief that the club are moving in a positive direction under Lampard and that under his leadership, some special moments can be created.
It was the first sign that a culture change can take place and there is much more than just the 90-minutes of football and the result that goes with it.
Jose’s words ring from a different era, of win-now, ask questions later – which belatedly needs to be put in the past.
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