Were Chelsea right to sack José Mourinho?
Although Chelsea’s season has been nothing short of a disaster so far, when the news broke that José Mourinho had been relieved of his duties by the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge, the question of whether the right decision had been made still had to be raised. Surely the supremely talented former Real Madrid head coach should have been given more time to turn the situation around? Or had his position gone beyond the point of no return?
Chelsea currently lie in 16th place in the Premier League table and are only a single point above the relegation zone. With Christmas around the corner, this has clearly not been a short-term issue which has led to The Blues languishing in this position. Problems existed since the first match of the campaign; and perhaps even in pre-season, and the accumulation of these issues are the most probable cause for his sacking.
Just a week into the season, José Mourinho had begun to make enemies within his own ranks, criticising club doctor Eva Carneiro and her medical colleague for entering the field of play to treat Eden Hazard when Chelsea were already one player down. Mourinho was incensed by their apparent ‘lack of understanding of the game’ as his side were then left to combat Swansea for a period of time with only nine on-field players. This incident did not fizzle out over the next few days or weeks, but instead rumbled on and is still not resolved to this day. Although at a glance this is not too closely related to their failings on the pitch, it was evidence to Roman Abramovich that this season’s José Mourinho was feeling the pressure like never before.
Issues came at a relentless rate in the opening weeks of the season, as the Stamford Bridge outfit were handed a 3-0 defeat by Manchester City. Perhaps even more crucial than the result itself was Mourinho’s decision to substitute club captain and legend; John Terry, at half-time. The Chelsea stalwart has been the manager’s long-term right-hand man and trusted member in the dressing room. To take the decision to replace Terry so publicly in a game of such magnitude was a huge one, even if Mourinho attempted to pass it off as purely a method to retain his quickest defenders on the pitch. There is no doubt that the former England captain’s pride will have been severely dented by the incident and it is easily possible to believe that members of the squad have more loyalty towards Terry than Mourinho. Normally, the Portuguese manager has always had 100% commitment and belief from his players behind him but from this moment on, that support almost certainly started to diminish.
The trend of dropping; or ‘resting’, some of his high-profile stars at various stages throughout the season continued, with Ivanovic, Matic, Fabregas, Hazard and Costa all missing from the starting eleven in some crucial games. Ruling with the stick rather than the carrot will not have gone unnoticed and Mourinho’s inability to motivate his players to improve their personal performances; instead resorting to dropping them, is a stark contrast to his previous management style. Diego Costa; who always displays petulance to some extent, recently tossed his bib towards the maverick manager to demonstrate his displeasure at being benched for a Premier League clash. The incident was played down by Mourinho but it was clear that something was not right. In José’s final match in charge, Eden Hazard seemed to take the decision personally to remove himself from the field of play following a clash with Jamie Vardy. Tension was obvious between the superstar Belgian and his manager and the manner in which he described the incident to the press in the post-match interview poorly disguised his displeasure with Hazard’s actions. The belief that the players have “betrayed” his approach; and more importantly voicing this opinion in public, is perhaps the defining moment of his unceremonious exit from Stamford Bridge.
In the 2015/16 Premier League season, Chelsea lost three of their first five matches and with 16 games gone, they have only won a quarter of them. For the champions of six months ago to be suffering in such a manner is incredible and unprecedented. As the situation worsened, Mourinho made repeated outbursts to the media, with the focus of his rants varying between referees, opposition managers, and most recently his own players. Of course, Roman Abramovich will know José’s track record better than anyone and will not have expected him to have mellowed in front of the cameras, but the reluctance to relent even in the face of fines and bans will not have helped his relationship with the Russian oligarch.
Chelsea’s fans have been refreshingly stoic in their support for José Mourinho, keenly aware of the amount that he has achieved for their club. When others were murmuring for him to be given the boot, the supporters were unwavering in their faith that he would get it right at some stage and The Blues would return to the right end of the table. However, there was a notable change against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge and even more so from the travelling fans at the KP Stadium. Employing ‘gallows humour’ to make light of the situation seemed to be their only defence, now lacking the justification to exhibit genuine support. This change in attitude will not have gone unnoticed by Abramovich and Chelsea’s other big-hitters.
What is abundantly clear to me is that there is far more wrong at Chelsea than what appears on the surface. For a squad of such outstanding natural ability in every position to be struggling in such a way cannot be the resulted of one or two isolated incidents. The rate at which The Blues recover their form under their new manger will be exceptionally interesting to see and may give some insight into the extent of the problems at The Bridge.
So were Chelsea right to sack José Mourinho. With the evidence that we have at the moment, it is my belief that the decision was the best move to make for everyone concerned. A fresh start is required for the club to climb out of the rut they currently find themselves in. Therefore, while they have cut ties with the most successful manager in their history, it turns out that it was in fact not a match made in heaven and Chelsea are right to move on without Mourinho in charge.
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