Jose Mourinho’s second stint as Chelsea manager didn’t start out so well. He was alienating his “star”, he was dropping points left and right, and Chelsea’s style of football was quite boring. Fast forward to February, and lo and behold, Chelsea are top of the table. How did this happen?
Michael Davies, a Chelsea fan and cohost of the Men In Blazers podcast (WARPIG), often said that Mourinho looks like he is running a campaign. Jose, like Sir Alex before him, knew exactly what he needed to do to win the league, he said. It doesn’t matter if Chelsea dropped points in the big games; they’ll make them up. It’s not a big deal if they lose a game or two down the road (after all, this isn’t La Liga); it will even out in the end.
So far, every thing has been going great for Mourinho. Juan Mata, the alienated star player is gone, sold to Manchester United in January for thirty seven million pounds after being branded a luxury that wasn’t going to fit in Mourinho’s plans. In his place came Mohammed Salah, an Egyptian winger who terrorized Chelsea at Basel in the Champions League, and Nemanja Matic, a Serbian defensive midfielder who terrorized Yaya “The Beast” Toure when Chelsea played Manchester City on Monday.
The jury is still out on Salah, but Matic looks like the real deal. Forming a solid midfield three with David Luiz and Ramires, Matic gives Chelsea’s creative players (read: Hazard) the freedom to attack with reckless abandon. The defense is solid, sitting deep to mask the lack of pace in both Terry and Cahill. Ivanovic is a solid defensive right back and Cesar Azpilicueta, a natural right back, has made Ashley Cole all but a memory.
Their strikers still can’t score, but with Eden Hazard in the squad, they really don’t need to anymore. All Mourinho is asking of his strikers is to work hard and track back, which is probably why Samuel Etoo is preferred to Fernando Torres – even before Torres got injured.
Jose Mourinho took a frail, defensively weak Chelsea squad and remade it in his image. Chelsea is defensively solid and while their offense isn’t exactly Bayern Munich’s or Manchester City’s, they can more than hold their own – as they showed at the Etihad on Monday.
Mourinho may not have a juggernaut, but he may just have enough to be a champion.