Chelsea 2 Bradford 4: Jose Mourinho demands immediate response after shocking defeat

Chelsea enter pivotal week smarting from shock that exposed squad depth

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho insisted, with a sardonic smile, that he stopped celebrating his birthday when he reached the ripe old age of 42. He is 52 on Monday, and will not linger long on fripperies and formalities. There is work to do, a final to reach, and a sense of shame to address.

The alchemy of his team, his perception of the so-called “Chelsea DNA”, demands an immediate response to the “disgrace” of the type of FA Cup defeat which turns journeymen footballers into immortals.

Mourinho paid due respect to Bradford’s achievement in winning 4-2 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but once he left their dressing room, having temporarily silenced the  celebrations of suitably awestruck opponents from League One, his focus shifted.

This is a potentially pivotal week. Tomorrow’s delicately balanced return leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge precedes Saturday’s Premier League visit from Manchester City, another of the FA Cup’s stellar collection of conscientious objectors. A title and trophy are at stake.

Mourinho said nothing to his players on Saturday evening, and was at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground before 8am yesterday. The initial outpouring of distilled anger and self-reproach, which filled notebooks, dominated cyberspace and occupied airtime, had developed into a determination to drill down into a new game plan.

Suddenly, the depth of his squad is an issue. He spread the blame about surrendering a two-goal lead to a Bradford squad assembled at a cost of £7,500, but acknowledged “the boss has more responsibilities” in such situations.

 

He made nine changes from the first leg against Liverpool, and was duly disappointed by his fringe players, who have cause to worry about his curt observation that “I try to be fair, but I have to analyse the game and see which players deserve to play more.”

Kurt Zouma was made to look lightweight by Jon Stead and James Hanson, while John Obi Mikel’s weakness as a defensive shield was more marked than ever. Loïc Rémy was utterly anonymous, a poor foil to Didier Drogba who, at 36, is no longer protected by the force field of his reputation. “The good thing about playing consecutive matches without many days in between is that when you lose you have to focus immediately on the next game,” Mourinho said. “There’s not a lot of time to be moaning or analysing the bad one, so let’s move on.

“I don’t want to speak too much about this, but it is easy for you to understand now why I play almost every game with the same players. I don’t make many changes. I try to keep stability in the team. Maybe now you can understand a bit better why.”

Salah.jpg
Mohamed Salah failed to impress against Bradford

He said he will not seek solace in the transfer market, citing Chelsea’s strategic commitment to the tenets of Financial Fair Play, but left himself sufficient wriggle room to rid himself of the underperforming Mohamed Salah and André Schürrle, who pronounced himself unavailable on Saturday morning with a back injury.

Mourinho denied that his decision to rest John Terry had resulted in a lack of leadership, but admitted he was concerned about the complacency of his players, once they had taken a two-goal lead. “Maybe they did switch off, but at half-time it was 2-1 and we spoke about the danger of the situation,” he said.

“We respected them – at least I respected them – in the way we prepared for the game but at half-time the players thought, ‘We are going to score, not them’, and when they scored for 2-2, after that the game became crazy.”

Just how gloriously mad it became was captured in the blissful, thousand-yard stare of the Bradford City manager, Phil Parkinson, who has somehow to look beyond the excitement of tonight’s fifth-round FA Cup draw to the resumption of the League One promotion campaign.

“There’s an honesty about us, a spirit which runs through the team,” Parkinson said. “We can use this as a springboard for the rest of the season.”

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