The romance of Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea has met the corrective force of reality’s iron boot. In their next engagement, Saturday’s home match with Fulham, Chelsea are seeking to end a run of three consecutive defeats, even if one of those was on penalties to Bayern Munich.
Mourinho has thus far failed to establish a pattern of play that any can fathom, his transfer policy looks reactionary and haphazard and, critically, he has lost the most vital knack of all, winning.
In his first coming, Mourinho backed his enigmatic outpourings with results. Talk of eggs needing a mother is fine when you are winning. When you are losing they sound like excuses. Roman Abramovic brought Mourinho back to win, not nurture.
There is no scope for the sympathetic recycling of teams in the Champions League or the Premier League. This must happen seamlessly. The imperative is always three points. Progression is measured in silverware. And it can’t be gradual.
The decision to allow Romelu Lukaku and Victor Moses to leave on loan looks rash in the context of what we are seeing. His declarations of happiness with a forward line that includes a light scoring, utterly reduced Fernando Torres, the lightly regarded Djemba Ba and the outrageous punt that is off-the-pace 32-year-old, Samuel Eto’o, border on madness.
The oversupply of gifted midfielders, augmented by the transfer deadline theft of Willian from Spurs, is a structural two-fingers to Mourinho’s avowed preference for small, manageable squads. Chelsea’s dependence on John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Peter Cech, players who were at the heart of his great team eight years ago, point to more fundamental problems.
Chelsea’s last win was a month ago at home to Aston Villa, and they were fortunate to edge that. Beyond that, the opening day canter against a deferential Hull represents their only other success. You would not back them to beat Hull this weekend.
Where once there was no embarrassment attached to his hubris, now his anointment as the Special One is the butt of semantic manipulation. Thus he migrates through a series of redactions to the Happy One, the Hopeful One. How long before he becomes the Desperate One or even worse, the Superfluous One.
Mourinho’s judgment and his credibility are suddenly on the line in a way he never imagined when he resurrected his Stamford Bridge love affair. The long stride of Abramovic down the tunnel after last night’s defeat to Basel, sent its own potent message.
This is the worst start to a season since Abramovic acquired the club, and Chelsea’s first home defeat in the group stage of the Champions League in almost ten years. The practiced insouciance in the face of awkward questions will not wash for much longer. We are about to discover how special Mourinho really is, and how patient the owner.