When Jose Mourinho rode back into Stamford Bridge this summer, for a second spell as Chelsea boss, it was to the twin sounds of adulation – from supporters in west London and beyond, not to mention the press – and caution, from those who said you should never go back.
With calculatingly self-aware reference to his first Chelsea press conference, Mourinho re-christened himself ‘the happy one’, declaring he was a changed man, a humble man ready to reintroduce stability to the club.
However once the season got underway, it appeared that not even ‘the special one’ could bring stability back to the Blues.
Surprise defeats, none more so than home and away to Basle, as well as against Everton and Newcastle, seemed to imply that Mourinho had lost his magic touch.
Gone was the impenetrable defence, the ability to grind out wins, instead there was uncertainty and the growing muttering of doubters.
Elsewhere Arsenal were seemingly re-inspired by both the signing of Mesut Ozil and the form of Aaron Ramsey, while Manchester City were banging goals in for fun and even Liverpool seemed a side reborn.
Chelsea meanwhile couldn’t stop conceding; two against West Brom, three against both Sunderland and Stoke and then two more against Sunderland again as they crashed out of the League Cup.
It was seemingly this final insult that awoke something in Mourinho, because when questioned after the game about Chelsea’s faltering defence he simply replied: “If I want to win 1-0 I think I can as I think it is one of the easiest things in football. It is not so difficult.”
As a statement it seemed a mixture of classic Mourinho arrogance and the childish cry of a sore loser, trying to claim they weren’t really trying anyway.
It seemed nothing more than a throwaway line, designed to deflect criticism for a while, until Chelsea started playing again that is.
In the five league games since Mourinho’s bold claim, Chelsea have conceded just one goal and are yet to lose. In the five before they conceded nine – a rate of 1.8 goals per game – and had conceded 18 in all in their 16 league games – a rate of 1.13 goals per game.
Since Mourinho effectively claimed he could get his side to defend properly if he really wanted to, Chelsea have conceded 0.2 goals per game and are on a quietly extending unbeaten run.
While there will of course be sterner tests for his side to come, it appears ominously for Chelsea’s opponents that the special one hasn’t lost his touch just yet.