Jose Mourinho sounded his most magnanimous as Chelsea opened a two-point lead at the top of the Premiership. "I don't want the credit when I don't deserve it," the west London club's Portuguese manager said as his side celebrated a 1-0 victory over Everton that gave them the edge over Arsenal. But he was not talking down his influence on the side that Roman Abramovich so generously assembled at Stamford Bridge. He was simply pointing out that he owed a debt of gratitude to his predecessor, Claudio Ranieri.
It was the amiable Italian who signed Arjen Robben. Now fit to inflict his delightful flourishes of Dutch magic on opponents, he scored the only goal for the second successive Chelsea match. His strike in Moscow put paid to CSKA in the Champions' League in midweek and he repeated the trick yesterday.
"I have to say I didn't buy him. It was not my responsibility but I was happy when I knew he was a Chelsea player," Mourinho said. "I don't want credit when I don't deserve it. But he is fast and has the speed to get in behind defenders and score goals. He has everything and works for the team."
Robben's team-mates are glad he is there; they were in raptures over a victory over an Everton team who had not lost away from home in the League this season, as if they had won a cup. "The dressing room was like a dressing room after a final not after just getting three points," Mourinho said. "When you are so happy it is because you treat every game like a final."
That is the secret of long-term success; the secret of winning Leagues and cups. Arsenal, now two points adrift after another draw - this one 1-1 at Crystal Palace - have momentarily lost the knack of winning. They have won only once since Manchester United ended their unbeaten Premiership run at 49 games and, including the match against Panathinaikos, have drawn three games in a row.
How Chelsea are enjoying Robben's return from injury as a draw-breaker. "I told the players at half-time that we want to play football to be champions," Mourinho said. "It was not an easy week for us playing in Moscow and not getting enough sleep. Robben arrived at the right moment, the players kept the faith and we went home with the three points we deserved in the end."
Arsenal need a wake-up call after again surrendering a lead. Thierry Henry put them ahead in the 63rd minute but Aki Riihilahti equalised only two minutes later. "Goals aren't coming as fluently as we are used to," Wenger said. "When you want an ice-cream and it normally comes quickly but suddenly it doesn't come any more, then it's a bit more difficult. You become nervous and that is what is happening to us."Reuse content