Jose Mourinho last night hinted at further tensions between himself and the Chelsea board by declaring that he had been frustrated in his attempts to bring in new players in the January transfer window.
"The information I have at the moment is that nobody is coming, and if nobody is coming then certainly nobody is going," Mourinho said following the astonishing draw against League Two Wycombe Wanderers, 71 places below Chelsea in the professional pyramid, in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.
For much of the game, Chelsea were stuck firmly on the back foot before conceding Jermaine Easter's late equalising goal.
Asked directly if he had tried to buy new players to supplement his squad and was told he could not, Mourinho replied: "Yes."
When asked why, he added: "Club reasons." Those reasons could simply be that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and chief executive Peter Kenyon are taking a hard-line on not paying over the odds for players, a line Mourinho has himself already stated, but the Portuguese's demeanour suggested otherwise. "It's not my club," he said. "I''m just the manager."
The demeanour of his team last night suggested that here was a team desperately in need of reinforcements - and certainly in need of their captain John Terry, who is recovering from back surgery. That recovery, too, appears to be taking longer than Chelsea's optimistic forecasts with Mourinho back-tracking on his previous statement that the defender would return in time for Saturday's Premiership match against Wigan Athletic.
"The only thing I know is not for Saturday for sure," Mourinho said when asked about Terry's comeback. He will not train with the rest of the Chelsea squad today. "We tried to do our best and do the best we can," Mourinho said of his team's disappointing display before, extraordinarily, complaining about the resources available to him.
"We have not the quality of player ready to play for Chelsea," he said of his club's reserves and youth players. "One or two are young or not good enough to play at this level. I don't have a second squad to go through and pick players."
Such complaints will cut little ice. And will certainly cut little ice with Abramovich, who was at the game last night, especially as there is a palpable sense that Mourinho has been moaning too much of late and that the owner wants an improvement. And soon.
Indeed, Mourinho added to the sense of growing crisis by saying: "My future's not important. What is important is Chelsea."
It is also important to remember that, in all probability, Chelsea will still be in the final of this competition next month. They face Wycombe again in two weeks' time and it would rank among the greatest upsets of all time if they were to lose that.
But Chelsea were certainly upset yesterday. For all but a 10-minute period after Wayne Bridge's goal - the first scored by the left-back since the Champions' League quarter-final against Arsenal three years ago - they were pushed back.
For Wycombe, 35-year-old captain Tommy Mooney was outstanding. Aggressive and brave, he ruffled Chelsea's makeshift defence and played a vital role in Easter's goal. The striker has now scored in all six rounds of this competition and latched on to Mooney's header, as he rose above Paulo Ferreira, to hold off Michael Essien and side-foot calmly beyond Hilario, who had earlier been forced into a smart save by Kevin Betsy.
The 24-year-old Easter may well have remained calm but the stadium erupted. Goodness knows what the reaction would have been had Stefan Oakes' long-range shot soon after the goal dipped up, not over the crossbar.
Easter, an £80,000 purchase from Stockport County, was the only Wycombe player to have commanded a fee. Around him was a collection of seven free transfers and three on-loan players. Chelsea? The Wycombe match programme best summed up the collective value of their squad by saying it took "a ridiculous shed-load of cash" to assemble.
Still, they were warned. Wycombe had already dumped Fulham and Charlton Athletic out of this competition to become the first side from the lowest tier, since Chester City in 1975, to reach this stage of the competition. They, and their manager Paul Lambert, clearly felt they had a chance and set about Chelsea from the start.
That storm appeared to blow over with Bridge's goal. Playing out of position as a left-winger, another incongruity which further questioned Mourinho's decision to have such a small squad this season, he nevertheless showed great pace to run on to Salomon Kalou's clever chip forward and lob goalkeeper Ricardo Batista.
The two players clattered into each other, clashed heads and there was a long delay before the re-start. But Chelsea were the groggiest. Michael Ballack was an embarrassing stroller, Shaun Wright-Phillips a continuing shadow, Ashley Cole a peripheral figure - while Andrei Shevchenko was among the injured. Even when Frank Lampard strode from the bench, he could not rouse a response. They looked what they were - lop-sided, unbalanced.
Mourinho urged his players forward but there was little response. Instead, the Premiership champions back-tracked. Wycombe won a series of corners and free-kicks and although each petered out, they were slowly turning the screw.
Mourinho, despite his protestations that he feels no pressure, must be feeling that tightening effect too, right now. He must also have been relieved that this was not a one-off match. If it had finished on this pitch, there would have surely been only one outcome. Mourinho said things would be different at Stamford Bridge. "We are surviving," he said of his team's problems. But only just.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Batista; Martin, Williamson, Antwi, O'Halloran; Betsy, Bloomfield (Torres, 75), Oakes, Doherty; Easter, Mooney (Dixon, 89). Substitutes not used: Young (gk), Palmer, Anya.
Chelsea (4-1-2-3): Hilario; Geremi, Essien, Ferreira, A Cole; Makelele; Mikel, Ballack; Wright-Phillips (Sahar, 62), Kalou (Sinclair, 90), Bridge (Lampard, 68). Substitutes not used: Makaba-Makalamby (gk), Morais.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Easter rising: Jermaine's scoring run
Carling Cup first round 22 Aug
Swansea City 2, Wycombe 3 (Easter 1)
Second round 20 Sept
Fulham 1, Wycombe 2 (Easter 1)
Third round 24 Oct
Wycombe 2 (Easter 1), Doncaster 2 (Wycombe won 3-2 on pens)
Fourth round 7 Nov
Notts County 0, Wycombe 1 (Easter)
Fifth round 19 Dec
Charlton 0, Wycombe 1 (Easter)
Semi-final first leg 10 Jan
Wycombe 1 (Easter), Chelsea 1Reuse content