Hope fading so Mourinho plots for next season

“The day I am happy a couple of days after a defeat it is because there is something wrong with me,” Jose Mourinho said, “and there is nothing wrong with me.”

The Chelsea manager did seem strikingly relaxed, though, just two days after his team were knocked out of the Champions League semi-finals, and ahead of the climax of the title race.

Chelsea have just two games left to play, Norwich City at home tomorrow and Cardiff City away next week. Chelsea should win both but even if they do they need Liverpool and Manchester City to stumble terribly in order to win the Premier League themselves.

Mourinho admitted that he did not think two victories would win him the league, and that they were playing to “finish the season with the feeling of victory” as much as anything else. “The only thing we can do is win both matches. Imagine if we are not champions because we don’t win these two matches.”

Even if City and Liverpool finish ahead of Chelsea, there are real reasons for maintaining the push. “We also need the points to finish third and guarantee a Champions League spot next season,” said Mourinho, with an eye on the summer. “We need to win both matches for the fans, whose support deserves that we finish with two wins.”

It might be a low-key end to the season, a rare trophy-less season for Chelsea and for Mourinho. But it is only what the manager – in public at least – had been predicting since the start of the year.

Back in January he said that Chelsea “were not favourites to win any competition”, that it would be “fantastic” to finish second. When Chelsea were top in March he claimed it was “not a realistic situation” because of City’s games in hand. Mourinho could argue that his players have simply proved him right.

Atletico’s Diego Costa would fit the bill as a ‘critical signing’ Atletico’s Diego Costa would fit the bill as a ‘critical signing’ (Reuters)
So the Portuguese would admit to no disappointment yesterday that Chelsea do not have at least one hand on the title, nor that they have no cup finals to look forward to. “I don’t think it’s a bad season,” he said. “I think it’s a transitional season and, for a transitional season, to arrive where we did is very good.”

What this means, though, is that there must be improvement next year. While Mourinho has helped to bring on some of the younger players this season, one area for improvement next year is stylistic. Mourinho set out this year to play more expansive football but when results were lacking in December he had to change.

“I made the decision to stop that evolution in the style and philosophy of play,” Mourinho explained, “and went in the direction where I felt it was the only way that we could get results. I felt we had no conditions to arrive in the Champions League if we did not have a transformation in our style of play. So the team became more strategical and less intuitive because we went for results.”

The problem, Mourinho said, was that they did not have the efficiency up front required to play in that style. They had to create so many chances to score that they conceded too many goals.

“To play in an attractive way is when you create seven chances and you score five goals, and you can concede two or three and still win,” he said. “If you create 12 chances and score one, if your opponent scores before, you are in trouble.

“We had lots of matches where we created lots,” Mourinho insisted. “At Everton we should have been 5-0 up, but we were 1-0 down. Things are not sometimes like people like to say.”

What Chelsea need, then, are elite goalscorers, and Mourinho intends to pursue a “critical signing” – preferably Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa – this summer.

“That’s what I’m going to do after the season: work, think, think about next season.”

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