|

Marriage of convenience for Chelsea

by Christopher Davies

Jose Mourinho talks about a love affair, but his return to Chelsea is more of an arranged marriage.

Had they been able to pick their own partners Mourinho would have chosen Manchester United and Roman Abramovich would have walked down the football aisle with Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho needed a job and Abramovich needed a manager. As second-bests go someone as successful and, with the Chelsea fans, as popular as Mourinho is not a bad option yet the expectancy is for another divorce before the four-year agreement ends.

No doubt the pre-nup would again be generous, the Portuguese walking away with £18 million in the divorce settlement in 2007 after Chelsea said “the relationship between manager and club has broken down.”

So why should it be different second time around?

Has Abramovich become a hands-off owner?

Has Mourinho mellowed into a shy, retiring rose?

Will he be able to work with technical director Michael Emenalo, whom Abramovich would probably back against his manager if push came to shove?

In his previous stay Mourinho had an unhappy relationship with Frank Arnesen and Avram Grant who held similar roles to the Nigerian.

A brilliant coach, the Special One specializes in making enemies among his employers, his players, match officials and opponents. In fact, just about anyone and everyone.

There is also an attitude of “we won” but “they lost” when his team is defeated. He takes gamesmanship to the extreme, almost trying to instill a hatred of Barcelona into his Real Madrid players.

There were few tears when he quit Spain where he left behind a trail of bitterness, a divided locker room and no friends in the media, quite an achievement as many see the Madrid-based press as supporters with laptops.

The suspicion is Mourinho’s ego will not allow him to admit even the tiniest of mistakes, but when he is presented to the English media on Monday you can bet the Portuguese will ooze charm, smiles, jokes, friendliness and charisma. Give them what they want.

Some of the English media tolerate Mourinho’s disciplinary excesses because he provides them with good copy, while Chelsea fans justify Mourinho’s behaviour because he is a winner — a logic I do not buy into.

This is a manager who is a serial abuser of referees; this is a manager whose unfounded allegations saw Swedish official Anders Frisk retire prematurely; this is a manager who criticized the Berkshire Ambulance Service for being late when Petr Cech was injured, once again his allegations untrue; this is a manager who poked Barcelona’s Tito Villanova in the eye; this is a manager who was part of the illegal tapping-up of Ashley Cole; this is a manager who got around a UEFA ban by hiding in a laundry basket; this is as manager who accepted a police caution for a quarantine offense involving his dog; this is a manager whose Chelsea had the worst record in the Premier League for disrespecting referees; this is a manager who labeled Arsene Wenger “a voyeur.”

Excuse me if I don’t join in the welcome party.


IF YOU WENT to a restaurant and said the meal was “OK” it would not be a ringing endorsement. Ditto a movie, a hotel — in fact, just about anything. OK is probably six out of 10 — not bad, but not a rating that suggests you undoubtedly made the right choice.

So when David Bernstein was asked about England’s results under Roy Hodgson, the manager he appointed in May last year, the outgoing chairman of the Football Association said: “OK.”

A correct assessment even if the chairman of English football’s governing body could have been forgiven for putting a more positive spin on a manager who is unbeaten in 10 competitive games in charge. England has won five and drawn five, though bare statistics can hide the reality.

England’s only victories in its 2014 World Cup qualification program have been against Moldova and San Marino, they drew against Ukraine (h), Poland (a) and Montenegro (a).

In a tightly contested Group H, the winners, who qualify automatically for the finals, will probably need a minimum of 20 points.

England has 12 and assuming it beats Moldova at Wembley, this means it will need five points from the matches against Ukraine (a), Montenegro (h) and Poland (h). Draws will see England at best in the lottery of the playoffs.

In the past 11 days England has stumbled to a 1-1 draw at Wembley against the Republic of Ireland and somehow escaped a battering by Brazil in a 2-2 draw at the Maracana.

Hodgson’s sides have always been difficult to beat and no one can doubt the inner spirit that England has shown to come from behind against Sweden at Euro 2012, Ukraine, Ireland and Brazil.

Avoiding defeat is not enough at the highest level, though, and Hodgson must be bold when the Brazil qualifiers resume and loosen the reins on his team.

In Rio de Janeiro last Sunday, England, static and predictable during the first half, looked far more positive when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on and the Arsenal winger scored a superb goal. In 14 games against non-minnows England under Hodgson has scored two or more goals in five of them.

Steven Gerrard has yet to score in 12 games, also goal-less are Tom Cleverley (nine), Michael Carrick (six) plus Jack Wilshere, though injuries have restricted him to just two games.

England’s only regular goalscorers have been Danny Welbeck (five in 12), Frank Lampard (six in seven) and Wayne Rooney (eight in 10).

England last failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in 1994, and there is almost of an assumption it will get through somehow, but it will need to step up its game if it is to avoid missing out on the Brazilian fiesta.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.