In football things can go stale. They say the sign of a great a manager is knowing when a good thing has come to an end and moving on. It’s a skill that made Sir Alex Ferguson so great. He knew when it was the right time to move players on, change his tactics and, in the end, leave. Jose Mouirnho, a man who reserves more respect for the Scot than most, has specialised in moving on from teams when his job is done.
The Portuguese, so far, has been very much a short term solution at every club he has been at, spending no more than three years in any of his posts. In that sense he has been an incredibly impressive manager, winning the league title in eight of his 13 campaigns, not to mention lifting the Champions League twice. However, upon his return to Stamford Bridge he decided it was time to lay down some roots. He dreamed of emulating Ferguson, staying at a club for many years and bringing continual success.
The former Real Madrid boss is not a man who likes comfort though. He enjoys the needle and abrasiveness that comes with his managerial technique, and in pledging his desire to remain at Stamford Bridge he was become comfortable. A comfortable Mourinho may well be a weaker Mourinho. He declared himself the ‘happy one’ last season, and while that seemed a positive thing with the Blues setting in on the title, it may have been a worrying sign of things to come.
The Pensioners’ start to the season has been verging on disastrous. They have just four points from as many games and are already a whopping eight points behind leaders Manchester City. So, has the Special One taken his eye of the ball?
It may well be so, and just one look at Chelsea’s frontline provides the evidence.
In Diego Costa they had a barging, blitzing, battering ram of a forward last season, who took defences apart on his own at times. The Spaniard scored 13 goals by January as Chelsea showed the Premier League that they were to be the dominant team throughout the campaign. As the world welcomed in 2015, Costa scored yet again on New Year’s Day but after that he found the net just six times in 15 matches in all competitions.
His form dropped off, sure he suffered a few injuries, but he did not look as sharp. His fall in performance coincided with the same mini decline of Cesc Fabregas. The symbiosis between the two was incredible in the first half of the season and the midfielder ended the campaign having laid on 18 goals. However, so linked were the two, that once one struggled so did their partner in crime.
That theme has continued into 2015/16. Costa has scored just one goal so far and has generally looked a little ragged. Fabregas has had an even worse start, looking lost in midfield alongside the equally ineffective Nemanja Matic.
Mourinho should have addressed his forward line with his summer dealings. Instead he chose something of a vanity project in trying to resurrect the fading career of Radamel Falcao. The Colombian had shown in the previous campaign that he was not made for the English top-flight, scoring just four times for Manchester United. Yet, still the 52-year-old was convinced he could bring the best out of him, it seemed a peculiar decision. Especially considering the fact that he does not fancy Loic Remy at all.
A more ruthless and fractious Mourinho would have gone out and signed a centre-forward to rival Costa, not one to make him feel undroppable.
The closing period of the transfer window saw the usually smooth and unflappable manager panic and instinctively sign Pedro, something that was definitely not in his plans this summer. A good addition he may be, but it is one that shows Jose knows he is in deep already.
The displays this season have surprised the ex-Porto boss. He was not expecting his players to drop off so much. And it is that shock that is a worry. If the Chelsea manager is to stay in west London he must keep his merciless streak, but if he wants to build a legacy like Sir Alex, he’s going to have find a way to ensure he never gets too cosy on Roman Abramovich's plush Stamford Bridge sofa.