If you watch “Premier League Match of the Day” on NBCSN, then you would have seen Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho’s seven-minute long diatribe about the horrible state of his team, the fear of the Premier League’s referees in awarding his confidence-sapped men penalties and other calls he feels they otherwise deserve, and his desperate-sounding PR pitch about why he is still the best man for this job.
In case you missed it, you can see the full speech here.
You can bet Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger saw it; in fact, Chelsea’s 3-1 loss against Southampton on Saturday probably gave Wenger’s team the impetus it needed for the 3-0 dismantling of Manchester United the following day.
You can also bet that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich saw it. Whereas normally the Russian would have wielded the axe, he responded instead with a statement of support for the Portuguese tactician.
Of course, nothing in the world of sports -- or indeed, the world of employment -- rings more hollow than a statement of support for soccer team manager in the midst of a bad run. Make no mistake about it: that statement is an ultimatum: figure this out, Jose, or you’re gone.
As NBCSN commentator Robbie Mustoe pointed out in his MOTD analysis, Chelsea is now officially in crisis mode: “[Mourinho has] just turned a very bad situation into a crisis…things must be a lot worse behind the scenes for him to start talking about losing his job.” Robbie Earle, Mustoe’s fellow commentator on MOTD, followed that up by pointing out that as a manager, if you lose the locker room, you’re living on borrowed time.
Make no mistake about it, Mourinho is now walking the plank -- in fact, Off The Post would be shocked if Abramovich wasn’t trying to sound out replacements for the Portuguese right now. Another two, maybe three losses in all competitions, and Mourinho will be gone, and OTP, an admitted Chelsea fan, will be glad to see the back of him.
Why? Because it’s precisely as Robbie Earle said: he has lost the locker room, a situation that is almost impossible to recover from, rendering his situation untenable.
Here’s how he did it:
We are just eight games into the current season, and yet Mourinho has already gone out of his way to snub former first-team doctor Eva Carneiro, captain John Terry, the Premier League’s referees, and most recently, center-midfielder Nemanja Matic, whom he introduced as a substitute against Southampton only to withdraw him later -- which Earle pointed out is the ultimate insult to a professional player. While it remains to be seen what really happened with the Carneiro incident (OTP, you’ll recall, still believes something is amiss that we don’t know about), isolating his compatriot seems to have set the tone for a contentious season that has seen the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid coach drop captain Terry and midfield general Matic -- two of Chelsea’s most important players last season. With Diego Costa alternately suspended and/or out of form the trio that accounts for the bulk of Chelsea’s spine has gone missing all season long.
The fact that Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas have turned into massive defensive liabilities has compounded the misery for Chelsea, while Eden Hazard looking less than a pale shadow of last season’s sparkling form is, by a distance, the least worrying of Mourinho’s problems.
Why, because Mourinho’s teams always do it with defense, and his defense, as everyone knows, is a shambles. If anything, Terry and Matic are the guys he needs more than ever right now, while Ivanovic -- whom he bizarrely made captain in Terry’s absence -- and Fabregas have been comfortably two of the Premier League’s worst performers in their respective positions so far this season. You have to wonder if the team is aware of this, and the locker room has fractured as a result.
You don’t even have to watch more than one Chelsea game to be aware of the fact that Ivanovic and Fabregas look two steps too slow to everything, and yet somehow, Mourinho persists with them and toys with dropping everyone else.
In any event, unless he makes drastic changes and the club reels off five or six Premier League wins in a row, Chelsea fans can rest assured that Mourinho will soon be gone.
It will be fascinating to one day know the full story behind the club’s title defense collapse, but for now, it’s time to say thank you and goodbye to one of the game’s all-time great managers.
Indeed, Jose: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.