Guus Hiddink on Friday confirmed that he’s in talks with Chelsea about possibly replacing departed former manager Jose Mourinho, but the Dutchman says he wants “insight” into just how the situation at Stamford Bridge got to be so bad.
Wouldn’t we all?
With more than a third of the Premier League season now gone, the defending Premier League champ sits just a single point above the relegation zone with fewer points (15) than games played (16).
Thanks to Chelsea technical director Michael Emanalo (via the BBC), we know that the “palpable discord between manager and players” had a lot to do with Mourinho’s firing. Of course, you probably could have gleaned that information from the ousted man himself, who following Monday’s 2-1 defeat to league-leader Leicester City, said his work had been “betrayed” by his players.
Of course, that wasn’t the first time Mourinho threw all or some of his players under the bus this season, as just a few months earlier, he said, “I've got a couple of bad apples that are causing me a lots of problems and it is a very difficult situation to handle for me.” The Portuguese had also singled out the likes of John Terry, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for poor individual performances at one point or another during the painful last few months of his second spell as Blues boss.
His public throwing of so many under the bus struck many critics as very un-Mourinho-like indeed, because the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach usually went to great pains to protect his players during press conferences -- especially when they played poorly.
So, how did the tables turn so drastically? Well, until someone from the inside actually talks, we can all do our best to speculate. At the moment, the popular POV amongst former players-turned-pundit is to place the blame squarely on the squad’s shoulders for, indeed, betraying him.
"I'm disappointed for Mourinho,” says former Arsenal defender Martin Keown. “Maybe he got too close and the players were told some home truths they couldn't accept. It's almost imploded in front of our eyes,” he added. “It was astonishing the way his players capitulated against Leicester. I saw players that weren't really giving everything.”
Former Gunners legend Thierry Henry, who is currently training to become a coach himself, said, “The players should be held accountable. What happened in some of the games is not all down to Mourinho. There was a lack of desire and commitment.” The former France legend added: “You can't sack the players, so go for the manager…I am now thinking if I am going into the right profession."
However, as former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton noted, perhaps Mourinho was to blame for not handling his worsening situation properly -- as any player knows, it’s not easy for a coach to contain the big egos inside a club’s locker room. "I know what it is like when big players are upset -- they don't just turn round and say: 'Oh, all right.’ After what Mourinho said about betrayal he knew he had to go. He is not daft. He knew there would be consequences after the words he used."
In other words, Sutton thinks, and Off The Post agrees, that Mourinho threw in the towel, too, following Monday’s defeat at Leicester. But OTP, for one, is not worried about "The Special One." He will find a new job, and he will also excel there -- reports are already linking him with Manchester United -- but where this parting of ways leaves Chelsea Football Club is as yet unclear.
We know that enough of the squad was ready for a new manager, which is why Mourinho had to go. The question now is whether some of these players are also ready for new teammates.
As Hiddink notes, this is a rescue job of epic proportions. Chelsea is obviously in dire straits, and the Dutchman rightly needs to know whether or not these players can band together, forget their egos, and get a job done. That is a massive uphill task, and not one that any top-level coach would take for granted. He needs to know how bad the players want to rectify the situation, too.