OPINION By Editor Wayne Veysey
The end is surely nigh for Jose Mourinho’s second Chelsea spell.
Appropriately enough on the day of Halloween, the side who surrendered to Jurgen Klopp’s mightily impressive Liverpool were a ghost of the team who sprinted to last season’s Premier League title with certainty and swagger.
Virtually the same players can now only be identified by the names on their backs. In all other ways, their performances are a shadow of the team Mourinho had guided to the club’s first title in five years.
Eleven league matches have yielded a barely credible six defeats. Twenty-two goals have been conceded, the equal-worst record in the top flight.
This is the most dramatic fall in Premier League history. Even David Moyes steered Manchester United to seventh the season after Sir Alex Ferguson had bookended his reign with yet another title.
Mourinho will be long gone before he could lead Chelsea, currently 15th, to a finish behind six other teams. Roman Abramovich will see to that.
The problem is he appears to have lost the dressing room and is searching vainly for a solution.
The Portugese has tried every trick in the management book to bring the players back onside and arrest the slide that began when Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw by Swansea on the opening day of the season.
He has criticised the players in the dressing room and in team meetings, and dug them out in public and wondered why they do not seem interested in running through brick walls for him anymore.
In recent days, he has reverse-stepped and supported his players, attempting to convince them they were unlucky to lose at West Ham and be knocked out of the League Cup by Stoke. He insisted after the Liverpool debacle that the the players had tried their best.
No-one is listening anymore. The Chelsea players have stopped believing in the most successful manager in the club’s history, and it is no coincidence that the manager’s relationship with John Terry has not been fixed since the skipper was hauled off at half-time in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in August.
Terry’s role as dressing-room unifier-in-chief cannot be underestimated.
“Mourinho has lost Terry’s ear,” one well-placed source told Football Insider. “This is one of the reasons why results have been so bad. JT is so influential in that dressing room in bonding the players and getting them to buy into what the manager is asking.
“Without JT’s influence, the manager is struggling to get his message across. It is clear some of the players are not listening.”
Some say only the Portugese speakers and youngsters are truly in tune with Mourinho, with Ramires, Willian and Kurt Zouma perhaps the only three players who have performed to the level expected this season. Diego Costa has continued to put himself about, not necessarily in an advantageous way to his team, but the rest are miles off the sky-high standards they set last season.
Eden Hazard. Cesc Fabregas. Nemanja Matic. Branislav Ivanovic. Terry. Gary Cahill. Oscar. Cesar Azpilicueta. It is a frighteningly long lost of players miles below par.
Bar Terry and, to a lesser extent, Ivanovic, both of whom are noticeably less mobile than they were last season – BT pundit Trevor Francis today delivered the scathing observation that, ‘Terry’s legs have gone, he looks like an old man out there’ – the only possible explanation for this mass reduction in performance level is a lack of motivation and desire.
The rest are all young, or young enough, to either have their best years ahead of them or be at their peak.
Worryingly for Mourinho, he is not getting his message across. Abramovich will surely be taking note.