By Chris Worrall
How long can Chelsea get away with disaster?
After yet another Premier League defeat and an embarrassing display of petulant indiscipline, Jose Mourinho is without doubt in the worst and most difficult spell of his managerial career. As well as being the worst start to an English title defence in living memory, his Chelsea side lack all the positive qualities that let them coast to the league crown: solidity, individual flair and a united commitment to the cause. In its place, poor early form has become longer-term malaise, while sideshow mind-games have become an increasingly thin smokescreen around a manager and a team unused to such sustained criticism.
Their responses – the infamous ‘us against them’ mentality Mourinho can foster so successfully – have crossed into being truly ludicrous and, more than that, unacceptably insufficient in explaining away what are undeniably real issues. Mourinho’s other great failure – Madrid – came about because his style of siege mentality divided his squad and jarred with the reality of what was, and will always be, a huge, powerful club a million miles away from the underdog he likes to pretend to be. Here again, his vision of reality is seemingly apparent only to him. It was funny for a while to the outsider, but is increasingly building to a point where something significant while have to give way.
Bournemouth’s philosophy takes another pounding
As a newly-promoted side, losing consecutively to both Manchester City and Tottenham is, on the face of it, far from a disgrace. However, the fact those defeats were back-to-back 5-1 drubbings is cause for concern on the south coast. Praised for his attacking, possession mentality that worked so well in the Championship, Eddie Howe’s side look increasingly out of their depth when faced with the harsh reality of the top division. While their stance is philosophically laudable, a degree of pragmatism must come in to give them hope of survival. The openness of their defence and the ease at which their passing game was disrupted on the edge of their own penalty area could see them go straight back down with far too much ease. They face a choice: entertain and face further pain, or sacrifice some of that flair in the quest to stay in this most-lucrative of football leagues.
Coloccini latest victim of an unbalanced law
The longest impression left by Sunderland’s 3-0 victory in the Tyne-Wear derby – besides the radiating smugness of Sam Allerdyce’s post-match grins – was that Newcastle had a player sent off in the harshest of technically-correct circumstances. Whether it was a foul – or more of a foul than Cattermole’s legitimated block just seconds before – paled into insignificance after the referee pointed to the spot. As the last defender who technically denied the Sunderland forward a chance to score, the red card he received fitted perfectly into the current laws of the game. However, the reality of the situation – a shoulder-charge barely inches away from the Newcastle keeper collecting up the ball – highlights how grossly unfair the current set-up is on the defending side. The current double blow of penalty and automatic red-card seems unjust, and there may be many more aghast defenders who suffer for this before meaningful action is taken.
Mundane ol’ Manchester
After all the build-up, the Manchester Derby served up a drab goalless draw defined by stodgy midfield play and muscular defensive solidity. A point will serve both sides well, but not many of the supporters, and certainly none of the neutrals. Still, seeing Sky try to spin this into a classic was decent enough fun…