Jose Mourinho returned home when he took over again at Chelsea.
Six months on and the return of the ‘Special One’ has been a bit underwhelming.
A lot has changed since he departed six years ago. The squad isn’t quite as good, there is a new challenger in the shape of Manchester City and the cash is no longer limitless at Chelsea with Roman Abramovich more reserved with his Russian roubles.
Jose has also changed. He isn’t as animated or as happy. To be honest Mourinho seems downright depressed at times.
The 50 year old seems unable to get himself or his team motivated. He no longer has a rival like Rafa Benitez to clash with on the touchline. He might of had that with Andre Villas Boas but his ex-apprentice managed to get himself sacked at Spurs before things got going. He has tried a few times to stir things with Man City but Manuel Pellegrini has chosen to ignore him.
He can’t even muster an assault on the media as they have welcomed him back with fawning praise and open arms.
Unlike in his first stint, the Chelsea manager seems unable to find a settled first eleven.
The players don’t seem to fall into the party line as quickly as they once did. Juan Mata, Ashley Cole, Kevin de Bruyne, Andre Schurrle, Michael Essien and David Luiz have all been on the outside looking in. That is a lot of first team players being unsettled (even if its just slightly).
Listen it certainly isn’t disaster time at the Bridge. They are into the last sixteen of the Champions League and sit third in the league table, with only two points separating them from Arsenal’s top spot.
But with all the inconsistency around in the EPL at the moment a younger, more ruthless Jose would have dominated his rivals and Chelsea would be clear at the summit.
As I have already stated, a major issue for Jose Mourinho this time around is his squad.
Although they have only conceded 19 times this term (2nd best to Arsenal and the same as Everton), most of the goals conceded are down to defensive errors.
Petr Cech has been terrific for Chelsea but many in the ‘Blues’ support have kept an eagle eye on Atletico Madrid this season as they have Chelsea’s goalkeeping heir apparent. After eighteen La Liga games, Thibaut Courtois has only conceded 11 goals. Only Bayern Munich, Roma and Lille can boast better in Europe’s top leagues.
Cech isn’t the same keeper he was during Jose’s first spell in charge. Next season should see a changing of the guard. But will Mourinho be ruthless with Cech?
At the back, John Terry has once again become commander and chief. Love or loathe the man, you can’t argue with his footballing qualities.
The captain needs a full time partner though.
David Luiz or Gary Cahill?
Well for me I would stick Branislav Ivanovic back in the heart of defence. He has a bit of pace and is more no-nonsense than Luiz. I know managers like what Ivanovic gives them at right back but I believe he can have a better understanding with Terry.
Talking of Luiz, I like him but surely we can all see he is more suited in this Chelsea team as a holding midfielder, unless they play three at the back. As a sitting midfielder the Brazilian will add force and style in the middle of the park. Too many times as a centre back Luiz has been sloppy and switched off. In the middle of the park he will get more freedom and can afford to make that odd mistake. His passing and tackling attributes make him a top choice for midfield. A major problem is that Rafa Benitez spotted this first, hence why Mourinho is reluctant to play him there.
For me Gary Cahill is a terrific back-up player but in the bigger games I think he should be starting on the bench.
Cesar Azpilicueta has done very well as both right and left back this term. If Jose were to move Ivanovic inside, then one would think the side would be better off balanced with the Spanish full back playing on his favoured side.
I’m not sure why Ashley Cole has been dropped as of late. Maybe Jose is sending a message to his squad, that no one is indispensable or maybe its a message to Cole himself to buck up his ideas. But for me there is still very few out there in world football better in the left-back role. He still gets forward and is hard to beat.
Given that Azilicueta has been filling in at left back, it would seem Ryan Bertrand is surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge. The 24 year old would be better off leaving in search of first team football.
Whatever four Jose goes for he needs to hurry and make his mind up. The sooner the defence is settled the better off things will be.
Beside Luiz in midfield I would stick in Ramires. His Brazilian compatriot has great legs that see him go from box to box. Often underrated in this role with people gushing about Yaya Toure. He manages to support both defence and attack in equal measures. Reminds me of Essien back in the day. Also more than capable of scoring important goals.
Unfortunately for Michael Essien due to injuries and age, he seems to have lost his energy and place in the team. He is another who needs to find himself a new club.
Often maligned John Obi Mikel has to work hard over the next six months to prove to the fans and the manager he deserves to remain at the club.
Frank Lampard at 35 needs to know his time is almost up. He is still a great pro and a example to follow. A capable asset for the club as long as he understands he can no longer command a regular first team spot.
In the preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, the three attacking midfielders have caused a few problems for Jose.
After an awkward start, Eden Hazard seems to understand what the manager wants from him. The Belgian playmaker has learned to work back more often, he is more direct and has started to dictate games now. No one in a Chelsea strip has more goals or assists.
Oscar seems to be a favourite for Mourinho. He works harder than Juan Mata off the ball. That discipline is one Jose holds dear. Its all very well being good on the ball but if you are a liability off it then the Portuguese boss will not play you.
For Mata it must be frustrating as he was Chelsea’s star man in the past two seasons. But due to a lack of pace and not having the ability to adapt quickly enough to Jose’s wants, you have to think he will leave the Bridge. Maybe not this transfer window but probably before the summer window shuts.
I believe the final attacking role in midfield is a straight fight between Andre Schurrle and Willian. Who wins the fight will be down to what they can offer Jose. Both still need to settle into the English game. If I had to bet on it I’d plump for the Brazilian.
I am pretty sure Kevin de Bruyne can already pack his bags as he will be off to a team in the Bundesliga before January ends.
Chelsea seem inept at giving good strikers a good home, save Didier Drogba.
Andriy Shevchenko, Mateja Kezman and Hernan Crespo all struggled to make a great impact.
The same can be said of the current trio.
How many times will we say ‘Fernando Torres is back!’ before we understand he can’t do it consistently enough. The Spaniard just doesn’t get enough goals. In three and a half seasons at the club he has only netted 18 times in 97 league outings. In a similar time-frame at liverpool he bagged 65 goals in 102 league appearances.
To stand any chance of being the threat he once was, Mourinho needs to say to Torres ‘look you are my number one striker and will play more often than not, so show me what you can do.’ Then start him in the next 7-10 games.
Samuel Eto’o at 32 isn’t the same player he was at Inter Milan. He’s still not fully up to speed yet and is also suffering from fitness issues. That said the African star still has the brain for sniffing out chances and can be a great impact sub.
I am not sure Demba Ba has a future at Chelsea. He hasn’t been given the same amount of chances as the other two strikers. In my opinion its not down to quality as much as he is seen as a Rafa signing. Mourinho seems very determined not to see Rafa type players succeed at Chelsea.
Chelsea could be running away with the title had they splashed the cash and had signed a top class striker like Robert Lewandowski, Edison Cavani, Radamel Falcao or Luis Suarez in the summer.
Actually Chelsea’s best striker isn’t currently playing for them this term. Romelu Lukaku has scored more goals for Everton in the league than all of Chelsea’s current strikers put together. The decision to loan out the Belgian hitman remains a baffling one. He is almost a carbon copy of Didier Drogba, a striker Mourinho loved. But for whatever reason Jose decided to loan him out and questions have now been asked on his judgement. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The second coming hasn’t been special yet for Mourinho. It has been pretty downbeat. But it can all end on a happy note if Jose can find his mojo and sort out his preferred starting eleven.
Time will tell if he really is the ‘Special One’.