Jose Mourinho’s mastery of the English language – as with so much else – is truly remarkable.
Chelsea’s Portuguese manager showed his flair for local slang once more at the weekend in his appraisal of opposition defender Jonas Olsson as a “mickey mouse footballer”; an assessment that apparently led to a 22-man brawl, with both sets of players involved in the tunnel ruckus following the Blues’ 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
When added to his quotes regarding the support offered at his club’s own ground, belittling the atmosphere in SW6 as “not very hot” and “not very strong”, while labelling the home fans as being of “a different profile”, Mourinho’s input makes for excitement of a level rarely seen on the pitch in recent months.
Save for the final seconds on Saturday, that is. When Ramires’ route to goal was blocked by a retreating Steven Reid deep inside the West Brom area in the 96th minute, even the belatedly raucous Blues faithful seemed to appeal more out of desperation than conviction.
But once referee Andre Marriner had pointed to the spot, Eden Hazard had got his timing spot on and removed his name from Mourinho’s bad books by unerringly slotting home the resultant penalty – and after all else was said and done – The Special One’s special record still stood.
It is now 66 unbeaten home league games and counting for Jose across two stints in West London and this may well have felt like the luckiest. Not since Everton were wrongly deprived of an injury time winner on the 2006-7 season’s final day had the extraordinary run come so close to being halted.
Chelsea’s weekend display was lethargic at best with efforts even downright complacent on occasion during this latterly dramatic duel. Legendary former defender Steve Clarke led his Baggies side South with a game plan that worked: defence was centred around gently squeezing a pedestrian and predictable Blues outfit inside and in front of the back four, while their attack was poised to spring forth with menace and pace on the counter as soon as one of their more revered opponents tired or grew impatient and became sloppy in possession.
With no Juan Mata again in the eleven, the hosts would have retired to the dressing room following an insipid first 45 minutes with little to show and a lot to prove, were it not for the unending impishness and improvisation of the team’s pickpocket–in-chief, Samuel Eto’o, as the Cameroonian capitalised on an astonishingly lacklustre piece of reactionary defending by Liam Ridgewell to give the Blues the lead just before the interval.
Had the scores been level, the reception reserved for the home players as they re-entered the field after the break may actually have been more encouraging, with the usual battle-cries coming more out of anticipation than apathy. As it was, Mourinho was right in his summation as the struggle continued even beyond the final whistle and the confines of the pitch as the sorry crowd contended with the conditions on the long walk back down the Fulham Road and considered the future, in the event that results stay the same or, indeed, worsen.
If 1-1 was bad, 1-2 was calamitous. Petr Cech was at fault for both goals and there was no escaping the fact that Chelsea had just not done enough to warrant more from the match, in much the same way that the side’s aimless, meandering performance at St. James’s Park last week had received proportionate punishment. It is not that either opposition were better; it is that they were no worse, when they really should have been, had Chelsea exerted greater presence.
Mourinho’s perceived slight at the fans, as his qualified remarks were widely portrayed, has clearly already been viewed as the attempted wind-up we all knew it was by those who matter, including Tim Rolls, Chelsea Supporters Trust Chairman, who backed the manager, insisting: “We, as a Trust, have had dialogue with the club and atmosphere came up. The atmosphere isn’t all it could be and that’s been represented to the club by both us and the Fans Forum.”
However, like Andre Villas-Boas, who criticised fans of his Tottenham Hotspur team – a team that has scored less goals than they have played matches up until now – for a lack of assistance in the hunt for points, Mourinho may like to look closer still to home for the reason why the home contingent lack hunger for the fight; particularly when hitherto contenders come back to their corner without having broken sweat then refuse to come out swinging.
While we will obviously never be as bad as Spurs and Jose will never be Rafa, would he rather the natives grew restless? Slippery slope, that.
Stuart Robinson @net_capital