I couldn’t really let today go by without mentioning Jose Mourinho’s dramatic departure from Stamford Bridge, and what it might mean to the club and the Premiership moving forward.
There is a certain sense of irony that at the beginning of the season, the press were having a field day claiming that Arsene Wenger would leave Arsenal, and his assembled team would break down, leaving the club in oblivion. Of course it was all absolutely ridiculous, but that won’t stop them using the same sensationalist tactics down the road in West London.
There is no doubting that Mourinho leaving will shake Chelsea to the core, and will unsettle a number of players. However, I don’t think for one moment there will be the mass walkout that some papers are already predicting, with Lampard, Drogba and Carvalho all being tipped to swiftly follow the manager out. Much like when Wenger leaves, there will be some changes as a new manager puts his stamp on the club, and over the first year a couple of players may decide to draw their Chelsea careers to a close and move on. And they will be replaced.
Of course, that scenario isn’t interesting enough for the media, who just want to print ‘Crisis!’ and ‘Turmoil!’ whenever they can.
But that isn’t to say that this is not bad news for Chelsea. It is. Mourinho may have been one of the most dislikable managers ever to walk these shores, but as a tactician and man manager he was up there with the very best. Some may say that he bought the title, but as many Real Madrid managers will testify, collecting players and then moulding them into a cohesive team is an extremely difficult job. Every player at the club now believes he is a superstar, and superstars don’t often like change.
Mourinho made Chelsea incredibly difficult to beat, and he infused a siege mentality in the team which led to so many fightbacks – they just didn’t know how to lose. Witness the comeback against us at the Emirates at the end of the last season – a goal and a man down in the second half, they battered us.
Many are already writing his apparent successor, Avram Grant, off. Clearly the media don’t learn that just because they know little about a man, doesn’t mean they have no talent. Our own manager was proof of that, and Grant comes with a decent reputation from his time in Israel especially.
But this is a wholly different animal. He is friends with Abramovich, so he is likely to bend to his wishes more often that Jose did. Shevchenko can expect more playing time. But at the same time, there may be some resentment around the club, and the fans are ready to lash out if things don’t go to plan. For me, the job is now a poisoned chalice – it is a practically impossible task to achieve the same level of results as Mourinho while appeasing Abramovich with attractive football. The players have to learn a whole new style – can they do it? Do they even want to?
The timing is also extremely odd. With a crunch game at Old Trafford on Sunday, they will go one of two ways. Either they will act unsettled and get rolled over, or Mourinho’s siege mentality will live on and they’ll shock United. I suspect the latter, especially after their awful performance on Tuesday – they have a point to prove.
It has been a bright 24 hours for Arsenal. It has been a disheartening 24 hours to be a Chelsea fan. This season gets more interesting by the day.