LONDON, August 11- Jose Mourinho just couldn’t help himself — and this was before the comments about his physios taking an injured Eden Hazard off the pitch at the end of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea City, or the insistence on appealing Thibaut Courtois’s understandable red card in the same game.
The day before, Mourinho gave notice of his mood.
The 52-year-old had been asked about Roberto Martinez’s comments regarding John Terry, when the Everton manager effectively accused the Chelsea captain of tapping up John Stones by discussing his potential signing so publicly.
So, the Portuguese was going to stay public with his response. That was part of a theme. Even though Mourinho was literally discussing how he didn’t want to speak, he typically said more than most would have.
“My feeling is just one and I’m not speaking about Everton or Stones,” the Chelsea boss said. “I’m just speaking in general. If I could, I would speak with you [the media] once in a month. There are other people in football who, if they could, they would have a press conference every day.”
There are a few things to note about this exchange. The first is the way the Chelsea manager couldn’t stop at defending his player, let alone just leaving the question aside. He had to go on the offensive, mocking Martinez’s renowned enthusiasm for making his own voice heard.
The second thing is that this wasn’t the first or second time something like this has happened in the last few weeks.
The 2015-16 Premier League season may be just three days old, but it already feels like we’ve had an entire campaign worth of Mourinho-centred controversies. Sure the Portuguese wasn’t the root of all of them, but the diversity of a lengthy rap sheet is conspicuous.
So far there has already been: public spats with three Premier League managers, as well as his old foe Rafa Benitez; a rebuke for Benitez’s wife; a classically Premier League handshake controversy with Arsene Wenger and now the latest drama with his physios and Hazard.
At least Mourinho refused to explicitly criticise the referee after Courtois’ red card. That was one break from the last few seasons, although his evasions were still underscored with surliness. That has been the mood of the last few weeks.
– Last Spell-
More than a few around Stamford Bridge have likened the last few weeks to the last year of Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, in 2007, when he was in a permanent state of agitation and almost always on the attack.
One problem was a dispute with owner Roman Abramovich over transfers, which eventually saw the Portuguese leave in September of the 2007-08 campaign.
As such, given the way things are currently and the lack of signings — bar a loan of Radamel Falcao and the signing of Asmir Begovic in goal — one rather common prediction is that this second spell will end the same way.
The reality is that it’s not anywhere near that bad right now. Things with Mourinho are just bubbling away rather than bubbling over — and of course he put pen to paper on a new four-year deal last week — although that doesn’t mean there aren’t some similar gripes.
Sources have told ESPN FC that the Chelsea manager really wanted to add an extra option in attack this summer, specifically Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, or someone with that kind of pace.
There was also interest in an all-action midfielder and Chelsea were considering a move for Arda Turan before he went to Barcelona.
As it was, the club didn’t go for either of those players, or anything like them. They’ve only replaced replacements in the market, with Begovic coming in for second-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech and an ailing Falcao taking Didier Drogba’s place on the bench.
Mourinho has attempted to wave this away as “loyalty” to the players who won the title, but his demeanour when discussing signings hasn’t always been in sync with his words. It has also meant the team hasn’t entirely been in sync throughout preseason, or in their Premier League opener against Swansea.
In Saturday’s 2-2 draw, there was the relative predictability of their attack in the second half. Mourinho’s approach to attacking means Chelsea are still mainly dependent on the creativity of Eden Hazard.
It is in these kinds of matches, when they aren’t leading, that the liveliness of someone like Griezmann would work wonders.
There’s also the possibility that opposition sides have worked out how to isolate Cesc Fabregas, removing so much of the flow from Chelsea’s game.
That could have been solved by another option in midfield, and that could also have given them another option in their game.
The defensive issues plaguing Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea were on display versus Swansea.Has Jose Mourinho been backed in the transfer window as much as he would have liked?
Something else that became apparent in the Swansea match was that Mourinho hasn’t yet managed to strike a balance between a new expansiveness and his old defensive order. For all that Chelsea toiled in attack, they still started the game as lively as had been seen since their genuinely exhilarating play of January.
The cost of that, however, was a conspicuously loose defence. Chelsea coughed up a remarkable number of chances, especially for what was statistically the best back line in the Premier League last year.
It is as if Mourinho can only go one way or another: open or shut. A properly powerful midfielder, though — in an ideal world, Paul Pogba — might have facilitated that transition.
Instead, Chelsea don’t quite look at their best and Mourinho doesn’t look that happy.
This is not to say the transfer market is the sole reason for his unhappiness, or that his side won’t end up winning the league again.
As stated, the suggestions are that things are far from at crisis point, and there’s still the Mourinho resilience under-pinning this team. It’s just hard to escape the feeling something is not totally right with the team at the moment. He isn’t helping himself.
– Miguel Delaney is a London-based correspondent for ESPN FC and also writes for the Irish Examiner and others. @MiguelDelaney.