This season was always going to be one of unpredictability. With the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson the seat at the head of the Premier League managers’ table was vacant for the first time in decades. The return of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea seemingly left this seat open for him to succeed and on the evidence this season this theory would seem correct.
It has been a different Mourinho we have seen so far; a more measured and relaxed approach to his job, which is to be expected due to his experience, but at the highest level remains unusual. In previous incarnations he has confronted almost every obstacle in his path to achieve success but there is something almost uneasy about his manner since returning. He appears jovial in front of the media and almost helpful in answering every question at length.
Perhaps after his experiences in Italy and Spain he has realised the antagonism he used so frequently in the past could be eased out. Or, is it the fact that he really is the stand out manager in the Premier League and has no need to get worked up. Currently Chelsea lie in third place, two points behind Arsenal, are through to the knock out stages in the Champions League and face, arguably their direct rivals for domestic domination, Manchester City in the FA Cup.
The season started rather unpredictably for Chelsea, too unpredictably for Mourinho, and they dropped points in games where they were not expected to and suffered a lot from inconsistent performances. The normally reliable defence was conceding goals from everywhere and despite their initial intentions of playing open, counter attacking football they had to resolve the defensive frailties.
Previously under Mourinho’s management the full-backs have played vital roles in attack as well as in defence but this was the first thing he changed. Both of his full-backs have rarely crossed the half way line, especially in big games, recently. The Portuguese tactician has reverted back to his strong organisational skills and made Chelsea very difficult to break down.
Allied to this the unpredictability of the strikers he has inherited and the importance of this change in approach becomes almost a necessity. The result of this has been more consistent performances and his players are now reaching the levels of performance he desires from his team.
During recent interviews he has seemed at so much ease with life at Chelsea and particularly in the Premier League. He has been positive about opponents ahead of games, laughing and joking with officials and has clearly been enjoying himself immensely.
What Mourinho has already identified is that he, out of all the coaches in direct competition with him, is the only winner. Everywhere he has managed he has experienced success and only at Madrid he departed without tears and emotional goodbyes. With Ferguson now gone there is nobody really worth sparring with.
His closest rivals are Manchester City this season and Manuel Pellegrini is something of an unknown quantity in terms of winning trophies. Despite an impressive career in management thus far he has won nothing of note in Europe. However, he does not seem like someone who would get into a verbal brawl with Mourinho so could be best to himself.
His response to Arsene Wenger’s criticism over the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United caused no reaction. The comments from Wenger have not shown the Arsenal manager in a good light and Mourinho’s shadow casts long over the Frenchman. He has never beaten a Mourinho side and the latter’s disdain for Wenger during his last spell at Chelsea will not have been forgotten.
Against Liverpool recently Brendan Rodgers was shown to still be very much the apprentice and Manchester United are focusing on the top four rather than the title. With Tim Sherwood still unproven Spurs are unlikely to contest a title run in too which leaves Mourinho as the heir apparent.
During his tussles with Ferguson it was always clear that Mourinho had the ability and the drive to succeed in management at the highest level. He was the biggest and best rival of the former United manager’s and spurred him onto build another side which eventually won the Champions League.
Mourinho will dine at the head of the table for a long time in England unless a rival can break the cycle and become a genuine challenger again. If Chelsea win the league this season it could be the start of another dynasty.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia