Jose Not Being Jose Among Chelsea's Problems

Despite being handed an undeserved point against West Brom, Nick Miller thinks there are enough problems at Chelsea to bet against them in the title race...

Last Updated: 11/11/13 at 09:03 Post Comment

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Results are all-important, of course. Results are the bottom line, we are told by people who spend more time studying finances than they do watching football. Results maketh the manager.

However, you can pretty much ignore the result in the robbery at Stamford Bridge, because Chelsea didn't deserve the point they gained against West Brom. It was a clever piece of deception by Ramires to win the penalty that secured a draw, and if one is to accept the notion of 'winning at all costs', then you can hardly blame him. Of course, if you do believe that diving is one of the dark arts, spirited into this country by suspicious foreign types and Franny Lee, then of course blame him plenty. Andre Marriner, the man so easily conned, should most certainly be blamed, and it was difficult to see how he thought Ramires running into Steven Reid then throwing himself to the ground was not cheating.

Ah, cheating. By calling out his own player for flopping to the ground, David Moyes has set something of a precedent in his treatment of Ashley Young. Presumably, given what he said a few weeks ago, Jose Mourinho would be similarly scathing.

"I hate diving. My players know they will be in big trouble with me if they dive. It's very bad," Jose mused on October 6.

And after this one? "It was a penalty....on the screen, no doubts."

Mourinho employed a classic piece of passive/aggression last week when he said he made '11 mistakes' after their defeat to Newcastle. In seemingly taking the blame for the loss, he was of course pointing the finger at anyone but him. As the clock ticked down and towards the win that West Brom had earned, thoughts turned to who he would try to pin this one on.

It's been interesting watching Mourinho this season. As I wrote here, the old Jose has gone - he is no longer the charismatic doyen, the cult leader whose players would follow him into fire. He's just a manager now - still a very good one, but just a manager rather than a ball of undiluted charisma. Some have commented that the old Jose would never throw his players under the bus like he did last weekend, and while that's not quite accurate (one post-match evisceration of Joe Cole, after a game in which he had scored the winner, springs to mind), he has certainly not created the same 'us against the world' atmosphere in his squad this time.

Perhaps his refusal to chastise Ramires is an attempt at reviving this spirit. Perhaps he's going to give him a smack with the slipper in the sanctity of the dressing room. Perhaps he genuinely thought it was a penalty. Perhaps he's just being deliberately obtuse.

However, it's inescapable that Chelsea were seconds and a cross-eyed referee away from losing their second Premier League game in a row. Of course, they're still fourth in the table, but are four points behind Arsenal and could be seven if Arsene Wenger's men continue their improbable start to the season at Old Trafford on Sunday. Is this down to Mourinho or to some other problems?

There is still a sense that this is an unbalanced Chelsea squad. In trying to combat the problem of selecting three players (Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard) that prefer playing in the centre or from the left, Mourinho tucked his attacking trio inside and tried to use Branislav Ivanovic for width. In the first half in particular, Chelsea's primary attacking strategy seemed to be for Oscar or Frank Lampard to spray a long pass out to Ivanovic on the right flank. However, while he tries hard enough, Ivanovic is not the world's most natural attacker, and more often than not attacks fizzled out. Chelesa could either do with a proper right-sided player, or a right-back with a little more about him going forward than Ivanovic. Or, at least not play the right-back they have at left-back.

They also have plenty - too many, arguably - players that prefer a neat flick to a sensible pass, who it seems would rather set up a goal than score one, something Hazard and Juan Mata were especially guilty of against West Brom. They are of course hampered by a lack of a decisive centre-forward, something that the statistic of only Spurs having tried more shots than them in the Premier League while scoring fewer goals than their other title rivals illustrates. Samuel Eto'o is finding his stride but retains that air he had at Anzhi, where he seemingly expects the team to revolve around him, Demba Ba probably isn't good enough for Chelsea and missed a golden chance on Saturday, while enough words have been written about Fernando Torres' struggles (or otherwise, depending on what week it is) to fill John Doe's notebooks in Se7en.

Chelsea may be 'there or thereabouts' at the moment, but there are enough problems in their squad, and indeed on their bench, to avoid confidently backing them to win the title.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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