Mourinho's Little Horse Cut Down To Size

After Chelsea's title hopes took a severe blow with defeat to Sunderland, Matt Stanger ponders where it went wrong for the Blues. Jose Mourinho has much to answer for...

Last Updated: 19/04/14 at 21:09 Post Comment

Latest Articles

An Arsenal Side Living On Its Nerves

2 comments

After last-minute goals in their first two league games, Arsenal shredded fans' nerves by hanging on for dear life in the Champions league qualifiers. They don't do things easy...

Where Does Di Maria Fit In At United?

15 comments

There's plenty of excitement surrounding Angel Di Maria's attacking threat, but Adam Bate says he's more than just an assists machine. United are getting the full package...

All Articles

Beware Black Cats crossing your path. That would have been sage advice to the trio of Premier League title contenders in the last week of March as Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all prepared to face Sunderland at home in the run-in. Only the Reds survived the test, and even then it was a nervy ending in a tight 2-1 victory. City and Chelsea have only themselves to blame. Champions are meant to get better at this stage of the season, not drop points at home to the team rooted to the bottom of the league.

This wasn't the first time Chelsea have struggled in recent weeks. Defeats to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace suggested Jose Mourinho may have a point about his team not being 'ready' to mount a convincing title challenge, but perhaps a persistent negative outlook has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Against Sunderland, the Blues certainly lacked conviction. This wasn't another example of Chelsea failing to find openings against an opponent defending deep - they created enough chances but lacked a finishing touch.

It was further evidence to support Mourinho's well-publicised concerns about his strikers. Fifteen of Chelsea's 31 efforts hit the target on Saturday, but Samuel Eto'o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres all wasted good opportunities to score. This has been a recurring theme throughout the campaign and one Mourinho has failed to adequately address, eventually resulting in the end of his 77-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge. However, instead of focusing on the issue in his post-match interview, the Portuguese preferred to sarcastically praise the officials for awarding Sunderland their decisive penalty.

"I just want to say four things," said a flustered Mourinho as he spoke to Geoff Shreeves on Sky. "Congratulations to my players, because they gave what they have and what they don't have. Congratulations to Sunderland because they won. Congratulations to Mike Dean, because he made a fantastic performance. And congratulations to Mike Riley (head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board) because what they did during the season was fantastic for the way the championship is going. So congratulations to all of them and I have nothing more to say."

In truth, it was a weak reaction to what looks like the end of Chelsea's title challenge. In most matches, there would have been few complaints about Dean's decision to penalise Cesar Azpilicueta for catching Jozy Altidore's ankle, but on this occasion Mourinho was looking to save face by fudging his analysis. If you can't beat Sunderland at home, it's difficult to argue that you deserve to be in the title race, and Chelsea's failure in this regard runs much deeper than the incident which led to Fabio Borini's winning goal.

After adopting the role of the 'little horse' for most of the campaign, this was Chelsea and Mourinho's big chance to win the race. City had blown it with their 2-2 draw on Wednesday night, reinforcing nagging doubts over Manuel Pellegrini's ability to win when it really matters. It was in Chelsea's hands. Beat Sunderland, beat Liverpool, win the last two against Norwich and Cardiff, and the title would be theirs. A victory that would provide vindication for Mourinho following a trophyless final season at Real Madrid.

But even after City passed the advantage back to the Blues and Liverpool, Chelsea were missing the necessary composure to see the job through. Perhaps their thoughts were on the trip to Anfield and a Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, or perhaps Mourinho has failed to exude the calmness that Luis Suarez claims has been so important in Brendan Rodgers' remarkable campaign at Liverpool. There is certainly a grain of truth in this, and it seemed the Portuguese's comments about his strikers backfired on Saturday, as Ba and Torres both lacked the required composure to prove the difference after coming on. They were too eager to impress; to warrant recognition in one of four games that will decide the title. Instead, it descended into panic.

The result sees the momentum grow in Liverpool's favour. In terms of what the Reds now have to do, little has changed; they must still ensure they don't lose to Chelsea on April 27 to avoid allowing City the chance to snatch the championship on goal difference. And they must win the rest of their remaining games, of course. However, they will know they are the toughest team still standing - the one whose manager is saying all the right things, and whose players are running on incredible belief. These are factors that Mourinho should have mastered in his first season back at the Bridge, but he was too preoccupied with his 'little horse' - a metaphor that has been cut down to size by Liverpool's success.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

E

ven if United were to sign CR7 & Messi to play upfront, the fact remains Fletcher and Cleverly are playing in midfield. That's where the problem is. Fletcher is too slow with an awful pass, while Cleverly is simply rubbish

mrunited4life
Di Maria - A Signing of Necessity, or Opportunity?

T

hese days, these days, you can't say something racist without somebody saying that you're a racist.

tk421
'Wrong' Views Not Silenced By Shouting...

D

rop Rooney (he's so disappointing, overrated and overpaid), and play Di Maria and RVP upfront, much like the set up at the Netherlands team with Roben and RVP...

eric bush3
Di Maria - A Signing of Necessity, or Opportunity?

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Champions League: Emergency keeper sends Ludogorets through to group stage

Emergency keeper Cosmin Moti saved two penalties as Bulgarians Ludogorets Razgrad made the Champions League group stage.

Arsene Wenger confirms injured Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud will be out until New Year

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is unlikely to play again this year after having surgery on his injured ankle.

Villa and QPR shocked, Leeds lose

Aston Villa were shocked 1-0 at home by Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup second round, while QPR lost at Burton and Bradford beat Leeds.

Mail Box

Should Kagawa Play Ahead Of Mata?

That's one question posed in the afternoon mailbox, although it looks like the Japanese playmaker could soon be on his way. Plus, tipping Palace to go down under Warnock...

Well, This Isn't Going That Well Is It?

Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property