Now I didn’t read Philosophy during my three years at university, but had I done so, I think the kind of quotes that Jose Mourinho came out with on Monday would not have bemused me quite as much. Following his Chelsea team’s impressive 1-0 away win over the bookies’ title favourites Manchester City at The Etihad, the Blues boss was on top form in his post-match interview. “A victory is a victory, but a victory against a very good team is better than a victory against an ordinary team. More credit to my players,” he said after Branislav Ivanovic sealed the win with an edge-of-the-box strike.
Having then been asked whether he will concede that Chelsea are in with a shot at winning the title, things got strange. “Two horses and a little horse that still needs milk and to learn how to jump. A horse that next season can race… we are a team in evolution but this is the kind of performance that helps the team grow up a lot,” he exclaimed.
Three things strike a chord with me in this exchange. One, what kind of horse drinks milk? I’ve only ever known noble equine steeds to take on water. I digress. Number two, if Chelsea are joint second at the time of writing with a Manchester City team that has been dominating teams left, right and centre all season long, and just two points behind leaders Arsenal, is Jose hinting at a runaway title win next term?
If the kind of form the Blues have been showing this campaign is not racing, then I don’t know what is. By no means are Chelsea playing at the levels they did during their Premier League-winning seasons in Mourinho’s last reign, but the promise is there. Plus, that title-winning trait of turning teams over even when we don’t play well is so evident it hurts – think Crystal Palace and Norwich earlier in the season.
Now, the third and final quote-related point – “a team in evolution…” Are you for real, Jose? Being an avid Chelsea fan (had you guessed?), I watch pretty much every game and have done for years now and I can honestly say that, the majority of the time, this squad of players is the most accomplished Stamford Bridge has ever seen. Bear with me. Yes, the likes of Drogba, Lampard, Makelele and JT in their prime provided a much more stable core – a core that dragged the rest of the squad to three Premier League titles.
With all that said and done, in terms of a mix of flair, security and tactical ability, the current crop of squad members are hard to pick holes in. Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Azpilicueta and, based on his Yaya Toure-bossing display against Man City, Nemanja Matic appear to be leading the line. Add to this a much, much stronger squad depth with vast experience, and 2014 could still return trophies.
Jose may be trying to build a squad that fits the ilk he knew during his previous reign, but needs waking up to the fact that the creativity, pace and energy available today far exceeds anything he had before. An entirely different skillset – more similar to that which he charged at Real Madrid – are also capable of delivering a title.
On the subject of the title, I’ll round off here – Mourinho is taking playing your cards close to your chest to another level and may just surprise everyone. How? By taking the title in his first year back in West London and heaping pressure on himself for the rest of his reign. However, fear not, anyone who knows football also know that Jose thrives on pressure and knows this could be the start of something very Special (One).