It has been a torrid weekend for all involved with Chelsea FC as they suffered yet another defeat in the Premier League to leave them languishing in the bottom half of the table. Goals from Zarate and Carroll secured a lucrative 2-1 win for an in-form West Ham, who now lie third in the table. As was to be expected, the focus was placed squarely on Chelsea and, in particular, their manager José Mourinho, with pundits and fans alike questioning if the ‘Special One’ should continue at the helm of the Blues.
Chelsea’s poor form has been nothing but unprecedented. Their recent run-ins in the league have been uncharacteristic of them or any side Mourinho has managed, for that matter. His second spell at Chelsea has been largely successful. After a lukewarm 2013/14 campaign he signed key players such as Kurt Zouma, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, building a formidable squad; powerful and disciplined. Their sheer dominance in the 2014/15 Premier League was typical of José’s style: defensive invulnerability and attacking prowess when it mattered. The phrase ‘boring, boring Chelsea’ only served to encourage them as they cruised to the title.
And yet, just under five months have passed since last season’s conclusion and Chelsea are barely recognisable, suffering loss upon loss which have placed them 15th in the Premier League table. Besides a pleasing win over rivals Arsenal, they have had precious little to shout about.
There are several contributing factors to their recent demise, excluding off-the-pitch fiascos. Losing their first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to injury has clearly affected Chelsea’s confidence at the back, with Asmir Begović filling in since the departure of Petr Cech to Arsenal. Furthermore, following an alleged fall-out with Mourinho, their talismanic captain John Terry has been in and out of the side, often succumbing to the bench. All of this has contributed to a tempestuous atmosphere at Stamford Bridge with both players and supporters unsettled.
Not so long ago, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich spoke of the club’s continued support for their under-fire manager. With five losses under their belt in the Premier League already, however, serious questions have been asked about whether his position as manager is still tenable. Liverpool’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday could be season-defining for Chelsea. It’s possible that, should they suffer defeat, Roman Abramovich could very well be parting company with Mourinho.
The problem for Abramovich at this time is that there is no clear contender for the job. Former Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp would have been an ideal choice; a top manager with several league titles to his name. When he left Dortmund in May, many top European sides were seriously considering making a move, with Galatasaray publicly linked with him. Now, however, it is a case of what could have been as Klopp penned a contact with Liverpool earlier in October.
Other out-of-work managers at the moment include Carlo Ancelotti, a veteran and proven winner whose previous spell at Chelsea brought large success, boasting a league and cup double. His spell ended abruptly after a disappointing 2010/11 season. Given the manner in which he was dismissed, it’s hard to see Ancelotti ever returning to the Bridge and one can safely assume any reappointment would be highly unlikely.
It is indeed possible that Abramovich may have to source a manager from another club, in which case he will likely have to wait until the end of the season. In this scenario, the most sensational appointment he could make would be Pep Guardiola, the current Bayern boss. He needs no introduction as one of the most famous and successful managers of the 21st century and, having not yet signed a contract extension, his services may very well be available in the near future. The influence of former Barça boys Fabregas and Pedro is particularly crucial and could sway his decision regarding future employment. Whether he would be happy to work under an oligarch like Abramovich remains to be seen, but nonetheless he is perhaps the most worthy contender for the Chelsea job of any manager in world football today.
Anything but a win will do against Liverpool, otherwise it could be farewell to the Mourinho sooner than we would have imagined.
Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald.