Chelsea Football Club have officially parted ways with manager Jose Mourinho, with the club’s board finally appearing to have lost patience with their terrible title defence. With just four wins from 16 games, the Blues sit in 16th position, a single point above the relegation zone. Guus Hiddink, who worked as the caretaker manager at the club in 2009 after the sacking of Luis Felipe Scolari, is widely expected to take charge until the end of the season.
The sacking comes as no surprise to those who have watched Chelsea toil for the majority of the season, and despite guiding the team through to the Champions League knockout stages last week, the loss away to Leicester at the weekend and his comments after the game largely sealed the manager’s fate. In a strange series of post-match interviews Mourinho suggested that his work had been “betrayed”, in a move which is as far from his usual deflective tactics as possible. From the outside it appeared as though Mourinho had either finally lost patience with his players, or perhaps they had stopped playing for him entirely.
Although he received public backing from the board back in October, Chelsea’s bad results continued, and back-to-back defeats to Bournemouth and Leicester City in December undermined any sense that there would be a strong finish in the second half of the season. With Mourinho admitting that a position in the top four was now out of reach, there appeared to be little to gain from keeping him on.
The debate will now start as to whether Mourinho deserved to go, and to what extent he is to blame for the dreadful start Chelsea have endured this season. Did he deserve to go? In a word, yes. Perhaps more surprising is that he lasted so long, under a management structure and owner at Chelsea who have been so impatient in the past with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti. Results and performances simply haven’t been good enough, and that will always be the manager’s ultimate responsibility.
Having said that, there’s no doubt that several individuals in the Chelsea squad have been well below par since August. Reigning PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard has yet to score in the league this season. The normally ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic has made a number of high-profile, costly errors. Nemanja Matic has looked a shadow of the imperious midfield enforcer who dominated last season’s Premier League. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea’s most creative player last season, has been completely ineffectual.
Whether these key players have been unsettled by Mourinho’s relentless siege mentality or off-the-field controversies will probably come out in time, but they certainly haven’t reached the levels they have proved capable of. What we can say for sure is that it’s certainly no coincidence that so many top players have suddenly stopped performing.
Mourinho’s second stint at Chelsea will now forever be a case of what might have been. After winning the Premier League title last season and signing a new long-term deal, the Portuguese was widely expected to stay at Chelsea for the foreseeable future in an effort to build the dynasty he craves having spent brief, albeit successful, periods at a number of Europe’s top clubs.
For Chelsea, they face the prospect of playing through the season with the little that they can now realistically achieve. Barring a remarkable run in the league and a sudden change in form, the only way of reaching next season’s Champions League will be by winning it this summer. The new manager’s sternest test will likely come in the last 16 tie against PSG. Looking further ahead, if Guus Hiddink is put in charge until May, the European manager’s merry-go-round may begin to spin.
Next week, Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola is set to announce whether or not he will leave the German champions at the end of the season. The world’s most in-demand manager would be a coup for any English club, and the situation has unfolded such as to leave the door open for a potential move to Chelsea in the summer.