It is beginning to look like a very open Premier League season, thanks to the two Manchester clubs’ summer of change. David Moyes was always going to have a hard time following Alex Ferguson, who has now decided to “tell-all” about some of the big names. There was always a danger it would be Sir Matt and Wilf [McGuinness] all over again. Things are settling down at Old Trafford, but their early losses may cost them dear. It has allowed Arsenal and Chelsea to steal a march on the Manchester clubs this season, but don’t bet your house on that situation remaining.
Arsene Wenger has won round the sceptics thanks to his £ 40m-plus investment and suddenly, Chelsea are attaining the sort of consistency and determination that characterised Jose Mourinho’s first stint at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho, himself, suddenly looks to have acquired some fresh passion. In his early weeks back in London SW6, the “special, but happy one”, looked a little subdued by his own standards. But the recent sending off and the manner in which he celebrated Chelsea’s win against City indicated that he has reignited. This may not be good news for the FA, although they will appreciate the fines, but it’s good news for the scribes, who were just waiting to hear some pearls of wisdom from Mourinho.
Chelsea’s win against City was a landmark event for a number of reasons. It may just be the umpteenth coming of Fernando Torres. True, there have been many false dawns in Torres’ career with Chelsea, but he looks hungrier, more tenacious and he’s working like a dog. Mourinho may succeed where Ancelotti, AVB, Di Matteo and Benitez have all failed. Torres has scored five goals in nine appearances (including subs), but the last week has seen the former Liverpool and Atletico Madrid striker put on arguably his two most consistent performances in a Chelsea shirt.
Beating City also sends a strong message to Manchester. The most expensive squad ever assembled in Britain is not gelling at present and it will not be long before the Chilean gets a message from the desert if he’s not careful. Anyone can accept a defeat at Chelsea, but let’s remember that this was City’s third defeat of the campaign already – a third of their games.
The win shows that Chelsea are slipping back into the mode of grinding out important wins. After Mourinho left in 2007, Chelsea gradually lost that “invincible” look, although under Carlo Ancelotti, they won the double in 2010 with the last knockings of the Mourinho side. Since 2010, it has been gradually eroded, culminating in the very “average” performance of 2012-13 when “only” the Europa League landed up in the Chelsea trophy cabinet. It wasn’t “what” it was “how” that was the problem. Over the past three years, Chelsea have been a very anaemic shadow of the Mourinho machine.
This season, Chelsea have drawn at United and Tottenham – really when they had not slipped into their stride – and now they’ve beaten City, who many felt would pick up the title in United’s transition.
Mourinho has also stamped his authority on a group of players whose discipline has been questionable. Mata and Luiz, both popular with the Stamford Bridge crowd, have been sent messages that not only let them know who the boss is, but also tell the fans and the public that Mourinho will select the heroes for you. Enter John Terry, who is enjoying a renaissance under his old mentor. We are not all fans of “Captain, Leader, Legend”, but there’s no doubt he is Chelsea best defender. And Mourinho, who builds from the back, knows who he can rely on.
Chelsea’s 2-1 win over City was their seventh in eight games. They’ve also grabbed the Champions League group by the scruff of its neck and in doing so, told Schalke to forget top spot. Basel may find that they suffer a little retribution when Chelsea visit on November 26.
Business as usual for Mourinho? He has tempered expectation this season and we can expect that to continue. In the meantime, the spotlight may shift to the underperforming Mancs and the rising challenges of Tottenham and Everton. For the time being, that will suit Mourinho, but it won’t be long before he’s hogging the headlines. And there’s still the transfer window to come. By then, we shall have a clear picture of how Mourinho 2.0 is coming along…