Cooney and Black

The honeymoon is over for Mourinho. His second marriage with Chelsea is showing signs of strain. And Abramovich, the man with the rolling pin, is lying in wait behind the front door.

Mourinho and Abramovich

bynigelclarke

IT’S a great way to bury bad news – just climb aboard your high horse and start whinnying about an incident that is bound to invoke controversy.

Jose Mourinho is no fool. He has used the flare-up with Nemanja Matic and Ashley Barnes of Burnley as convenient camouflage to disguise the fact that his Chelsea side are suddenly struggling.

They were being tipped to win all four trophies this season: Champions League, Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Capital Cup. Hey, they might end up with nothing.

Manchester City could catch them in the League and Tottenham might beat them at Wembley on Saturday. Since Spurs have already walloped them 5-3 in the League this season, and Blues will be without their most important player, Matic, their glorious dream could become a nightmare.

On present form, few people would expect them to win the Champions League again. No wonder Mourinho is so vociferous in his condemnation of the tackle by Barnes that led to Matic’s retaliation and subsequent red card.

And do you know what? A lot of people are glad to see Mourinho up to his armpits in the brown stuff. He is not the most popular manager, and Chelsea are by far the least liked club in the country.

So you begin to wonder what owner Roman Abramovich thinks of it all. His team are in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and the Russian owner is fearful that hostility towards his side could results in the disappearance of some sponsorship deals, the lifeblood of Blues, along with the owner’s multi millions.

Chelsea are by far the most glamorous club in the country, with the King’s Road connection and all that, but they are in receipt of so much hostility. Abramovich will just hope that they can ride the storm…or else.

The owner is a pragmatic man who speaks and understands English far better than most accept or even realise. He therefore hears more than people give him credit for, and wisely keeps his council. Not much gets past him.

As you would expect of a man who is a confidant of Vladimir Putin, his eyes and ears are always open. He is not somebody to miss a trick.

He ended Mourinho’s last association with Chelsea because he wanted to play and win with a more appealing style of football. So he indulged the Portuguese with the kind of money that have made Chelsea, on their day, so watchable but also very vulnerable.

There have been signs lately that some of the magic is fast disappearing. To lose to Bradford in the Cup was embarrassing, so, too, was conceding five to Spurs at White Hart Lane.

They struggled to beat Liverpool in the Capital Cup semi-final, and were well off the pace in the 1-1 draw with Burnley that let Manchester City back into the title race.

You wonder what Abramovich makes of it all when every day he is assailed by stories of woe from his beloved Bridge. In mitigation, Mourinho was right to protest that if Matic was sent off by referee Martin Atkinson for pushing over Barnes, the Burnley man also should have gone for the original horrendous assault.

This is the player who was banned for seven matches last season for tripping up a match official. You might have thought Atkinson would have known about his previous.

Conveniently, Mourinho was able to argue on television his side of the story; one wonders if TV will give the same opportunity to Barnes.

But the incident overshadowed the cold, hard facts that Chelsea appear to have hit the wall. The Brazilian stars such as Oscar and Ramirez are struggling to impose themselves on the game.

Diego Costa has stopped scoring, Mourinho doesn’t have another right back who can fill in for Branislav Ivanovic, while Gary Cahill doesn’t know if he is first-choice centre half any longer.

It’s all down to Eden Hazard now. All down to what he can create, and because of what he can do, he has been fouled, or kicked if you like, more times than any other player in the Premier League.

Mourinho is right to make the point that his side do seem to be picked on and singled out for special treatment by referees. Except when it is his players who are the victims.

Abramovich is known to be upset about the number of times his side are unfairly treated, but it has begun to grate, and Mourinho is likely to hear about it soon from the man at the top.

If things don’t improve, if Chelsea don’t win something this season, do you suppose the owner will stand by and allow this to continue?

What it means is that Mourinho is under pressure and he knows it. Controversial incidents give him the opportunity to take some of the heat off poor performances. But his honeymoon is now well and truly over, the marriage is already showing signs of strain. A man with a rolling pin is lying in wait behind the front door.

 
 
PICTURE COURTESY OF: The Sport Review

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