There seems to be a myth about Jose Mourinho’s first spell as Chelsea manager. That myth seems to be that Mourinho did the impossible, the implausible and the unexpected. In truth Mourinho did exactly what was expected and achieved nothing out of the ordinary at Chelsea.
The fact is that Mourinho arrived at Chelsea and spent obscene amounts of money to overhaul that squad. It is said that Mourinho brought the league title back to Chelsea after 50 years. He didn’t, Abramovich’s oil money did. Mourinho could hardly have failed to win the league with the squad he assembled, especially when you factor in the weakness of the opposition at the time.
In his first summer at Chelsea, Mourinho spent over £140 million on the playing staff. To win the title with that squad was no great feat of management, no ground-breaking achievement.
It was the least they expected given such outlay. The following summer he spent over £50 million on the squad, again delivering a league title. He also won an FA Cup and two League Cups.
At the time, the major Premier League opposition was weak. Manchester United were in transition, with young players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney still in the early stages of development. They were in no position to compete.
Similarly Arsenal were in decline, losing Patrick Vieira and undergoing transition of their own. Liverpool were too inconsistent to challenge in the Premier League and so Chelsea were unchallenged. The major difference in that era of the Premier League was not Mourinho, it was simply the amount of money Chelsea spent in comparison to the other title contenders.
Mourinho won what he should have won, arguably less than he should have won. Mourinho did overachieve at Porto, leading them to an improbable Champions League and also at Inter Milan, where he did the same. At Real Madrid, Mourinho did an average job, not overachieving but winning a league title against the exceptional Barcelona.
So Mourinho is a terrific manager. What must be avoided is the illusion that he was marvellous in his first stint at Chelsea and that he will be just as marvellous this time around.
His return makes Chelsea genuine title contenders again, possibly favourites. They have a good squad and with the odd tweak could have enough to claim the Premier League.
However, the shape of the Premier League has changed since Mourinho’s last spell in charge at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United are far stronger now than the side he beat to his two titles.
Manchester City were not a factor for Mourinho last time and now are a club that can match his spending power. Top to bottom the Premier League is stronger, more competitive and more dangerous for the top teams. The league is in a situation where any team can beat another on a given day. That was not the case for Mourinho last time and it will make his job much tougher.
Another problem for Mourinho is the make-up of his squad. It is well known that Pep Guardiola was Abramovich’s first choice this summer, and so last summer was spent loading the squad with small, diminutive players to play ‘the Barcelona way’. That is not Mourinho’s way. He prefers power and physical strength, as he had last time with Drogba, Carvalho and Essien. He does not have that at Chelsea and so may need to adapt his style which, in truth, is now predictable for opposition.
Mourinho will bring extra interest to the Premier League. He was box office last time and surely will be again.
He is a divisive character. He is arrogant, argumentative and confrontational and will bring yet more controversy to a club whose reputation off the field is still languishing in the gutters.
He is a winner and will be expected to win again. His last spell at Chelsea was not “special” however, it was ordinary. He won what he had to win. He achieved the same as Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea and the Italian had a far weaker squad to work with.
Mourinho is a man who Chelsea will be welcomed back with open arms, but his stay will be brief once more, as is his way. The Champions League must be added to his Chelsea C.V or this will be a failed return for the self-declared “special one”.
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