The winds of change have swept the dark clouds that loomed over Merseyside several miles south to the country’s capital, where a Chelsea FC side in full blown crisis take on Liverpool FC in the early kick-off on Saturday.
It is incredible to think that just a few months after lifting a third Premier League title with Chelsea FC — his eighth domestic title in twelve full seasons — Jos Mourinho appears to be on the brink of exiting the club for a second time, in similarly acrimonious circumstances. While the Blues’ fall from grace has been attributed to the arcane ‘third season syndrome’ by those prescient few who foresaw Mourinho’s men sinking to the depths they have this season, the overwhelming majority have been taken aback.
There have always been questions about Mourinho’s ability to stay the course and achieve dynastic success, but never before has a Jos Mourinho team looked so vulnerable — so prone to crumbling mentally at the slightest sign of trouble. The current Chelsea FC side is the complete anti-thesis of the teams one has come to associate with the Portuguese, and everything points to the fact that Mourinho does not have too long to turn things around.
Mourinho’s antics have contributed to the sense of crisis at Chelsea FC
The game against Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, then, takes on an added meaning for Mourinho and his men. With speculation in the British media regarding the possibility of a Carlo Ancelotti return rife, the result against JA?rgen Klopp’s Reds could well decide the 52-year-old’s fate.
There is a feeling however, that the former Real Madrid manager’s unedifying behaviour on and off the pitch is as much to blame for the general sense of crisis at the club as the results themselves. Quite simply, nobody does chaos as well as Mourinho.
For a man known for his Machiavellian ways — whether to evoke a response from his players, or indeed from the media and just about anybody else remotely associated with football — there seems to be no semblance of control this time around. The Portuguese has appeared not so much a scheming super-villain this season as he has a petty, petulant child, with his continuing crusade against the Football Association and their referees, as well as his pointed digs at old foe ArsA?ne Wenger.
Throughout his managerial career, Mourinho’s . modus operandi has been to unify his squad by creating an ‘us against the world’ mentality. Although that has paid dividends in the past, the long-term success of that strategy is far less certain. The former Porto manager’s personal behaviour is no different. There seems to be a need for conflict, a force against which he must operate. Ever so often with Mourinho, as in this season, that has become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy — his behaviour due to perceived persecution has in fact invited more widespread criticism.
Klopp’s arrival has brought renewed optimism to Anfield
In stark contrast, the Blues’ opponents on Saturday have renewed optimism and vigour. The mood could not be more different at Anfield, and although the excitement at Klopp’s arrival has been tempered to an extent due to the somewhat slow start he has made, the former Borussia Dortmund manager has generated considerable excitement among Liverpool FC fans.
The Reds will not become world-beaters overnight, particularly if they keep losing key players to injury, but there are already signs of change. Even in Klopp’s first match in charge against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, there was evidence of the much talked-about gegenpressing, with Liverpool FC becoming the first side to outrun Mauricio Pochettino’s men this season.
The German is the Merseysider’s fourth manager in the last five years, and the club have paid the price for being unable to maintain stability in the managerial position. Coincidentally, Mourinho is the fourth manager Chelsea FC have had in this period too, and although the Blues won the UEFA Champions League among other competitions, the absence of continuity at the helm resulted in their worst ever league finish under Roman Abramovich — luckily, on their part, in the same season they won their maiden Champions League crown.
This inability to sustain success should serve as a cautionary tale for those willing Abramovich to wield the axe on Mourinho. Liverpool FC have already taken the plunge by sacking Brendan Rodgers, but have managed to find themselves an upgrade in the much-coveted JA?rgen Klopp.
As such, the Reds are at the very beginning of a new era that promises so much, while their opponents on Saturday seem to be in a downward spiral that could bring to a close another chapter of the club’s recent history. If it does happen, it would be the end of yet another successful chapter that could have delivered much more.
The game on Saturday, then, is significant for the two teams for very different reasons. Mourinho’s record against Klopp is not particularly great, and the Blues could well be fighting for the survival of the manager under whom many won their maiden English Premier League title last season. Klopp, meanwhile, has the opportunity to claim his first big scalp since his arrival to the British Isles, and a win could kick start what has been a disappointing season for Liverpool FC thus far.
The difference in the current outlook of the two sets of opposing fans could not be more stark either, but as far as experiencing the optimism that charismatic young managers bring with them, the Blues fans have been there and done that.
Klopp’s magnetic personality, his effortless charm and unique sense of humour, his effervescence when facing the press, his ability to form bonds with his players that go beyond a mere professional relationship, his ability to bring out the best in his team to punch above their weight, and consequently, the sheer reverence with which he was treated as he first arrived in England, are all reminiscent of a certain manager who arrived to much fanfare a little over a decade ago from Portugal.
If Chelsea FC manage to beat Liverpool FC this Saturday and build some momentum beyond that, perhaps we will see that manager once again.