Until yesterday, amongst Chelsea supporters, the most common answer to the question “Should Mourinho stay or should he go” had been a resounding “I don’t know anymore.” More than anything else, there is still a nagging sense of uncertainty, an inexplicable scenario which makes the current situation and what to do next difficult to interpret. This general inexplicability and unease about the future surrounds Stanford Bridge. An inability to get to the root of the causes of Chelsea’s poor season has left the club clouded in doubt. Considering the overall scenario, and the lack of convincing arguments and criteria in this situation, getting rid of Mourinho is not the answer.
Reminders of how he has won 6 league titles in three different countries since Wenger last won one are not even necessary. Neither are sentimental manifestations of all he has meant for Chelsea football club. Nor are the ‘special’ expressions of fan support after yesterday’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev.
From the most pragmatic standpoint, who would Chelsea rather have lead a cup run this season, either domestically or in the UEFA Champions League? Who would they trust more to turn this situation around, to prove that the so called third season syndrome is a fallacy that doesn’t hold up to closer scrutiny? And most importantly, who else would Chelsea want leading their transfer policies over the next few windows, etching out a long-term vision for the club?
For out of all the reasons for Chelsea’s current struggles, none is more glaring than a failure to strengthen during the summer. Key players from last year’s campaign haven’t felt enough competition within the squad.
Gary Neville, on MNF, mentioned how now is the perfect time to turn to youth. In fact, this is what Mourinho has done. Given how the spine of the team isn’t getting any younger, Mourinho is right to reintroduce competition in the squad, even if that means substituting and sending a statement to last year’s Premier League best player.
Now, the Portuguese manager has the chance to mold youth players in his own image- Kenedy, Loftus Cheek, and Traore. Lampard too has pointed to the mental side of the issue. “Some people are leaders and vocal in the dressing room. We all know Chelsea have had that spine for quite a few years, but you look around now, and do they still have it?” As the core ages, to ignite that winning mentality and leadership qualities the squad desperately needs, Jose will once again turn to the aspects of man-management he is well known for.
Will the midweek win over Dynamo Kiev become a turning point? Did Willian’s decisive free kick end up securing Jose’s position? In hindsight, the truth is that deferring having to make the decision in the first place had already boded well for Mourinho. The fact Mourinho is a core part of Chelsea’s sporting project means getting rid of him would mean having to start from scratch. It would be an acknowledgement of something gone wrong, seen as a step backwards. So, the willingness to give Mourinho more time was not just because of his stature at the club but because he was a central part of the club’s future, brought back to be the key figure in a transitional phase.
If the club is to evolve, Mourinho will have to do so alongside of it, transitioning into a new stage of his managerial career which for him will be unknown territory. After short-term dominance during spells throughout the European game, he will have to prove that confidence in his ability to lead the club in the long-term was not misplaced. In the search for stability, Mourinho’s knowledge of the club means he is the one best positioned to provide it. That’s a testament to his ability, not his past.