Sorry folks, there won't be any mustached men in this one.
I've been reading (and writing) some tactical posts lately. This community has been consumed with squad selection/rotation, substitutions, and formations (myself included). These are absolutely vital concerns that needs addressing, but the reason why we continue to converge on these issues has to do with the simplicity of the errors on behalf of our very own Interim
Fat Spanish Waiter Manager. Never resting Mata and only making like for like substituions when Chelsea clearly need a more dramatic change are obvious mistakes. However, as we all know, there's more to managing than that, and I thought we might be able to discuss some of the other facets.
The Real Chelsea?
1000 words - via i.dailymail.co.uk
Reading MrPanosCFC's passionate posting about "The Real Chelsea" was difficult to stomach, because I felt very similarly that somehow this fundamental character of the team had slipped away. But I read on to parts like "Damien Duff and Arjen Robben grind teams down with their shear pace and skill," and talk of how "the Chelsea of today does not have much of that spine left," I realized that our problems had more to do with Benitez than I had allowed myself to believe, but there was more than that. When MrPanosCFC wrote about "that spine," he was really referring to players like Makele, Gudjohnsen, and Carvalho, but his word choice points to something that wasn't necessarily there in the players to begin with.
You see, back before Abramovich, when Chelsea had the talent of players like Dennis Wise, Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola, and Gus Poyet, they were scrappy. They were fighters. Chelsea hadn't won a trophy in decades, but they managed to fight their way to the top of the heap and claim 1997's FA cup. They weren't "a team of destiny" like the one we saw lift the cup in Munich last May, they were just another squad, pushing to be top dogs.
That mentality changed when Abramovich took over in 2003, but they didn't become the Chelsea many think of today as "the Real Chelsea". Instead, Chelsea were flush with money, and soon, brimming with talent. This ultra-talented side would be more successful, and shake off that "scrappy squad" image, but they still lacked something. They were fighting to be more than the team that bought trophies, but that was what drove them. Chelsea was a club reacting in identity, rather than from identity.
One of the best days of a Blue's life - via i.smimg.net
All of that changed when Mourinho was brought on board. Not overnight, and much of the external perception was still tied closely to the money, but nonetheless, an identity was being formed. A psyche which developed a self-regard unknown to the club in the past transformed a group of players into something more, a force to be reckoned with, a side to be feared, a squad which had a dominating mentality. This is what we think of today when we talk of "the Real Chelsea". We were a club that believed it was the best on the pitch, and that no matter what, it could defeat anyone.
The Bridge used to be a fortress. We showed that fortress mentality at the Camp Nou last season. True, we have since lost some players from that night, and now, very little of that Mourinho spine remains. And within that spine, very little of the belief is still there. It's not all Rafa Benitez's fault, and several managers since Mourinho have demonstrated that they can't instill the same mentality that he did. Sure, some players have tried to maintain it, and it's worked out relatively well, with the club achieving significant successes even after Jose left.
Let me show you a little bit about what I mean. Take a look at this clip from Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Barcelona:
Yes, he's won every trophy under the sun in every country that matters. Yes, he is a media darling and fans literally sing his praises anywhere he goes. Yes, he's one of the most controversial figures in world football. But Raphael Varane is 19 years old and uncapped by the French national team. He's just scored against Barcelona in El Clasico. He has every right to be out of his mind with excitement, dancing with teammates, and jumping straight into the stands. Instead, he sprints directly to Jose Mourinho, a 50 year-old Portuguese man with no playing experience, and leaps about with him in a frolicky dances that conjures images of hobbits.
When is the last time you saw a Chelsea player celebrate with a manager? Not after a big cup win, but in the aftermath of a smaller personal achievement? Di Matteo, maybe, and you can't say his passion for the club didn't put life into the legs of the team. That seems to be a pretty specific case, though. Who else? Anyone? Okay, now how about any manager, anywhere in the world? There are definitely some instances. Now compare their teams to any team Jose has ever managed in terms of passion, belief, and success. Maybe Alex Ferguson could match up, but that's about it, huh? That's the company Jose keeps. In fact, it's about the only company that can keep him, and as Sir Alex has himself confessed Mourinho could have 63 trophies by the time he reaches the age Ferguson is now, with 48. That's 15 more domestic cups, league titles, or international trophies than the man who was knighted for being a football badass. It's not just tactics, it's heart. It's determination. It's sheer force of will that makes his teams the best in the world.
And now you know why he's called the Special One.
P.S. Yeah, I know he was super arrogant in a press conference when he first came to Chelsea and that's where the nickname comes from, but boy has he made it stick. It's more of a title than a nickname now.