Jose Mourinho awoke Tuesday, like he does every day right now, to fresh revelations of discord amid his crumbling regime.
This time it was reports of a full-blooded player revolt led by Cesc Fabregas which had become so bad that senior players would rather lose than win for their beleaguered boss. It was a claim swiftly denied by the Spaniard and then subsequently by the manager himself.
Mourinho invoked the old principle of it being fine to accuse a professional of playing poorly but it being fundamentally wrong to question his ethics. No footballer plays to lose, he said.
Unfortunately that might just be a little too idealistic, as whether there’s a deliberate plot to undermine him or not, the players are not responding to him, and his chronic inability to elicit performances from the reigning English champions is desperately close to making his position untenable.
Of the various outstanding qualities which have made Mourinho the most successful manager of his generation, an ability to motivate players and imbue them with unshakeable conviction is perhaps at the top of the list.
So, to see a Mourinho team meekly surrender to lesser opposition again and again is mystifying for all who have followed his career – and especially it seems to the man himself.
On Tuesday he claimed a multitude of factors had combined to ruin Chelsea’s season, before declining to divulge further.
In that assessment, he is right. But the disconnect with his players is the most damaging aspect and if left unrepaired will cost him his job.
Mourinho is a manager who demands absolute authority but in the past that has been fortified by the advocacy of the leaders within his group.
At Chelsea, the quartet of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and John Terry always provided vindication of his methods, their subservience pointing the way for the rest of the squad.
But after a summer of change, only the latter remains and Terry, who spoke well on his manager’s behalf on Tuesday, has seen his own supreme status diluted by diabolical form.
You are left to wonder would results have been this bad, Chelsea’s confidence so shockingly torn apart and their spirit so visibly lacking if Mourinho still had his trusted lieutenants in place?
Drogba for one was only brought back to the club last season for that very reason.
The British press has also claimed the treatment of first team medical staff members Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn has alienated the players.
Outside of football clubs, morale and spirit are perceived to be measurements of the bond between players, but the unseen support network around them is just as vital.
Doctors, masseurs, kitmen, analysts… They are such a huge part of their everyday lives and consequently are often extremely popular figures at the training ground. Players come and go, but these are the people who give the club a sense of identity for the footballers to buy into.
Injustices against them are guaranteed to have a destabilising effect. Terry insists he and his team-mates are fully behind their boss but performances say otherwise.
Whether it’s the treatment of the club’s doctors, his tactics or public criticism of them, this Chelsea team is not playing like one desperate to save the manager.
Mourinho has bridges to build and quickly or there’s little doubt he will become ‘the Sacked One’.
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Jose Mourinho declined to reveal if discussions had taken place with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich over his future, merely pointing to his lengthy contract.
The embattled Blues boss is under pressure from all angles – not least to retain his place as manager amid a miserable run of results.
Mourinho said: “I don’t have to answer you if I was with the owner or not.”
Asked how much time he thought he had, Mourinho, who signed a new contract until June 2019 on the eve of the season, said: Four years. In this case, three years and seven months.”
Mourinho’s problems are piling up after he was given a one-match stadium ban and became the subject of a personal legal claim from former first-team doctor Eva Carneiro.
His side have lost nine of 17 games in all competitions this season ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League Group G clash with Dynamo Kiev.
He was subject of the first managerial vote of confidence in Roman Abramovich’s 12-year ownership on October 5, but Chelsea have one win in five games since, against a free-falling Aston Villa. The Portuguese did not address either matter on Tuesday lunchtime.
Reports of dissent in the ranks – one player reportedly said he would prefer to lose than win for Mourinho – have been repeatedly dismissed, with Cesc Fabregas publicly denying he was the ring-leader on Tuesday morning.
— Andy May (@andymay) November 3, 2015
Mourinho said: “Look I think it’s a very sad accusation, because you are accusing a player or more than one player, I don’t know, of dishonesty.
“If I accuse you of being a dishonest journalist, I think you’d be very upset and probably you’d take legal action. It’s a question for the player, not for me.”
Mourinho refused to discuss how Chelsea have fallen from champions in May to perilously close to the Premier League relegation zone 11 games into the new season after six losses.
“It’s a combination of factors and some of them I can’t, I don’t want to touch them,” he added.
Mourinho says he still has the support of his players and he will still back them. “For my players I do everything. I always did and I am not going to change,” Mourinho added.
Mourinho is experiencing a time which he predicted after winning his first Champions League with Porto in 2004, before his first highly-successful spell at Chelsea.
“Yes, It’s new for me. That’s why I am a good one (manager). If I was a bad one it would come before (now),” Mourinho said.
“Yesterday a friend sent me some quotes of my press conference after the Champions League final in May 2004. I said that one day my career bad results will come.
“I said that in 2004 after winning the Champions League final with Porto: one day in my career the bad results will come and I will face the bad results with the same honesty and dignity that I’m facing now as European champion.
“I resisted well to the nature of my job – 11 years waiting for this.
“It took time, but came in a moment where I am stable and I am strong to face it.”
Manchester United head coach Louis van Gaal said his team must get out of a "bad period" in front of goal when the English side hosts CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League.