As the ink dried on Diego Costa’s brand spanking new Chelsea contract, one thing became inescapably clear: Jose Mourinho simply must deliver at Stamford Bridge this season.
This time last year, the ‘Special One’ had just returned to West London, tasked with bringing glory back to a side who appeared to have lost their way somewhat. However, those expecting an instant return to the top of the Premier League will no doubt have had their expectations tempered by the Mourinho refrain that emanated from the Portuguese manager from his first day onwards: “this is not our year.”
During the first season of his second Chelsea spell, Mourinho was repeatedly on record as saying that he did not regard his side as title contenders, famously referring to them as a little horse, competing against the might of Manchester City. Given how expensively assembled the squad at Mourinho’s disposal was, it was easy to dismiss Mourinho as being disingenuous. But in reality, the manager had a valid point.
The Chelsea team that finished third in the Premier League last season was not a team in the Mourinho mould. Diminutive, skilful players like Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata had been brought in during previous seasons, as Roman Abramovich flexed his financial muscle in an effort to improve the style of Chelsea’s play. But the result of the situation was a squad full of players light on the very qualities that Mourinho desires.
Jose has never truly trusted raw talent, preferring to use a collective game-plan or tactic in order to extract the highest level of performance from the teams in his charge. For Mourinho’s game-plan to work, the majority of his squad need to have the following prerequisites: tactical acumen, speed and strength. The squad he inherited last summer did not possess enough of these qualities.
And so, as Chelsea slipped to third on the table, Mourinho had a ready-made excuse for such ‘failings’ – this was not a team in his image.
This year, he will have no such excuse.
Having been backed heavily in the transfer market this summer already – with Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa all arriving for eye-watering sums of money – the pressure is now truly on Mourinho to deliver the Premier League crown once again. He has now spent around £100m on players in his second spell, and the reality is that when a manager spends such figures, they simply must produce.
The signing of Costa makes it even more crucial for the ‘Special One’ to deliver a trophy of note this season. For much of last season, Mourinho bemoaned the fact that he had no striker that could be relied upon to score goals. When one looks at the goal return of Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o, it’s hard to disagree with Mourinho’s assessment.
But in Diego Costa, Mourinho has lured the form striker in European football to Stamford Bridge, and having spent a considerable sum of money on his services, Mourinho’s reputation rests on Costa’s shoulders. If the former Atlético man is able to rise to the occasion and provide the goals that Chelsea needs to launch a credible title challenge, then Mourinho’s purchase will have been vindicated. Should he fail, then the blame will fall squarely on Mourinho’s shoulders.
In essence, the time for excuses has now passed. Should Mourinho wish to keep his stellar reputation intact (which, of course, he does), he must deliver the Premier League or the Champions League this season. It really is as simple as that.
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