Has Jose Mourinho lost the psychological battle at Chelsea?
For years now, Jose Mourinho has been renowned for his mind games particularly versus other managers. Indeed, his successes psychlogically can only be compared with his long time adversary and friend Sir Alex Ferguson. Now however as we flip the calendar year once more, Mourinho's constitution has begun to display chinks in its seemingly unbreakable armour. After Manchester City achieved the feat of drawing level with Mourinho's previously impervious Chelsea yesterday, has Jose lost the mental battle for the first real time?
The fact that Chelsea still sit atop the Premier League table is down only to the virtue of alphabetical prowess. That fact alone would be staggering that given we have now reached the half way stage in the campaign it's as you were: on the opening day P0 GD 0 Pts 0; whereas now we are met with P20 GD25 Pts 46. identical. Of course that statistic is all the more staggering after Chelsea led by the Citizens by nine points just two months ago on the first day of November.
Many had already conceded the title to Chelsea. But not City. After 14 games, The Blues had won 11 and were unbeaten. Only away trips to both sides of Manchester and Sunderland had Mourinho's men not come away with all the spoils. It was the 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light that Chelsea could have conceivably lost did the cracks start appear. Indeed it was a week later that Diego Costa, Eden Hazard et al came unstuck at a resurgent Newcastle United. Many thought this could be the season that the Blues repeated Arsenal's Invincibles team that went a whole term unbeaten. Once again it was not to be.
Having suffered a first loss of the season, Chelsea still went on to bounce back and won the next three games all 2-0. But there began the first signs that Jose Mourinho was cracking. Slightly. He was not pertruding his former self of arrogance but supreme confidence. There is no doubt that Mourinho has moulded this squad all his own and has done a masterful job with strength in all departments. But with the stalement at St. Marys three days after Christmas, the Portuguese then came out and suggested there was a campaign against his side by players, staff and the media. Mourinho is no stranger to his discrete criticism of officials but this seemed to have an air of desperation and above all was unsubstantiated.
Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that certainly during his second term in West London, Mourinho and his Chelsea side are unaccustomed to having a bullseye painted on their backs, but to claim there is a campaign by other teams to influence officials is wide of the mark. In football and certainly the English top flight, what goes around comes around. Mourinho's level of hypocrisy is astounding. Looking back to one of many incidents in favour of the West Londoners, in the game at Stamford Bridge last season versus West Brom, the Baggies were on the cusp of a famous win when Chelsea were awarded the most dubious of dubious penalties allowing the hosts to snatch a late point and not only that but kept Mourinho's unbeaten home record in tact. That has always been the Portuguese's greatest psychological advantage. And still stands.
So it transpires, full circle came yesterday, or certainly did for Jose Mourinho. As Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs side demolished Chelsea's water-tight defence and Harry Kane put The Blues to the sword. Mourinho will say that his charges should have had a penalty via Jan Vertonghen's handle in the area, but in truth that would have been a generous decision and merely serves to portray his mindset.
Of course with Chelsea's loss of their substantial lead - which had led to some bookmakers to stop taking bets - The Blues still look down on all in the table's hierarchy, albeit in name only, but Jose Mourinho has appeared to have been vanquished in the mental department at least in the first battle, Mourinho has built his reputation by getting into the heads of players and opposition and for him to lose the opening bout mental fisticuffs is a big credit to Manuel Pellegrini and his City side.
It will be a concern to Chelsea but one could argue that Chelsea have become victims of the hectic Christmas period, but not they alone have suffered. With 18 league games to come, the West London outfit will still say they have the upper hand in the battle to wrest the Premier League crown away from their rivals. That test begins again in earnest after the FA Cup break but particularly on the final day of January, when Pellegrini visits Mourinho at Stamford Bridge. Before then however, there may be more twists to come.