“I don’t think it’s very difficult to coach at Chelsea because I was champion three times, [Carlo] Ancelotti was champion, Antonio Conte was champion. Who else? It cannot be very, very difficult because we win titles there.
“I believe Chelsea always has great players and great squads, and good coaches are happy to work with these clubs and with players that give you a very good opportunity to win titles.”
Jose Mourinho’s early jibes ahead of tonight’s clash between his current side Tottenham and his former side Chelsea appear to be classic Mourinho mind games of old. He has already tasted the sweet success of silverware at Stamford Bridge and has now passed on the pressure to current incumbent Thomas Tuchel to follow suit. But is he right? Are Chelsea easy to manage?
To many, his comments might be fair enough. Chelsea, backed by Roman Abramovich and an almost infinite pot of money, are never short of quality in their squad. This summer Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy and Ben Chillwell all came in as they splashed £222m. But, as Frank Lampard found out, bedding those players in can be an issue.
In terms of match winners, the Blues are never short on quality. Down the years Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard among other greats have worn the shirt, which in its simplest interpretation, makes them an easy team to manage. Antonio Conte formed a 3-4-3 system which was rugged at the back but importantly gave free reign to the likes of Diego Costa and Hazard to run riot, which they duly did. That tactic saw the Blues win 30 games, a new Premier League record at the time, but it wouldn’t have been possible without these world-class forward players to flourish from a solid base.
Financial backing over the past two decades has been unrivalled by any club in the world. Since 2000, Chelsea have spent £1.97bn on new players, exceeding Real Madrid, PSG and Manchester City. For all the competition of the Premier League, if you are investing that sort of money on the top players, you expect some sort of return. That money and Abramovich’s desire for instant success is also, on the flip side, what makes this job so difficult.
Mourinho’s jibe of ‘many managers have won with Chelsea so it must be easy’ does seem a little wide of the mark. Perhaps the fact there have been so many managers under Abramovich, 13 permanent or interim bosses in total, makes it so difficult. If there is the slightest hint that the manager has lost the dressing room, or the team is on a poor run of form, they are on the chopping block.
As we saw with Lampard, even club legend status does not prevent you from the ignominy of the sack in the Abramovich era, especially if there are disagreements at board level. Roberto Di Matteo was sacked just months after winning the club’s first and only Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti was given the boot after finishing second in the Premier League, while Avram Grant faced the same treatment despite only losing the Champions League final on penalties.
There is simply no breathing space at Chelsea, and if anyone should know that it would be Jose Mourinho. In his second spell in charge, despite having won the title seven months previously, he was sacked with the Blues one point above the relegation places and the club turned into a bitter and argumentative warzone at the end of his tenure. Chelsea certainly didn’t seem like such an easy side to manage then. In fact, they were toxic.
Long-serving and high-profile players at the club must now also believe that if they do not like the manager, they can kick up a fuss or down tools, and it will only be a matter of time before he is replaced. That is not the breeding ground for a healthy and stable football club and certainly not a place for a manager to enjoy long-term success.
Mourinho’s mind games have already begun, but in essence there is some truth to his statement. Chelsea are, for the short-term, an easy team to manage in comparison to some of the others in the Premier League. But once managers get past that initial successful spell and into their second year, the Chelsea dream, as we have seen so often before, usually turns into a nightmare.