So it has happened. Roman Abramovich and the rest of the board at Chelsea Football Club have elected to sack José Mourinho after a Premier League slump that has seen the London club fall to 16th in the Barclays Premier League table, just one point above the relegation zone.
Mourinho’s sacking has come just seven months after the Portuguese guided Chelsea to a first league title in five years, in a season that also saw them lift the League Cup. Chelsea’s struggles this season in the league have been well documented, with the opening four months of the season seeing the Blues muster the worst defence of a title in Premier League history.
There was scandal surrounding the sacking of club doctor Eva Carneiro, which has spawned an imminent lawsuit, and Mourinho’s side have suffered damaging defeats on the road to Everton, Leicester and West Ham, as well as at Stamford Bridge against the likes of Southampton and newly-promoted minnows Bournemouth.
However, even considering this terrible form, the news of Mourinho’s departure from his second spell at Stamford Bridge has sent shockwaves through the world of sport, and this suggests that a large number of people may be thinking the same thing: it could be the wrong decision.
Maybe the surprise at his sacking is unjustified; no one can exaggerate just how awful Chelsea’s form has been this season. And Abramovich does have form for being somewhat trigger happy in his employment and dismissal of managers – the Russian tycoon has been through 10 different managers in 12 years since becoming Chelsea owner in 2003.
But this is José Mourinho, two time Champions League winner, a man considered one of the best managers on the planet and, Chelsea should take care to remember, the most successful manager in their history with 8 major trophies.
It feels, especially regarding that latter fact, that the club owed it to Mourinho a little more time to try and save Chelsea’s season. This is certainly an opinion shared by the majority of the club’s fans on social media, whose reaction to the board’s decision to dismiss The Special One has been overwhelmingly negative.
One fan commented “this is like a death in the family”, when another simply summed up their feelings with one, capitalised word: “DISGUSTED”.
Abramovich must surely have understood how well-loved Mourinho is at Stamford Bridge, and this decision could well lead to resentment and disillusionment within the supporters.
Much has been said about the players at Chelsea simply refusing to play for their former manager, thereby causing the terrible results that they have suffered in the early part of this season. Pundits and supporters alike have criticised the amount of influence the players are afforded at the club, with one fan stating on Twitter “player power wins again at Chelsea FC, we really are a terribly run club”.
This highlights how the sacking of Mourinho could well have caused the issues regarding the organisational aspects of the club to be brought under the microscope. Abramovich could have a mutiny on his hands if the fans continue to feel so aggrieved by the firing of their iconic former manager.
However, it must also be noted that a manager’s job is to unite the players and get them playing for him. Mourinho has failed for the past four months to do this. Even if Chelsea’s abhorrent form is down to the players not wanting to play for the manager, it could be argued that it is Mourinho’s responsibility to ensure that his squad is motivated to go out and give their best for the club. Look at it in this light, and you can perhaps see more of the justification behind Abramovich’s decision.
Arsenal fans in particular have certainly been revelling in the Chelsea owner’s resolution to get rid of Mourinho, with a flurry of delighted comments appearing on social media. Any Gunners out there might want to keep their heads down a bit more; in the time since Arsenal last won a league title, José Mourinho won the league twice with Chelsea, went away and won numerous league titles with Inter Milan in Italy and Real Madrid in Spain, as well as the Champions League, then came back to Chelsea and won the league with them again. Something tells me he won’t remain unemployed for long.
And it’s this that means sacking Mourinho could be possibly the worst thing Abramovich ever could have done. The chances of Mourinho ever managing another English team aside from Chelsea prior to this were minimal; he would never have wanted to betray the club he loves. But now that they have treated him like this, he may reconsider. The thought of him managing one of Chelsea’s rivals, such as Manchester United (for whom he is currently odds-on bookies’ favourite to be the next manager of), Manchester City or even Arsenal, would be extremely hard to stomach for any Blues fan.
Given Mourinho’s calibre as a coach, there would be every possibility that he could succeed consistently at any of the aforementioned clubs, potentially leaving Chelsea trophy-less and out in the cold. Getting rid of him in this manner has opened the door for Mourinho to go and make one of Chelsea’s rivals bigger and even more dangerous.
And then there is the question of who else Chelsea could bring in. The only man usually uttered in the same breath as Mourinho in regard to top class managers is Pep Guardiola, who admittedly has announced he will be leaving Bayern Munich in the summer.
However, Chelsea will face stern competition from the two Manchester clubs if they want to secure his services. And even if they do, what’s to say he could do a better job than Mourinho with a set of players that are clearly highly temperamental and far too willing to lose faith in their manager?
I can’t help but feel that Chelsea should have given Mourinho until next season. Yes, their recent form has been dreadful, but the likelihood of Mourinho leading them to relegation still seemed minimal. Chelsea still managed to top their group in the Champions League, and the kind of ability Mourinho has exhibited throughout his managerial career does not just vanish in such a short time.
The most resonant point surrounding his dismissal, I think, is as follows: it won’t be long before José Mourinho finds himself employed at a club of equal to or greater stature than Chelsea FC, but it could be a long, long time before Chelsea FC find themselves with a manager as gifted as José Mourinho.