José Mourinho suggests Chelsea lack ‘maturity’
Stamford Bridge boss says team may not yet have ‘personaility’ to respond to adversity
Basel’s Marco Streller (right) scores the winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Marco Streller and team-mates celebrate victory over Chelsea. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
José Mourinho has questioned whether his Chelsea team have the “maturity and personality” to recover from setbacks in games after watching his team succumb to a first home defeat in the group stage of the Champions League in almost a decade.
The home players left the field to a chorus of boos after Basel, who had never won on English soil, scored twice in the final 19 minutes to condemn Mourinho’s side to a damaging 2-1 defeat. Roman Abramovich witnessed the defeat from his box in the West stand and visited the home dressing room after the match, with Mourinho dismayed that his players had been unable to recover their poise once the Swiss had hauled themselves level.
“Of course (it hurts) but I think the team probably is not a team with such maturity and personality to face the difficult moments of the game,” said the Portuguese, whose side have gone four matches without a win having also lost at Goodison Park on Saturday. “Against Everton we played amazingly and they scored in the last second of the half and, after that, you could feel the team was struggling despite dominating the game. This was a bit the same.
“The team started accepting the responsibility of playing, addressing the opponent and trying to create and, when the first negative moment arrived – the equaliser – the team shakes a little bit. But the only thing you can do is work (to correct that). We go home very sad, the supporters go home very sad but tomorrow we have to go to training and to prepare for the next match. It’s the only way I know in football: work hard, believe in what you are doing, believe in each other, be critical inside to try and resolve things inside our group, stick together and try and get a result against Fulham on Saturday that wakes up the team for a smile.”
Mourinho had yet to speak to Abramovich when he addressed the media after the match but has made much of his side’s youth and relative inexperience since resuming control at the club over the summer. He and the hierarchy are at one over the long-term strategy, accepting there may be awkward moments such as this en route, though defeats tend to expose the imbalance that still exists within Chelsea’s squad, not least up front.
While Romelu Lukaku has been permitted to join Everton on loan for the season, Samuel Eto’o is clearly struggling for match sharpness following his recent move from Anzhi Makhachkala, Fernando Torres was not in the squad here and the substitute Demba Ba was close to joining Arsenal on loan this month.
The manager indirectly defended his decision to allow Lukaku to leave by claiming he was happy with the options left at his disposal. “When we lose, I don’t speak about players, I don’t speak about individuals,” he said. “I speak about my responsibility and I’m happy with the three strikers I have for the rest of the season. I’m happy. The players are good players, they’re good professionals, they’re trying their best every match. I can’t complain about any of the three. They try and give their best whenever they are on the pitch.
“Samuel, maybe, lacks sharpness but this is something that doesn’t surprise me because, when you are two and a half years at a place that doesn’t motivate you, off the main stage, and maybe you are there not for the right reasons, you lose the hunger, your appetite. Now he has that back, that motivation: he wants to succeed and play and is happy to be at this level. He’s participating a lot, at Everton and today, in the collective game. The sharpness and technique to score, maybe we have to wait. But he’s still a great player.
“To finish top two in the group phase is an objective that is not lost: far from it. It is an objective we will fight for and one I believe very much we will achieve. I’m not in shock. I’m not happy with the result: instead of one step towards qualification we gave one step back but we have five matches to play and have to assume responsibility to finish in the top two. Normally you have to win the home matches and get a few points away.
“Now we have to get the six points at home (against Schalke and Steaua Bucharest) and to win points away from home. So probably we have to go to win at Basel to compensate for this defeat.”