Jose Mourinho confident he can win the title again
Manager unimpressed by quality of sides that have won the league in recent years
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference yesterday ahead of their opening league match of the season against Hull City tomorrow. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Jose Mourinho returns to the Premier League this weekend convinced Chelsea can regain the championship and stamp authority on a title race that, in his opinion, has lacked an outstanding team over the last few seasons.
The Portuguese welcomes newly promoted Hull City to Stamford Bridge tomorrow as he oversees his first home league game in charge of the Londoners since the goalless draw with Blackburn in September 2007, a result followed four days later by his dismissal. While Chelsea had broken the duopoly enjoyed by Manchester United and Arsenal under his stewardship first time round, Mourinho can see up to six clubs challenging for the title this season with the elite apparently devoid of a team who “can destroy the competition”.
Indeed, the returning manager admitted he had been unimpressed over the last few years by the quality of the sides to have claimed the title he twice hoisted with Chelsea in that first period at the club. “The league is probably stronger because more teams can fight for the trophy, but a few years ago the better teams were better,” he said.
“You think Manchester United won the Premier League last year because they were an unbelievable team? I don’t think so. The other contenders didn’t have a very good season. It was the same the year before when City won the title. Were they an extraordinary team? I don’t think so. Others made so many mistakes that City eventually won the competition.
“In previous years you’ve had a fantastic Arsenal who were champions without a single defeat (in 2004). You had a Chelsea with a points record in the Premier League (of 95 in 2005). You had a United side who won the title after our two wins and had an unbelievable season (in 2007). I think the champions, in other seasons, were magnificent. And especially in the last two seasons, I’ve felt they weren’t.
“The champions were champions as a consequence of many things, not because they were phenomenal. For example, last year in the first period of the competition, United won matches and the other teams were losing incredible points.”
Chelsea have struggled to maintain their own challenge in the last two years, finishing nine, 25 and 14 points respectively from the top since Carlo Ancelotti’s side last claimed the trophy in 2010.
Their side still bears the appearance of one in transition, with younger players being integrated into the set-up and the pursuit of an elite forward – acceptance is sinking in that he may not now be Wayne Rooney – on-going ahead of the closure of the transfer window next month. Mourinho will take his squad to Stamford Bridge to train today to grant his new players, among them Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel but also the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, an opportunity to adjust to new surroundings, with the manager confident his team can claim the title.
“When I hear Arsene Wenger, who has been here for more years than me, speak of six candidates to win it, I agree with him,” said Mourinho. “We don’t see somebody who can destroy the competition with 95 or 100 points and win the title. That’s good for the competition. But yes, we can win it. We start with zero points, we go match by match, we have a good squad: some with talent who aren’t end products; some kids who haven’t played a Premier League match yet. But I want to think ‘yes’, that this team step by step will be better, make fewer mistakes, will be more solid.”
That contrasts sharply with his bold pledge, upon arriving in England back in 2004, that his first Chelsea team would win a first title in half a century that season, a prophecy that duly came to pass.
“But my squad were end products at that time,” he said. “We were the kind of team that, with tactical work, some group work and especially (developing a) mentality because they didn’t have a winning culture, the side was in condition to win it immediately. We can this season. Of course we can.”