Mourinho’s men fail to exploit opportunities
Pardew could hardly have wished for a better antidote to the defeat at Sunderland
Newcastle United’s Loic Remy (R) scores a goal against Chelsea during their English Premier League soccer match at St James’ Park
José Mourinho is blessed with the useful knack of making people want to please him. In situations where demands from other managers might be met by blank, surly stares, footballers are prepared to jump through metaphorical hoops of flame for Chelsea’s “Special One”.
Mourinho’s powers were much in evidence at Newcastle United on Saturday, the only problem being that they appeared to be exerting their customary spell on those wearing black and white rather than his own players.
There was the way Alan Pardew’s face lit up when the Portuguese hugged him long and hard at the final whistle and the sight of Davide Santon – a Mourinho favourite as a teenager at Internazionale – trying so desperately to impress his old mentor that his first-half performance fell apart.
After watching Santon once again pick the wrong pass as he sashayed past the technical area, Mourinho wandered over to Pardew, pointed to the Italy left-back he once dubbed “my Bambino”, smiled and seemed to say “it’s me”.
Newcastle’s manager did not demur. “José’s the man and it was hard for Davide playing in front of his old gaffer.”
“But it’s been my day today and the gentleman that José is means he’s honest enough to pat us on the back. You don’t always get that from top coaches and managers. I thank him for that.”
Had Frank Lampard and company responded to Mourinho’s instructions with similar enthusiasm then Chelsea would have extended their unbeaten run to 10 games, adding impetus to a burgeoning title challenge.
Instead their failure to exploit numerous opportunities to probe gaps left “between the lines” by Newcastle’s first-half tactic of standing off and allowing them the ball left Mourinho lamenting that his team-sheet contained “11 mistakes”.
He attempted to correct a couple by replacing Fernando Torres and Juan Mata after 62 minutes but this double switch arguably weakened Chelsea against a home side busy upping and, increasingly, controlling a suddenly intense tempo.
Admittedly Mourinho’s side rallied after Yoan Gouffran headed Yohan Cabaye’s ferociously whipped-in free kick past Petr Cech but Newcastle’s Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa especially were defending brilliantly and Chelsea came undone on the counter-attack by Loic Remy’s wonderful finish.
How bizarre it seemed that Pardew is persistently perceived as being “under pressure” from Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley. “It’s not about Alan, not about talent,” shrugged Mourinho. “It’s about modern football.”
His own relationship with Roman Abramovich may have been repaired but Chelsea’s owner will expect an improvement in Wednesday’s Champions League home game against Schalke.
“I’ll be making a lot of changes, for sure,” said Mourinho, who remained silent in the away dressing room after Saturday’s final whistle. “I told my players nothing,” said a man who has never won a Premier League game at St James’ Park. “I’m angry and frustrated with the team but I’m part of the team and I’ll look at myself as well.”
Pardew could hardly have wished for a better antidote to the defeat at Sunderland. Not that defeat would necessarily have placed his job in jeopardy. “We’ve been playing well this season, we’re trying to do the right things and I think Mike Ashley understands the fine lines between winning and losing,” he said. “We got the breaks today whereas at Sunderland we didn’t.”