Things had started so well for Chelsea FC that the English football media were ready to hand the title to the London club just a couple of months into the 2014-15 season. Newspapers and websites were awash with predictions of an “invincible” season and an unprecedented quadruple.
Matters have gone slightly awry since those heady autumn days but Jose Mourinho’s side are still well-placed for a tilt at silverware this season—if they can avoid the unwanted distraction of off-pitch influences and bitter wars of words.
Jose Mourinho has been relatively quiet of late. On 28th December, Cesc Fabregas was booked for diving in the match against Southampton at St. Mary’s. The Chelsea manager raged at the standard of refereeing and an alleged “campaign” against his side. He was hit with a charge for misconduct for his views:
“Of course. That’s a campaign, that’s a clear campaign. People, pundits, commentators, coaches from other teams – they react with Chelsea in a way they don’t react to other teams. They put lots of pressure on the referee and the referee makes a mistake like this. We lose two points, Fabregas earns a yellow card.”
Since that date, Mourinho has played a more subdued role in front of the press. That is, until his recent wide-ranging TV interview with Sky Sports in which he clearly wanted to get his point across regarding Ashley Barnes’ x-rated tackle on Nemanja Matic in the English Premier League fixture between Chelsea and Burnley.
“This could be end of career. Because I can’t find another adjective stronger, I just say this is end of career. Matic is a lucky guy.”
Controversy also surrounded the Stamford Bridge club due to an unsavoury incident involving travelling supporters on the Paris Metro, where a small number of fans who were caught on video singing racist songs and were seen preventing a black man from boarding the train.
The incident only involved a few supporters and certainly cannot be seen as representative of the club as a whole—however, it is another negative and unwanted distraction off the pitch. Much work is being done to identify and punish those involved.
In a club statement, Chelsea naturally condemned the behaviour:
“Such behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football or society. We will support any criminal action against those involved, and should evidence point to involvement of Chelsea season-ticket holders or members the club will take the strongest possible action against them, including banning orders.”
This season ought to be one of excitement and optimism. Jose Mourinho has managed to create an exciting blend of creativity mixed with his usual stubborn power, making Chelsea match tickets sought after commodities. However, bitter rows, misconduct charges—and worse— threaten to overshadow the good work being done.
Like a goalkeeper preparing himself for an opposition corner kick, now is not the time for Chelsea to take their eye off the ball.