Jose Mourinho is on everyone’s shitlist this week and with no small amount of justification. He was wrong to throw his medical team under a bus last week for following the instructions of the referee and he was wrong to insist that Manchester City’s 3-0 rout was, “a fake result.” But there was a reminder on Sunday that, behind the bluster and the bobbins, he’s still one of the finest and ballsiest tacticians in the game.
City were all over Chelsea in the first half, galloping through their lines at will. With Nemanja Matic off form, with Raheem Sterling and David Silva dragging people out of position, with Gary Cahill looking distinctly uncomfortable, it’s not unrealistic to suggest that City could have been three or four goals to the good by half-time. One thing was clear; there was no way that Chelsea could continue to sit deep and expect anything different after the break.
Everything that Mourinho does is interpreted as some kind of shadowy maskirovka, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Was the removal of John Terry really a coded message to Roman Abramovich or was it, perhaps, just a shrewd tactical change?
If Chelsea wanted to stop City running through them, they had to remove the space and push their back line up. If they were going to push their back line up, they needed quick defenders to guard against a big ball over the top. Of their three centre-backs, Terry is the slowest and the least capable on the turn. Strip away the personalities for a moment and withdrawing Terry is just a rational, pragmatic solution to an obvious problem. But few managers would be bold enough to make that switch.
Mourinho was wrong about the veracity of the result, but his point about Chelsea’s dominance in the second half was well made. City were pegged back and the visitors began to cause problems. Thanks to Vincent Kompany and a much improved Eliaquim Mangala, clear cut Chelsea chances were few and far between, but there’s no question that Mourinho’s tactical change brought a clear improvement and could, potentially, have rescued the game.
While the English champions struggled against northern opposition this weekend, the German champions ran riot. Bayern Munich put five past Hamburg on Friday night with new signing Douglas Costa looking particularly sprightly. Hamburg actually started well, even if Bayern’s half was something of an undiscovered country for them. They held their lines and held their nerve, defending deep and trying to block up all available space. It worked for nearly half an hour and then they went to sleep at a set-piece and everything went wrong. Still, it’s not all bad. Hamburg had conceded 31 goals in their last six trips to the Allianz Arena, so this 5-0 defeat actually constitutes an above average performance.
Another avalanche of goals came on Saturday when Thomas Tuchel kicked off the post-Klopp era at Borussia Dortmund with a thumping 4-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach. This was a performance from the greatest hits album, a devastating assault on a team with realistic ambitions of a top four finish. Quick passing, clever movement, selfless build-up and clinical finishing. The sad decline of Dortmund under Klopp last season felt like a distant memory. Not that Tuchel is having any of that. “We must not let this performance be transformed into criticism of Jurgen Klopp. That’s not on and I don’t want that,” he said. “All we are doing is building on the foundations which Jurgen laid here.”
We don’t plan to target muggles here, but we’ll make an exception for the fraction of a man that is Rupert Patterson-Ward. The alleged ex-boyfriend of Dr Eva Carneiro weighed in on the interminable Chelsea medical saga on Sunday, announcing to a tabloid that she had once mentioned a sexual encounter with a footballer, but had only said it when she was angry and, you know what? He didn’t really believe her anyway. Thanks for that, Rupes. Good input. He also went on to declare that Carneiro really liked having sex. Gosh, she sounds like a monster. This revelation, allied to the much published picture of Carneiro drinking wine like some kind of hellbound deviant, is an absolute game changer. No wonder she’s been demoted. You can’t have someone in the Chelsea dressing room who drinks alcohol and likes sex, for heaven’s sake. She’ll never fit in.