Dove Magazine

José Mourinho finds no answer to Chelsea’s enduring puzzle at Newcastle

José Mourinho looked puzzled – he just didn’t know it. “What’s that?” he asked, “‘puzzled’?” It means confused, he was told. “Yeah, yeah,” he said.


José Mourinho seemed a reduced figure after Chelsea’s win at Walsall in the Capital One Cup. Photograph: Matthew Ashton /Ama/Getty Images

It was almost as baffling as the Chelsea performance, because Mourinho then tried to clarify. “About the game, no,” he said. “I could perfectly read the game and understand why we were so poor. It is easy to analyse the game and all the items that make a football game, that is completely clear for me. The reason why we did that, or didn’t do that – that’s the question mark. And I have to understand why.”

Confused? You’re not alone. There were almost 49,000 inside St James’ Park experiencing a mixture of excitement and bewilderment as both Newcastle United and Chelsea delivered displays that confounded expectation.

Newcastle, who had been vague, were certain; Chelsea, for so long certain, were vague. So underwhelming were the league champions that Mourinho gave their first half “minus one out of 10” and said he could have made “six” substitutions at the interval. He made none but that was not a sign of satisfaction. Far from it.

“I am concerned,” he said. “I do not understand it and I do not accept it. The reason I did not make substitutions at half-time was because I did not know which decisions to make. There were six players I could have taken off. I wanted to make six substitutions. That is how bad we were. I sat there trying to work out what was best for the team and had so many doubts. I decided to wait to see what happened in the second half.”

The second period was 15 minutes old when Georginio Wijnaldum put Newcastle 2-0 ahead with a free header from an Ayoze Pérez corner. Three minutes before half-time Pérez had shown smooth control and composure to strike a volley past Asmir Begovic to give Newcastle a lead their effort merited.

On both occasions there were Chelsea defenders around but each time there was a blue hesitancy that instantly prompted stares at John Terry sitting on the bench. “I make the decisions,” was Mourinho’s reply to the inevitable Terry question. Will Terry play on Tuesday? “I don’t know.”

Tuesday is a meeting with Porto in the Champions League. Mourinho returns to the club where he first achieved so much with his Chelsea side lying 15th in the Premier League. The here and now is so gripping that Porto were barely mentioned.

Chelsea have lost at Manchester City and Everton and at home to Crystal Palace. Now comes this, a scrambled draw against a Newcastle team just beaten by Watford and the Championship optimists Sheffield Wednesday.

A consolation was that City did not win at Tottenham and Mourinho noted that Chelsea finished the day as they started, “eight points from the top”. If this bothered him, he was disguising it but Gary Cahill was rather more up front about the state of the table.

“We have given up a lot of our lifelines now,” the central defender said. “We have given up too many opportunities and, if we’d have lost this game today, who knows? Man City lost so it was time for us to capitalise. You can’t play for only 45 minutes of the game.”

This was a Mourinho theme, too. “If we play like we did in the second half, we can win every match this season. If we play like we did in the first, we can lose every match.”

That was generous. Right up until the 79th minute, when the substitute Ramires pinged a 25-yard shot beyond Tim Krul, Chelsea were unconvincing. Then another substitute, Willian, bent in a free-kick that evaded everyone, including Krul.

The Newcastle goalkeeper then made a fine parry from Ramires but the old floodlight robbery line would have come out had Chelsea won. It would have been exceedingly harsh on the rejuvenated home team. While Chelsea lacked their manic talismanic striker, Diego Costa, Newcastle had theirs back. Aleksandar Mitrovic not only played well, acting as focal point and link; he stayed on the pitch.

“He gives us identity as well as physical presence,” Steve McClaren said of Mitrovic. “They were screaming he was so tired that I had to take him off. Yes he was tired but he was just a talisman for us out there.”

Mitrovic lasted 85 minutes, at which stage it was 2-1. Newcastle were coherent and fast on the break with him and can go to City on Saturday with some confidence restored after a battering week. Of Pérez, McClaren added: “I don’t see why he does not stay in the team. I think Mitro helped him but he is a good player and will score goals for us. He is tough. And he works hard. Sometimes you can have players like that but they do not work. We can’t have any of that here with the way we are.”

McClaren added: “Before the international break, Arsenal here, the spirit was good. The last 10 days it’s been like world war three.” He looked and sounded perplexed. He was not alone. – the guardian-

Man of the match Ayoze Pérez (Newcastle United)


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