Grading Jose Mourinho's Performance so Far This Season
However, in September, back-to-back losses—to Everton in the Premier League and Basel in the Champions League—sparked the usual over-reactions. Many people were questioning whether Mourinho would even last the season.
Since then it has been a mixed bag for Chelsea. With good results over teams such as Manchester City and Arsenal, but also poor showings against less-talented teams such as Newcastle and West Brom, evaluating Jose Mourinho's performance this season is a slightly complex task.
But that doesn't mean it cannot be done. Let's take a look at each of the competitions this season and assign a grade for Jose Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea so far.
The Premier League
Last Five Games: Win, Win, Win, Loss, Draw
Best Result: Man City (Win, 2-1)
Worst Result: Newcastle (Loss, 2-0)
This time last season, Chelsea had three more points than they do currently. However, the big difference this year is that the Premier League is a much more open competition. With many so many inconsistent teams, there are still a number of clubs who could win it. As it stands right now, Chelsea may have fewer points than at this time last year, but they are only four points off of EPL-leading Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho has given us a few prime examples of his tactical genius already this season. Most notably in the match against Manchester City, when his decision to bring on Willian, Jon Obi Mikel and eventually Eto'o, while leaving Fernando Torres on the field to utilize two strikers, led to an improved performance and a winning goal. This was not the only occasion that Mourinho's tactical nous altered the course of a Premier League game for the better. Another good example is in the win over Norwich City, when he brought on Eden Hazard for Ashley Cole and switched to three players at the back in order to achieve the victory.
It has not been perfect however, and Mourinho was the first to admit that mistakes were made against Newcastle. Although most of the blame fell on the players after that loss, it was worrying to see such a result abruptly end a good run of form. Chelsea had a similar problem in a surprise loss to Everton earlier in the season.
Last Four Games: Loss, Win, Win, Win
Best Result: Schalke (Away win, 3-0)
Worst Result: Basel (Home loss, 2-1)
Jose Mourinho's first Champions League campaign back in London could not have gotten off to a worse start. A surprise 2-1 loss at home to FC Basel had many people wondering if he would even get a chance to make amends. The manager took responsibility for the loss, and perhaps he was right to. He has often talked about the inexperience of the current Chelsea squad, and as such, it was surprising to see David Luiz and Gary Cahill start in central defence when the team would surely have benefited from the experience of captain John Terry.
However, Chelsea bounced back with three wins, three clean sheets and 10 goals to place themselves comfortably at the top of Group E. It may have been a disappointing start, but everything since then has been spot on.
Capital One Cup
Third Round: Swindon (Win, 2-0)
Fourth Round: Arsenal (Win, 2-0)
The League Cup was the first trophy that Jose Mourinho won with Chelsea back in 2004, so the competition will always hold a special place in the shared history of Mourinho and the club. As such, there is something of a tradition that, despite many other managers choosing to bleed youth players in League Cup matches, Mourinho presents it more as an opportunity for certain players to prove themselves.
In hindsight, the decision to start players such as Fernando Torres and Willian against Swindon now seems a stroke of genius. Not only did they achieve an easy victory, but it gave these players a chance to find their feet and stake a claim for themselves. Torres particularly benefited, as it gave him an opportunity to score his first domestic goal in what is shaping up to be a good season for the Spaniard.
Mourinho again used squad rotation effectively, helping the team achieve a win over Arsenal just two days after playing Manchester City in the League, and a week after Schalke in the Champions League. This excellent shuffling of the deck has earned Chelsea a place in the quarter-finals, where they will face Sunderland.
Despite a few slip-ups in the Premier League and one in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho has proved once again that he has the ability to keep players' heads in the right place, allowing them to bounce back from poor results.
Each time he has been faced with disappointing results, he has guided an admittedly young team back to winning ways.
Although his decisions have been head-scratching at times, they have almost always been justified. His seemingly curious decision to repeatedly leave former Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata on the bench has resulted in more complete team performances, and whether he takes credit or not, he has somehow brought about a return to form from Fernando Torres.
Mourinho is one man who is not afraid to make bold decisions, even when it means dropping prolific players such as Mata or the usually ever-present Ashley Cole.
Although Chelsea are not yet where they would like to be in the EPL table, they are still very much in the running whilst also finding themselves on the top of their Champions League group and three wins away from a trophy in the Capital One Cup.
Evidently there is still room for improvement, but once the FA Cup commences they will hope to still be competing on all four fronts and headed for a season that could be the best in their history. And if anyone can guide them there, it is Jose Mourinho.
Overall Grade: A-
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