Chelsea crisis: Jose Mourinho could be gone after Saturday's trip to Stoke, win or lose
It is no longer a question of if Jose Mourinho leaves the fallen Premier League champions, but when. This is a manager who doesn't know how to win a relegation scrap but is suddenly facing one after Saturday's 3-1 loss to Liverpool, writes resident Chelsea expert Dan Levene.
It's all over for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, bar the shouting.
The extraordinary scenes that followed Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool – the refusal to grant TV interviewers with any answer other than 'I have nothing to say', the dysfunctional press conference where he insisted he wanted to listen not talk, and the 15-minute on-pitch coaching team debrief – seem to suggest he knows it.
Followed-up on Sunday by BBC journalist Garry Richardson's impeccably sourced assertion that he knows of a Chelsea first team player who would 'rather lose than win for Mourinho', this appears to be the dying embers of a short-lived empire at Chelsea.
I hear he could have gone on Sunday – but, like previous sackings, Chelsea are choosing their moment. They want an opportunity that minimises the damage caused to the club. That means balancing the risk that a Mourinho side increasingly riven with divisions continues to lose games, with a moment to give his replacement the longest possible run-up at a debut match.
Sense says, discounting a complete disaster against Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, that the axe will fall after Stoke on Saturday evening.
Chelsea’s Premier League fixture against Liverpool on Saturday was more than just a match - it was a referendum on Jose Mourinho’s reign.AFP
What's gone wrong for Jose's second coming? And how has it all happened so quickly?
Some will blame the players – and there may yet be repercussions for the one whose statement of disloyalty to Mourinho so incensed fans this weekend. The identity of that individual remains, as it probably always will do, officially unknown. But the fact a personal back of an envelope shortlist revealed five possible suspects shows the issues Mourinho has steered himself into with his dressing room.
He has built an empire fuelled by continual conflict – which is fine just so long as the conflict is external. But this year has seen him pick fights with all sorts of people: from the FA (over and over again) and opposition managers, to his own staff (Eva Carneiro), the fans, and most damagingly the players.
These millionaires possess brittle egos, and the increasing readiness to criticise them in public, or to drop them – though pretty usual consequences in football of poor performances – have resulted in an us-and-him mentality in some corners of the dressing room. Chelsea's players have had it their own way with a great many mangers.
Mourinho, completely inexperienced in turning around a failing team, has stuck to his methods – for they are all he has. And, in his grumpy, stubborn, bull-in-a-china-shop way, he has ended up looking a lot less attractive than we all remember him to be. In fact, a lot more AVB.
Chelsea's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (3rd R) watches as Liverpool equalizeAFP
Such emotional baggage has been invested in the belief that this man was the panacea. At times, that belief has felt almost religious. And certainly defying logic or evidence.
There will be recriminations – players blamed, the board booed, other fans not deemed to be loyal enough to The Special One. It won't be pleasant. But, and I'll whisper this because I know it will attract just that sort of opprobrium, we all really know the primary reason we have ended up here: it is because Mourinho has all too often taken the wrong decisions in recent months at Chelsea.
He will be greatly missed: by the fans, by (some of) the players, and by the media – who fans often insist are out to get him. When things are going well, he is a dream to work with: and it is a tragedy it has come to this. But, regardless of the man's proven talents, Chelsea have something on their hands they've never faced in the Premier League era: a potential relegation scrap.
And most, in their heart of hearts will know, that is simply something Mourinho is not in any way suited to tackle.
Dan Levene @danlevene