Para quem tiver paciência… um bom artigo de um jornal onde aparecem gajos que sabem escrever.
Uma boa reflexão sobre algumas questões que por vezes discutimos, os mecenas russos, os treinadores, etc.
Mourinho’s success needs no luck, just great fortune
Wednesday December 28, 2005
In the world outside Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s championship evoked mixed reactions. Many neutrals felt it a fine and proper thing that they should take the Premiership exactly 50 years after Roy Bentley’s team captured the old First Division title for the only time in the club’s history. The sight of the captain of the 1955 side attending last season’s home matches renewed ties with the past at a club where a tendency to live for the moment has sometimes appeared to imperil the future.
On the other hand there was the business of whether Chelsea had simply bought the title. So brazen was their ambition, and so staggering the club’s resources, that emotions such as jealousy and resentment occasionally suppressed legitimate applause for a remarkable feat. Eventually even the president of Fifa was moved to join the chorus of disquiet, although Sepp Blatter is on unsafe ground when choosing to select one target for criticism when others, including the top clubs in Spain and Italy, have never been afraid to exploit their wealth in order to establish or consolidate their dominance.
When Roman Abramovich arrived in the summer of 2003, it was to the accompaniment of a fascinated buzz. Here was an oligarch prepared to use his billions to buy himself a toy shop. Eventually questions were asked about the provenance of his cash and reservations were expressed about such an essentially frivolous use of the wealth of the people of Siberia, whose shares in the state oil business Abramovich had so carefully bought up, having started with a massive holding acquired through one of Boris Yeltsin’s curious “auctions” of the natural assets of the former Soviet Union. His motives, too, became a subject for speculation: was his pleasure in the team’s success genuinely rooted in an enthusiasm for football, or were his appearances at Chelsea’s matches intended to give him the sort of public profile that might provide immunity from the direr consequences of a falling-out with Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin’s successor?
For the club’s supporters, however, such discussions were of less consequence than a realisation that the coming of the Russian had swept away not just the fear of imminent bankruptcy but decades’ worth of bitter memories surrounding the various wars between the Mears family, Marler Estates, Cabra Estates, Ken Bates, the late Matthew Harding and others. When Bates, having gratefully pocketed Abramovich’s cheque for around £17.5m, embroiled himself in a final outbreak of acrimony over his lack of a continuing role in the club’s affairs, it seemed like a symbolic cauterisation of the last remaining wound. The departure of Claudio Ranieri at the end of the 2003-04 season - in which the club finished second in the league, 11 points behind Arsenal - enabled the new era to begin.
How new it was became apparent in their first match of the 2004-05 league season, a meeting with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, August 15. Jose Mourinho, the new manager, sent out a starting XI containing only one of his own close-season signings, the Portuguese right-back Paulo Ferreira, alongside 10 of the men assembled by his predecessor. The way they played, however, spoke volumes about the difference in approach between the two eras.
Eidur Gudjohnsen scored the only goal after 15 minutes, putting the finishing touch to a swift raid with a flick that beat Tim Howard and evaded Roy Keane’s lunge on the goal line. Otherwise Chelsea ventured few attacks, focusing their attentions on frustrating their opponents. Alexei Smertin and Claude Makelele closed up the midfield, operating in tandem in the style of Maniche and Costinha with Mourinho’s European Cup-winning FC Porto side the previous season.
The tactics with which Porto had triumphed over Monaco in Gelsenkirchen were easy to see in Chelsea’s approach to the match. The minatory midfield line was sandwiched between a back four working the offside trap and a set of forwards willing to harry opposing defenders at every opportunity. Carefully drilled and ferocious in their adherence to the script, this lot were far removed from Ranieri’s band of improvisers. And, not for the last time in the new era, we saw the result justifying the means.
Sir Alex Ferguson left Stamford Bridge that evening knowing that a genuine third force had arrived in English football. Mourinho’s highly entertaining press conferences had given the impression of a man second to none in his estimation of his own talent, but even those who had seen Porto’s victory as a flash in the pan were soon to revise their opinion. This was a man who left nothing to chance.
He arrived in London accompanied by several Portuguese admirals, including Baltemar Brito, his assistant, and Rui Faria, who later achieved notoriety for his role in the unseemly fracas at the end of the victorious European Cup tie against Barcelona. Wisely, Mourinho retained the services of Steve Clarke, Ranieri’s assistant, who became a useful buffer whenever the manager did not feel like exposing himself to a post-match press conference.
Mourinho likes people to know that his team’s good results do not happen by accident, and his willingness to provide an insight - or at least a glimpse - into his modus operandi makes him seem even more impressive. Those who stayed behind after the 2004 European Cup final were astonished by the apparent frankness of his response to a general question about how he had prepared Porto for their victory. “Last Thursday we practised defensive organisation,” he said. “On Friday we practised attacking organisation. On Saturday we practised the transition from defence to attack. On Sunday we practised the transition from attack to defence. And on Monday we practised penalties.”
These words resonated throughout Chelsea’s first season under Mourinho. First, the emphasis on defence. The new Chelsea went eight league games without defeat from the start of the season, conceding only one goal (to Southampton’s James Beattie) in that time. Four of those results were 1-0 victories, which gave them a reputation for niggardly conservatism. But “transition” became the word of the season as the depth of Chelsea’s organisation on the field became apparent, undisturbed even by a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, the only reverse they would suffer in the league campaign.
At the end of October, the mood changed. Mourinho brought Arjen Robben, recently recovered from injury, into the first-team squad, and suddenly the Stakhanovite tendency was banished. Robben played only a few minutes of a 4-0 home win against Blackburn Rovers, in which Chelsea scored more than two goals in a league match for the first time under Mourinho, but his partnership with Damien Duff revitalised the team as they went on a spree that saw them score four goals in six of their next 11 games.
With Gudjohnsen or Didier Drogba at the point of the attack, Duff and Robben showed an ability to stay wide, to cut inside or to switch positions with an understanding that baffled opponents. With their back four still extremely reluctant to concede goals, Chelsea’s forwards were able to demonstrate the efficiency of Mourinho’s training-ground drills, in which the positioning of players at the opposition’s corners, free-kicks and goal-kicks became the potential springboard for attack. Their success persuaded a few opposition coaches, notably Sir Alex, to tinker with a “trident”, until a lack of success made it obvious to them and to the outside world that it was Mourinho’s organisational skills, not the formation alone, that made it work.
At the heart of Chelsea’s structure were two midfielders who had been brought to the club by Ranieri: very different in style and background but united in their fundamental footballing intelligence. Makelele had produced little during his first season in a Chelsea shirt to support the Real Madrid players who lamented his departure; now virtually everything Chelsea accomplished was starting with one of his short, shrewd passes. Frank Lampard, with the English game bred in his bones, had initially been overweight and self-indulgent but reformed himself so successfully that Mourinho was able to reap the reward of the sort of work ethic that is the stuff of a coach’s dreams.
What Mourinho was proving, as Chelsea eased away from their pursuers, was that £200m or more of Abramovich’s money was only of any use if the things it could buy were controlled by the right man. Given another season, might Ranieri have gone one better than the second place that was his parting gift to the club? The possibility cannot be ruled out. Under Mourinho, however, the march to the championship acquired an inexorable rhythm that continued into the present season.
Countless images and anecdotes emerged from Chelsea’s historic championship season. Brian Clough, that great iconoclast, anointed Mourinho as his successor not long before his death. John Terry, the club captain, played part of the season with a bone spur on his left foot, requiring pre-match injections to dull the pain. Chelsea had just taken the lead at Goodison Park in February when Mourinho sent on Jiri Jarosik, the substitute, who took to the pitch clutching a piece of paper upon which were inscribed a new set of tactical instructions for transmission to Tiago, the midfield player.
When Mourinho did make a mistake, or a dramatic gesture misfired, it was generally not in the league. At St James’ Park in the fifth round of the FA Cup, his team went behind to an early Patrick Kluivert goal and the coach reacted by sending on three substitutes at half-time; two minutes later Wayne Bridge was carried off and Chelsea went out of the competition with only eight fit players on the pitch. But no blame could be attached either to the coach or his players when, having dismissed Barcelona and Bayern Munich from the European Cup, they were unable to neutralise the fervour of Liverpool’s supporters over the two legs of the semi-final.
The championship was sealed at the Reebok Stadium on April 30, when Lampard - fittingly, given his contribution to the season as a whole - scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers. The celebrations, long and loud, were resumed a week later when the home fans swallowed their disappointment at the intervening failure in the European Cup to welcome their heroes home.
Although Abramovich celebrated by negotiating the sale of his 72% holding in the Sibneft oil company back to the Russian government for £7.4bn during the summer, the source of the wealth that fuelled the Chelsea renaissance remains a tricky subject. To offset such misgivings, his supporters could point to the sums Abramovich has invested, from his personal fortune, in the social infrastructure of the impoverished eastern state of Chukotka, which he continues to serve as governor.
Mourinho, too, has undertaken his share of good works: that first Premiership title broke the nine-year duopoly enjoyed by Manchester United and Arsenal, and next summer England as a whole may have cause to be grateful for the trust he placed in Lampard and Terry, and for the perception and diligence with which he helped Joe Cole to fulfil his early promise, enabling him to finish the season as an established performer for club and country. Whether the cheers will find an echo in Siberia is another matter.
The title by numbers
Number of goals scored by Chelsea’s leading marksman in the league last season, Frank Lampard. Eidur Gudjohnsen chipped in with 12 and Didier Drogba 10.
Total goals conceded by Chelsea over the campaign (a Premiership record) - 21 fewer than second-placed Arsenal and 11 less than the “invincible” Gunners’ let in the previous season.
Total number of league wins, another Premiership record. The Blues also finished with the highest ever points total (95), the best points average (2.5 per game) and the most clean sheets (25).
Most minutes Petr Cech went without conceding a league goal during the season (a Premiership record, of course).
Amount in pounds Jose Mourinho was fined by the Premier League for his part in the Ashley “Colegate” tapping-up saga. It was reduced from £200,000 on appeal.