Another fascinating Friday press conference performance by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho who admitted that he could not say if the Premier League champions had finally turned the corner after a disastrous start to their season.
Chelsea won just four of their first 11 games in all competitions. But they head to West Ham tomorrow after steadying the chip with a league win over Aston Villa and Champions League draw against Dynamo Kiev.
Back-to-back clean sheets in both games have also given Mourinho hope and helped lift some of the gloom.
But the Chelsea manager is not ready to say that the Blues slump is over saying:
“I don’t know (if the bad start is behind them). I just know that the team was always together. The players were always together. The players who were man enough to assume responsibilities and to say even publicly, some of them, that they were feeling responsibilities in their individual poor start.
“Statistics are very clear for us. As an example, we conceded six goals as a consequence of isolated individual mistakes, but the team were always together. At this moment we have two important results, three points in the Premier League after two matches without a victory. And against a direct rival in qualification in the Champions League, we got a point away.
“The group was always solid, compact and together, but the mood improves with results. People are happy. It’s important. Not just the clean sheets, but the way the team played to keep the clean sheets. It was not an occasional clean sheet, a clean sheet based on a super goalkeeping performance. Both were based on good teamwork.”
Mourinho is adamant he has seen signs of improvement, and singled out Nemanja Matic for praise for the way he responded to be left out of the starting line-up. The manager said:
“(There has been an improvement) In the team performance and the result. The victory against Aston Villa was a good result, the draw in Dyamo was a good result.
“Matic went from being on the bench against Aston Villa, played the second half positively, to being the man of the match three days later. So just one example. Other players also improved in their performances. A bit better.”
And he added:
“Kiev was a difficult match for us. We want to win, but we couldn’t lose. For about an hour the team played really well. In the end a bit of frustration that we didn’t win, but a good feeling there was an improvement.”
Curiously Mourinho would not confirm that Player of the Year Eden Hazard will start against West Ham on Saturday in the London derby. Mou dropped Hazard against Aston Villa last weekend because he was not helping the team out defensively, although he did start against Kiev in midweek. Still Mourinho refused to indicate whether the Belgian would start against West Ham on Saturday.
“He played the last game and played for 90 minutes and was part of the compact team that kept that clean sheet. I don’t know (if he will play on Saturday).”
Some players you can play mind games with to motivate them, but Hazard by all accounts is not one of those players. He has the potential to become one of the best players in the world, and if Mourinho is not careful he will run hazrd right into the waiting arms of Real Madrid.