The biggest fool of the Premier League weekend was undoubtedly Jose Mourinho, whose Chelsea side fell to a 3-1 defeat at Everton courtesy of a perfect Steven Naismith hat-trick. With only one win and three defeats from their opening five matches, Chelsea – last season’s Premier League champions – lie with 4 points in 17th place, one spot above the relegation zone.
Chelsea’s poor form, and the match being televised on BT Sport as Saturday’s early kick-off, weren’t the only reasons for the added emphasis placed on the result. One of the transfer sagas of the summer saw Chelsea engage in an ill-mannered pursuit of Everton defender John Stones.
In July, Mourinho confirmed that Chelsea had bid for the centre-back, stating ‘We made a bid because we like the player, we don’t make bids for players we don’t like. But I respect Everton. It’s up to them – everything is in their hands’. Everton manager Roberto Martinez in turn expressed his distaste over what he perceived as a concerted attempt to unsettle Stones, responding ‘There is the disappointment of a club making a statement to the press and making it openly’.
Stones was the subsequently the subject of a series of bids from Chelsea, which rose as high as £30 million, while the player reportedly handed in a transfer request prior to the close of the transfer window. Both the bids and the transfer request were refused by Everton, who ultimately held on to the twenty-one-year-old who has already become a lynchpin of their defence. Martinez, describing Stones as ‘vital’ to the future of Everton, suggested ‘in life and in football money can sometimes not buy everything’.
Reading between the lines, it seems that Everton didn’t reject Chelsea’s interest out of hand, and would have been willing to sell Stones for the right price. This doesn’t excuse Chelsea’s coy efforts to lure the player, which succeeded in so far as Stones was compelled to hand in a transfer request. Whatever, in the build-up to Saturday’s game, Martinez assured that his previously amicable relationship with Mourinho would not be affected in the long term by the dispute.
This resolution appears to have faltered given the extent of Everton’s victory. After the match, as Martinez spoke to the gathered media, Mourinho interrupted, demanding ‘Roberto, next time tell me to go before you because we have to travel’. Martinez replied, ‘I didn’t control that, Jose. I didn’t control that’, and Mourinho exclaimed ‘Fucking hell’ before departing the scene.
A sore loser then, here and in other exchanges with the press: he apparently walked out on an interview with BT Sport’s Ray Stubbs when questioned about Stones. Martinez meanwhile informed journalists, ‘When he beat us 6-3 last season he was such a nice man. I prefer him like that’. But equally as foolish from Mourinho was the mealy-mouthed interview he gave in front of the national cameras on BBC’s Match of the Day. There, he claimed:
‘Today the game was completely under control and every mistake we made we were punished. Every shot is a goal, every mistake is a goal. The moment is so negative that everything goes against us. At the tactical meeting we had this morning, even the computer broke.’
While football fans have revelled in Mourinho’s recent misfortunes – anyone not a Chelsea supporter who doesn’t take delight in their defeats seems to have utterly failed to comprehend the modern nature of the game – we are never allowed to enjoy things unfettered. Mourinho frequently brings the game into disrepute with his tired incitements, but he is an impressively hard worker – who learnt Italian in a matter of weeks prior to assuming his role at Inter Milan – and much smarter than the British press.
They have pandered to his every utterance for so many years, enraptured by his personality, and because his haughty or teasing words make for easy copy. And now that he is suffering a slight depression, they are proving just as quick to bait him – and their readers – with insults.
Chelsea play Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Facing the press today, Mourinho was forced to endure Ben Smith of BBC Sport, who belaboured him with questions about ‘third-season syndrome’. Another journalist asked if he still possessed the qualities of a great manager; while a third wondered aloud whether Mourinho’s new haircut had been impelled by hair-loss owing to stress.
It is true that Mourinho remains the subject of criticism for his treatment of team doctor Eva Carneiro and physiotherapist Jon Fearn, who he condemned for running onto the pitch last month as Chelsea strained towards a 2-2 draw with Swansea. Carneiro is yet to return to work. More concerning for Mourinho will be the absolute loss of form suffered most of all by Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, and Branislav Ivanovic.
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Aston Villa are another side struggling with 4 points towards the bottom of the Premier League. On Sunday, despite taking a two-goal lead away to Leicester with efforts from Jack Grealish and Carles Gil, three goals in the last twenty minutes condemned them to a 3-2 defeat. Inspired by Riyad Mahrez, who had a hand in all three goals, Leicester’s scorers were Ritchie de Laet, Jamie Vardy, and finally Nathan Dyer, who completed the comeback just a minute from time.
Villa manager Tim Sherwood met the result with total dejection, pouting, droopy-eyed, sighing, and looking off to the side as he was interviewed for Match of the Day. ‘I ain’t never felt this bad ever’, he barely managed to get out, followed by ‘Who cares if we played well? We lost […] I’m gutted for everyone who’s associated with the club. We have to stop letting in soft goals’.
While some praised this as evidence of Sherwood’s ‘passion’, it certainly seems a little over the top, if not a brazen instance of managerial posturing. While Sherwood wins pity for appearing so forlorn, Villa fans would surely prefer a more sober analysis, and some constructive work shipping goals since the final two months of last season.
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In the only goalless fixture of the weekend, West Brom held Southampton to a 0-0 draw at the Hawthorns. The match saw the return to action for West Brom of Saido Berahino, a transfer target for Tottenham, who tweeted ambiguously following West Brom’s failure to accede to a deal by the end of the window: ‘Sad how i cant say exactly how the club has treated me but i can officially say i will never play Jeremy Peace’
Was the implication that Berahino would never play for West Brom again, or that West Brom owner Jeremy Peace had proven more than his intellectual match? Most assumed the former, but either way, Berahino came on as a substitute after 55 minutes and received a warm reception from the West Brom fans.
The most exciting moment out on the pitch came in the first half, when West Brom winger Callum McManaman went down in the penalty area as he looked to burst past Southampton full-back Matt Targett. After the match, West Brom manager Tony Pulis argued that his player had dived:
‘I’ve looked at it and I think Callum’s feet actually go up from under him and I don’t think the player has touched him. I’ll be having a chat with Callum on Monday. I don’t like to see that. The referee and the linesman made a fantastic decision and they deserve a lot of credit for it.’
While this admission from Pulis – who seems thoroughly decent – might appear admirable, in fact one could rarely hope to witness a more blatant penalty kick. Though McManaman went down over Targett’s challenge, the defender got none of the ball, his tackle was wild, and he clearly impeded the winger, who simply evaded the legitimate risk of injury. There is surely no obligation for an attacker who has beaten his man to take the full force of a foul. Even on the harshest interpretation of McManaman’s tumble, Targett was guilty of obstruction.