Jose Mourinho says Chelsea’s style change to blame for defeats

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There is never a dull moment when Jose Mourinho is around… but right now, there are a few too many defeats.

Following their second loss in a week, the Portuguese manager blamed Chelsea’s recent poor form on their bad style of play that has been developed over the previous years,

Mourinho claims he is trying to change the way they play, to a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing manner.

“I don’t like the way Chelsea were playing in the last couple of years,” Mourinho said. “The club doesn’t like it and we want to change. When you want to build something different and the players are adapted and comfortable – it’s more difficult.”

Tomorrow’s West London Derby against Fulham, (12:30pm ET, watch live on NBCSN or online via NBC Sports Live Extra) presents the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to get back to winning ways after a rough seven days. But will the ‘Special One’ play it safe against the Blues’ neighbors?

Of course not.

“If someone expects me to play against Fulham tomorrow with nine players behind the ball and wait for them to make a mistake and win 1-0, then I will not go home happy,” Mourinho said. “We have a lot to do. The work I have to do does not sell papers – big defeats and big victories do – but the only thing I can do is to have belief in my players and wait for the results to come.”

(MORE: Preview – Chelsea vs. Fulham)

But despite being under heavy criticism from some portions of the press, the man Chelsea fans adore knows only too well just how fickle the game can be.

“Tomorrow maybe we win 3-0 against Fulham and everything is perfect,” Mourinho said. “Or maybe I will lose for the first time at home at Chelsea in four years and 200 league matches, and it is a big story. Football is not mathematic. I don’t know.”

Yet, it seems like Mourinho believes that previous managers have only been worried about grinding out wins with the West London club, instead of developing and nurturing free-flowing attacking soccer that will please the masses. True. There’s no denying that under the last few managers a defensive and rather dull style of play has emanated from the boys in blue.

(MORE: Basel pull of first Champions League upset, beat Chelsea)

However, can you blame Messrs Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez? All three were under huge amounts of pressure to succeed straight away. AVB had no success after less than six months on the job, but his predecessor Di Matteo somehow won the UEFA Champions League through a spirited mishmash of veteran determination, staunch defensive displays and lady luck. And then, following Di Matteo’s crazy dismissal, Rafael Benitez was yet another interim boss given the reigns. He had no time to work on a new style of play at Chelsea, and instead carried on with the status quo.

source: AP
Chelsea are failing to click into an attacking rhythm, as Mourinho tries to usher in a new style of play.

After all those short-term appointments and the various different players brought in, Mourinho is now left to pick up the pieces. I’m not saying he hasn’t inherited a squad that doesn’t possess world class players, because he has. But they are players who have been pulled one way, then the other, in terms of their tactical approach to play the game, after having so many coaches and ideas thrown at them over the past two seasons.

Now, Mourinho has a long-term project, a mantra to get Chelsea back to playing attacking soccer that will excite and delight the fans and make them one of Europe’s greatest teams. And despite Roman Abramovich’s ruthless style of ownership that has seen Mourinho himself fired in the past and many others after him, the Russian billionaire should give the ‘Special One’ time to develop a special brand of soccer at Chelsea.

This won’t be easy. There will be speed bumps along the way — just like Everton last weekend and Basel midweek — but if Mourinho is given time to work with these top players on the training ground over an extended period of time, there’s no doubt that one of the greatest coaches European soccer has ever seen will get it right.

It takes time to create a thing of beauty. Get off Mourinho’s back and let his ‘young eggs’ flourish.

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.