THERE’S METHOD BEHIND MOURINHO’S MADNESS
“The media, commentators, other managers are all doing it… There is a campaign against Chelsea. I don’t know why there is this campaign and I do not care. Everybody knows it was a penalty. The referee [Anthony Taylor] made a mistake, people make mistakes and he made a big mistake. He is a good referee and a good guy, he is young, he has years and years of football ahead of him but it is a big mistake.”
And, just like that, Jose Mourinho has created exactly what he wanted as we enter the second half of the season: a siege mentality at Chelsea.
[ RELATED: Mourinho rages, claims “campaign” against Chelsea ]
I was in that heated press conference following Chelsea’s pulsating 1-1 draw at Southampton, where Mourinho claimed that the no-call for the penalty was “clearly the result of something that looks like a campaign” against his side who have now had four bookings for simulation this season.
[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Chelsea, Saints ]
The incident in question occurred in the 56th minute when Cesc Fabregas got the ball just inside the right side of the penalty box and pushed it clear of teenage defender Matt Targett. The Spaniard went down after being clipped by Targett, who seemed to slip, but instead of awarding Chelsea a penalty kick which could have put them 2-1 up, referee Anthony Taylor booked Fabregas for simulation. The Spanish midfielder was incensed as he waved his arms in the air repeatedly and was jeered for the rest of the match by the home supporters.
Fabregas believed there was contact as the Spaniard said: “There was definitely contact, the referee didn’t have the best game of his life and I don’t think he will sleep that well tonight, he had an awful game.”
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
Mourinho also took exception to the huge amount of people taking shots at Chelsea as he lashed out at West Ham manager Sam Allardyce who claimed that Branislav Ivanovic went looking for a penalty in their Boxing Day game. “Match after match coaches are telling Chelsea players are diving,” Mourinho added. “I will go to the referee and wish him a good year and tell him he will be ashamed.”
What all of this does is rally the players together, create a togetherness and deflect from what was a disjointed and fairly lackluster offensive performance. Sure, Chelsea dominated possession in the second half but they only had one shot on target the entire game and they scored from it. Eden Hazard was magnificent, more on that here, but the Blues were a little off-color to end 2014.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
Mourinho’s rant at the end of the match has acted to both confuse, befuddle and annoy the vast majority of the Premier League. Which, as we should know by now, is exactly what he wanted. At the halfway point Chelsea lead Manchester City by three points at the top of the table, as their leader is readying his troops for a monumental effort where they must stick together in the second half of the campaign. Having that “us against them” mentality has taken the pressure off his players and put it squarely on the ‘Special One’s’ shoulders. That’s how he likes it.
PARDEW MAY BE PERFECT FOR PALACE
If you do a Google image search of Alan Pardew, you will soon stumble across a fresh looking young man with blonde hair and shorts that are wayyyy too short. Pardew played for Crystal Palace as a journeyman midfielder back in the 1980s and 90s, and the south Londoner could be heading back to Palace as the Eagles search for a new manager. Following Newcastle’s 3-2 win over Everton on Sunday, Pardew did not answer questions about rumors linking him to the vacant position at Palace because he did not turn up for the press conference. That stirred the rumor mill into overdrive.
[ RELATED: Pardew to Palace rumor heats up ]
Pardew’s family reside in London, he has a strong connection with the club and his time in charge of Newcastle has been nothing short of tumultuous. From fifth placed finises and Europa League action to relegation battles, angry fans and losing streaks, Pardew is the second-longest serving manager in the PL right now. But that could all change as Palace sit one place and one point above the relegation zone after firing Neil Warnock on December 27 following their 3-1 defeat to Southampton. The first managerial casualty of the PL season was coming. And, in fairness, it was an extremely strange and rushed appointment from the start. Warnock managed to undo most of the good work done by Tony Pulis who steered Palace away from relegation miraculously last season but then left the on the eve of this season after falling out with the clubs owners among other things.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Palace need Pardew, and that could be what Pardew needs. A return to the club where you once flourished as a player doesn’t always work out, but it could be worth a shot. Pardew famously signed an eight-year contract at Newcastle in 2011 but if he wants to leave then the Eagles will have to pay hefty compensation to Newcastle. Having seen his work first hand on the training ground, Pardew is meticulous and ruthless in making sure his teams are tough to beat. At Palace, he would have the perfect group of players for his playing philosophy. Unlike Pulis, he also fosters a more attack-minded philosophy. In theory, Pardew could be perfect for Palace.
Suddenly the manager Newcastle’s fans wanted out for most of the season, but now applaud for turning things around, is a wanted man. A few months is a long time in soccer. What will Pardew do? Will he leave a club with a huge fanbase and expectations of challenging for the top six for a newly-promoted side who are battling to stay up? Surely not… but stranger things have happened.
CITY SHAKY, LEICESTER HAVE HOPE, SAINTS HAPPY
As they went out for the second half of their clash with Burnley on Sunday, Manchester City knew that Chelsea had dropped two points away at Southampton earlier in the day. But instead of spurring the Citizens on to finish off their opponents and finish 2014 just one point and place behind leaders Chelsea, City imploded as they took their foot off the pedal way too much. Burnley scored twice in the second half to grab a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium, as the team with the lowest payroll in the PL humbled one of the world’s richest clubs. After the game, City’s boss Manuel Pellegrini was annoyed his side switched off and accused them of complacency.
“Until the last whistle the game is never finished,” Pellegrini said. “Maybe winning 2-0 we thought the game was over.”
Following nine-straight wins in all competitions, Burnley gave the reigning champions a rude wake-up call. With no fit strikers and Pellegrini playing a false nine formation, the likes of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko can’t return soon enough. Will City spend big in the January transfer window (if UEFA allows it under the Financial Fair Play rules) on a new striker?
[ RELATED: Premier League schedule ]
100 days ago, Leicester City hammered Manchester United 5-3 in an incredible comeback. It took them another 99 days to grab their next victory in the PL and, boy, did the Foxes need it. On Sunday they beat Hull 1-0 away from home in a battling display as they are now just three points from climbing out of the relegation zone. In the past few weeks Leicester have been in danger of being cut adrift from the pack at the bottom of the table with six-straight defeats but this victory was much deserved, especially after plenty of bad luck against Tottenham last time out. Hope for the Foxes as the head into 2015.
[ RELATED: Premier League stats ]
One of the stories of 2014 has been Southampton, as the Saints have recorded their best-ever PL finish of eighth last season, rebuilt most of their team and bounced back from losing their manager to sit in fourth place as we head into 2015. After their 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea on Sunday, I asked Southampton’s manager Ronald Koeman about his assessment of the first half of this season, his first in English soccer.
“I think we can be very happy with the position that we have in the table,” Koeman smiled. “I think we play good football. The fans love it, how we play, and we have great support from our fans. We had a difficult time for a few weeks but the spirit is back, the confidence is back and of course teams like Manchester City and Chelsea today, it is so difficult to play against them. You can’t make any mistakes and that is difficult. And even when you don’t make mistakes they can punish you, because those kind of players and those of qualities it is very difficult. But halfway through the season, we learn from the mistakes we made in the post. If we keep going like this we can fight for a high position in the table.”
It has been a mixed Christmas period for the Americans Abroad, as Geoff Cameron bagged two wins with Stoke but Tim Howard got injured and Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa failed to score and recorded just one point. Cameron’s versatility helped him out as the USMNT star was shifted from center midfield to right back as Stoke’s Phil Bardsley went down with an injury.
[ RELATED: Cameron’s latest for PST ]
Wins at Everton and at home to West Brom has seen the Potters climb to 11th spot in the table and are just six points off the top six. In Stoke’s win over Everton, Cameron’s international teammate suffered an injury as Tim Howard hobbled off a half time after pulling his calf muscle. The USMNT star is due to be out for a few weeks, as Everton have lost three of their last four and losing Howard to injury will not help Roberto Martinez’s men.
CHEERS TO 2014! HERE’S MY TOP 5 MOMENTS…
It has been an incredible 2014 in the Premier League so we thought that before the clock strikes midnight on December 31 it would be a good idea to look back at the top moments. Here’s my top five. Happy New Year to you all!
Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.