“JT. Captain. Leader. Legend,” reads a huge banner placed in the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge for every one of Chelsea’s home games.
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But should they add “Jose Mourinho’s latest scapegoat” to the end of the banner? True, that would probably be a little wordy, but the notion may be correct.
Following Chelsea’s humbling 3-0 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, Jose Mourinho took of his captain at half time with the Blues trailing 1-0 but all over the place at the back as three fine stops from Asmir Begovic stopped Sergio Aguero from scoring four.
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In the post-game press conference, Mourinho became annoyed when journalists questioned his decision to hook off Terry and seemingly make the experienced center back the scapegoat for the damaging defeat. Mourinho said “it was not about taking Terry out, it was about bringing Zouma in” and “it was clear for him to play Zouma.” His claims that he needed his fastest defender on the pitch to step up Chelsea’s defensive line did little to quell the feeling he wanted to make a statement by taking Terry off and asked why he didn’t replace a shaky Gary Cahill with Zouma rather than the man who has captained Chelsea to four PL titles, Mourinho only said: “good point.”
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It was to everybody’s surprise when Chelsea emerged for the second half without their captain in the lineup. Rumors of a slight hamstring pull lingered in the air in the press box. It was in fact a tactical switch and it was also the first time in 176 games that Mourinho had subbed out Terry, who played every single second of last season’s title-winning season. As Chelsea’s inspirational captain sat on the bench and watched his team implode defensively late on, you couldn’t help but feel that Mourinho was making the 34-year-old somewhat of a scapegoat.
Since returning to Chelsea for a second-spell in charge, Mourinho has resurrected Terry’s career when it seemed to be all but over during Rafael Benitez’s tenure at Stamford Bridge in 2013. After the game he was irked at suggestions he’d hung Terry out to dry:
“I don’t know if you asked questions to Rafa Benitez, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, to the ones that never played him,” Mourinho said. “I’m the one you shouldn’t ask because I’m the one that plays with John in every game.
“I made John captain. I recovered John from a difficult situation with other managers. I brought my captain off and he was on the bench and still captain on the bench because the armband is just an armband. I can tell you he was not dancing in the dressing room and I can also tell you he was not having a bad reaction.”
Terry was arguably the best center back in the PL last season and made the Team of the Year for anchoring a Chelsea side who had the best defense in the league with just 33 goals against. They’ve already conceded five goals in two games this season, but surely that isn’t solely down to his regression?
By taking off Terry at half time, Mourinho was perhaps making a point to owner Roman Abramovich that he needs a new central defender, and fast. With rumors suggesting Chelsea is willing to pay up to $45 million for Everton’s 21-year-old defender John Stones, this seemed like a ploy to get that ball rolling before the transfer window slams shut on Sept. 1. Mourinho admitted that his side was “defensively fragile” against City and conceded they were lucky to go in 1-0 down at half time.
So, is Terry’s future as a starter for Chelsea uncertain?
No sooner had the whistle blown at the Etihad Stadium than Chelsea announced the signing of Augsburg left back Baba Rahman to strengthen their backline. With Branislav Ivanovic struggling at right back against Jefferson Montero and Raheem Sterling in the opening two weekends of the season, could he lose his spot to natural right back Cesar Azpilicueta who has been filling in at left back? Ivanonvic may even partner Cahill in the center of defense, and then you have Zouma who was hardly at fault for any of City’s goals late on in the game and has impressed in the past 12 months whenever called upon by Mourinho.
In the past the eccentric Portuguese coach has had plenty of scapegoats including calling out the floodlights at stadiums, referees, the media and everybody else in-between. At other clubs he has also called out individuals players. His treatment of Iker Casillas while he was in charge at Real Madrid springs to mind, as Mourinho benched the legendary goalkeeper.
It remains to see what lies on story for Terry long-term at Chelsea, but the center back can hardly be happy at the way he treated by Mourinho. Terry is the glue that holds not just Chelsea’s backline together, but their team spirit as the man who has played for the Blues in each of the last 16 seasons sets the tone for the entire squad
After a turbulent week on and off the pitch following medic-gate and a damaging defeat to their main title rivals, Chelsea’s manager may have caused yet another problem he now has to deal.