Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho seeks strong European response to Premier League setback
There was no hidden meaning or secret agenda in Jose Mourinho's message to his players, rather his warning ahead of the Champions League game against Schalke was explicit: that their complacency against Newcastle United was unacceptable.
It has been a feature of Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea that he has driven his players hard at every opportunity, especially when it has come to training and preparation. It yielded six consecutive wins, including those over Arsenal and Manchester City, until their unexpected 2-0 defeat at St James' Park on Saturday.
In what amounted to a reaffirmation of his basic principle of achieving success with the superstar, multimillionaire footballers he has managed, Mourinho said that his team were in danger of having "forgotten why they win".
He said: "You cannot think you win because you have a nice shirt or are in a good run or a lucky moment. If you think like that, you're in trouble. You can never forget why you are winning matches. Maybe we forgot.
"You play three big matches before that – Arsenal away, Man City – and you know you have to be at the top level, and you are at the top of your concentration. And suddenly you get a match where you become a little bit complacent. It's the mistake not just of football players, but human beings."
Reflecting on Saturday's defeat, which allowed Arsenal to pull five points clear at the top of the Premier League, Mourinho said he had saved his harshest criticism for his team at half-time when, with the score at 0-0, he felt that they were coasting.
He said: "At half-time I was telling them they were competing more in training sessions than in that game. That the game was easy to win, they had lots of space to play in the first half, but they were just playing as if the goal would arrive, as if they were saying, 'We don't need to push, to be intense or aggressive'. I told them: 'Maybe yes, maybe not'. If you're in that dynamic, it's difficult to change that dynamic."
The demanding nature of Mourinho's leadership this time is different to that of his first spell at the club when there were, as he put it, "untouchables" in the team whose position was assured. Second time around there has been more stick, less carrot, and Mourinho conceded that the recent run of wins may have persuaded some players to relax.
He is without Fernando Torres, who has a thigh injury that will be scanned at Cobham while his temmates are preparing to face Schalke. The striker is almost certainly out of Saturday's league game against West Bromwich Albion. Ryan Bertrand was also injured in training. A win against Schalke will put Chelsea on nine points in Group E and within touching distance of qualification for the knockout round.
Mourinho said that he had been "exaggerating" when he said that he picked the wrong 11 players on Saturday and that not everyone would be changed. "I don't want you to see the changes I make as somebody paying for the defeat against Newcastle," he said. "That's not the case." He laughed off reports in Spain that Chelsea had attempted to buy Lionel Messi in the summer with a bid part-funded by kit manufacturers Adidas.
Belfast Telegraph Digital