Belfast Telegraph

Mourinho: Chelsea deserve to be on top of the table

By Ian Herbert

Jose Mourinho has declared that his Chelsea side deserve to head into today’s Boxing Day programme as Premier League leaders for the first time in five years and that they are a better, more creative and dynamic side than at the same stage last season.

“I think Chelsea deserve to be top of the league,” Mourinho insisted. His discussion of today’s visitors – fourthplaced West Ham – included an admission that his description of their “19th-century football” last January was “stupid, silly words”, which only went to show how the strength and balance his side lacked back then is present in abundance now.

Mourinho applied that tag following the goalless draw against West Ham which cost Chelsea the chance to go second ahead of Arsenal last January, though the present three-point lead over Manchester City — who are at West Bromwich Albion today – tells a different story.

“You know, I think both teams are different than last season,” Mourinho said of the sides, who meet this lunchtime.

“We are a better team. We have more creativity, more goals, more attacking dynamic. West Ham are also a better team. They are not a team just in this moment not to concede. They also try to score goals. After us, West Ham deserve to be top. Because to be fourth for a team that everybody was expecting them to fight for survival, I think is a fantastic achievement.”

Mourinho has reason to take strength from his side's Christmas ascendancy. Chelsea have led at Christmas three times in the Premier League era - 2004, 2005 and 2009 - and gone on to clinch the title on each occasion.

Not all managers are as impressive as Mourinho at seeing home such an advantage. Only 50 per cent of the sides who have led at Christmas since the turn of the century have gone on to clinch the title.

West Ham have completed the calendar year's most extraordinary transformation, having been fourth from bottom with a mere 14 goals to their name - fewer than half the number they have scored this season - last Boxing Day morning.

Manager Sam Allardyce - sacked by Blackburn Rovers' owners four Christmases ago - will be gratified to hear Mourinho's glowing reference for him now, 11 months after declaring that he didn't give a damn about his "19th-century" tag. "He's got a big history in the Premier League," Mourinho said of Allardyce. "But now this season he's giving not just the image of the competitive coach who plays in a certain way, he's playing in a different way. That is what he deserves at the end of the day."

The fulsome effusive praise demonstrated how little Mourinho fears West Ham, for all their new-found success ahead of a challenging Christmas programme in the capital, during which also sees Allardyce's players will also entertain Arsenal on Sunday.

FIXTURES: (3.00pm unless stated) Arsenal v QPR (5.30) Chelsea v West Ham (12.45), Burnley v Liverpool, Crystal Palace v Southampton, Everton v Stole, Leicester v Tottenham, Man United v Newcastle, Sunderland v Hull, West Brom v Man City.

 

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