28 July 2015

Mourinho wets his pants just a bit ahead of the Community Shield...

José Mourinho is always a wily one, a Manichean Machiavelli who has mastered many of the world's darker arts. Success has come to him time and time and time again, proving if nothing else that ends justify means. However, ahead of the Community Shield, which will pit Chelsea against Arsenal, his attempt at mind games offers a peek into the psyche of man perhaps more worried than ever about losing to his rival, both in that upcoming match as well as in the Prem season that follows. That his comments reveal a hypocritical lack of self-awareness is another issue for another day (or, failing that, another paragraph).

Pointing out that we've spent nearly £130m on transfer-fees in last three years, Mourinho is understandably concerned about the threat Arsenal poses to his hegemony. Chelsea, of course, have spent almost about £195m on transfer-fees in the same period (to say nothing of similarly astronomical spending prior to Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge), so it's a bit curious to hear Mourinho fret about Arsenal's spending. Here's what he had to say:
If you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the last three or four years, I think maybe you will find a surprise. If you put Özil plus Alexis Sánchez, plus Chambers, plus Debuchy, you will find a surprise. It’s a fantastic squad with good players, fantastic goalkeeper, they are more than ready to be a title contenders.
Rarely has Mourinho been so effusive in his praise of Arsenal. Credit the man for showing a bit of class when he must be more than a bit butt-hurt at having been overruled regarding where Čech would end up. Much as he refused to sell Demba Ba to us after we brought in Özil, he wanted to send Čech anywhere but Arsenal. Abramovich, in recognition of Čech's service to the club, honoured the man's wishes to stay in London. I don't slight Ba in the slightest by suggesting that Čech means more than he would have to our aspirations.

At a broader level, Chelsea have reigned in their relentless spending, spending just £10.8m on transfers to date (while loaning in Falcao). That's just a tick more than Arsenal have spent—£9.8m, although that was for Čech, making it a bit more momentous (all figures come courtesy of transfermrkt.co.uk, by the way). I wouldn't suggest that Čech to Arsenal surpasses Fàbregas to Chelsea, but there is something in it all the same. We're no longer a selling club. In fact, we're starting to wonder whether there's a place in our XI for players previously presumed to be mainstays. Szczęsny has been loaned out. Gibbs sits behind Monreal. Ramsey and Wilshere have to play out of their preferred positions. That kind of competition can't really be quantified—nor, paradoxically, can the obvious chemistry in the squad. No longer is that chemistry disrupted by egos or departures. No wonder Mourinho is worried.

Looking ahead to the Community Shield, Mourinho finds himself in a bit of a no-win position. Win, and everyone writes it off as a meaningless, glorified pre-season friendly. Lose, and all bets are off. Arsène ends his thirteen-match winless streak against Mourinho. The Arsenal squad slay another demon and go into the Prem season invigorated and confident. Comparisons to last season's Community Shield, in which Arsenal defeated Man City 3-1 and went on to draw at home and win at the Etihad, would multiply at a rate that would embarrass rabbits.. If he fields a full-strength XI, he reveals his paranoia, win or lose. His best bet might lie in fielding a weak one, full of youth players (does Chelsea even have youth players? Perhaps...).

Coming back to the Prem, consider that 2014-15 saw Arsenal get off to its worst start in three decades while Chelsea invited premature comparisons to the Invincibles. The Prince of Darkness might actually be quaking in his boots. If he's playing mind-games, he's doing it with himself.