They haven’t won their four warm up games. They lost the community shield to their arch-rivals. And the start of the season was a less than spectacular draw with Swansea. Yet the only thing we’ve been talking about is José Mourinho’s spat with a doctor. In one word: result.
In the week leading up to Sunday’s Man City clash –the only club incidentally, that Chelsea lost to in Mourinho’s first League victory – we haven’t been focusing on Chelsea’s lacklustre performance or the red card blow to £8m summer signing Thibaut Courtois. Shielded by the back pages intrigue on the rights and wrongs of Mourinho’s treatment of Eva Carneiro the blues have been afforded a week to train in relative obscurity.
No doubt the interruption to the last 90 seconds was irritating. Eden Hazard’s apparent injury was clearly, at least to José, the result of exhaustion rather than serious damage and, in ushering on the medical team, the referee was arguably overreacting. It’s what happened afterwards that rings of a more calculated deflected cross. Rather than attacking the referee (even José lacks the stomach for laying into officials) Mourinho went for the doctor, accusing Carneiro of being naïve about the game and banning her from the bench. Unfair? Of course. The club’s health record last season was among the best and a string of high profile football medics have come out to defend Carneiro.
That isn’t the point for Mourinho. He does whatever it takes, and will in the process take whatever accusations of chauvinism and hot headedness come his way. His concern is less moral hazard and more keeping on Eden Hazard. It is an approach that resonates with fans and bombs with outside commentators and medical association grandees.
The momentum of the story is no doubt helped by the fact that Eva Carneiro is more photogenic than your typical pitch-side physio. Mourinho, one to relish a spirited media frisson, knows that since the Arsenal defeat the press have been grubbing for signs of nervousness beneath the special one’s stoical sheen. Here you have it, Mourinho is saying, I’m angry and I won’t let anybody get in my way.
Medialand has managed to keep the quarrel spinning by enlisting a roster of supporting characters from social media commentators to Portuguese lip-readers. It may also be that, in pinning the blame so bluntly on Carneiro and, consequently, fuelling the impression of having a women problem, Mourinho’s cunning deflection has gone slightly wide. When the Man City game is behind them his next move should be to mend bridges with Carneiro, perhaps by admitting that, for all his superior knowledge of the game, she knows a lot more than he does about keeping cruciate ligaments in good nick.