The Secret Footballer claims support for Jose Mourinho in the Chelsea dressing room has been split after Cesc Fabregas asked for a change in style.
You won’t find many of us in football who believe that Chelsea should sack Jose Mourinho.
At times of crisis, it can be important to remove oneself from the immediate situation and reflect on the achievements of the one being demonised.
And Mourinho’s achievements in football management are impressive. His record in major finals speaks for itself and nobody believes that Chelsea have a bad manager.
On his day, Mourinho is a joy to listen to in press conferences. He is assured and witty with it; he’s very much the sort of person who can follow you into a revolving door and come out first.
But even people who appear to walk on water can occasionally emerge with, at the very least, a pair of wet ankles.
Mourinho has picked a bad fight with his medics and the resentment from that has spread to his players, some of whom I am hearing are now saying they would rather lose for Mourinho than win.
Managers pick on staff and players all the time in order to make a wider point to the squad and remind them who is in charge.
It is supposed to keep the players sharp and on their toes; it is supposed to show that none of them are indespensible.
When a manager has his players by the balls, their hearts and minds usually follow.
Managers do this all the time. Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson was the master; he’d win the league and then occasionally get rid of one of the top players.
But in this case, Mourinho could not have got it more wrong.
Fearn and Carneiro are loved at Chelsea. They are friends of the players because they interact with them on a daily basis and have no agenda other than their well-being. They are neutral territory.
You know how much the kitman is loved at Chelsea, don’t you? The players love him and the fans love him when he appears on “Soccer AM”. This is like that.
Fearn and Carneiro are totally respected by the playing staff, and Mourinho made a massive mistake in trying to make his point at the expense of two members of staff who were just doing their job and are seen as an easy touch.
At first, Mourinho tried to make light of the situation in typically jovial “don’t waste my time” fashion.
But the story has not gone away. Indeed, his flippancy towards it has angered journalists – and they have responded by digging deeper.
The result is that Mourinho has clammed up, which has given huge credibility to the whole story. It encouraged journalists that there must be something else going on.
The first rule of football: never believe anything until the manager officially denies it.
Fabregas has divided the Chelsea squad
Back on the pitch, Cesc Fabregas, who I’ve heard was the first to raise the possibility with Mourinho of trying to play a different style of football, particularly against so-called smaller clubs, has found a few kindred spirits in that regard.
He’s also found a few enemies and has certainly succeeded in dividing the squad.
Despite that, Fabregas doesn’t play in a spirit that suggests he isn’t trying for Mourinho.
Indeed, he has become exasperated because it’s the players in front of him who have turned against him and have stopped making themselves available to receive his passes.
That tells you everything about how those players want to make Fabregas look on the pitch.
The reason for it, and it’s important to make this point, is because not every Chelsea player is anti-Mourinho.
If your team-mates in front of you don’t move or make themselves available for a pass, you have to pass the ball back.
Or hit a speculative pass forward in the hope that somebody runs on to it, which they won’t.
Or you can pass the ball sideways; or, if that fails, then it’s likely you’ll be dispossessed.
In short, you look very ordinary.
That’s what some of the players are doing to Fabregas, in response to his questioning the manager at the training ground.
A clearer example you could not wish to see … and Diego Costa, particularly, is at the forefront of this little sideshow.
Although Costa was reprimanded earlier in the season for flying back to Madrid and partying after matches and turning up in a state on Monday morning, something that sparked the John Terry coming together after the skipper told Costa that it was unacceptable, I’m told that Costa is still playing for Mourinho, having been given a second chance by the Portuguese.
But as a result, he’s not playing for Fabregas.
Aside from Costa, there are other players who are playing for Mourinho.
Asmir Begovic, Terry and Gary Cahill are but were being let down by Nemanja Matic, who definitely wasn’t, particularly after coming on as a substitute and being subbed off again in the 3-1 home defeat to Southampton.
Fabregas is trying to be professional, but the players who are playing for Mourinho have turned on him, which means that Chelsea’s defence is exposed.
That has led to the reintroduction of another of Mourinho’s long-term allies, John Obi Mikel, who unfortunately isn’t the player he was and is doing little to stop the attacks that Chelsea smother so well when they are united as a team.
Willian is playing for Mourinho, but I’m told that Pedro has already raised the possibility of returning to Barcelona after wondering what on earth he has walked into.
That sort of damage is hard to repair. When a manager has that many little incidents and sideshows running through his squad, it is very difficult to temper.
No wonder Mourinho looks as if he’s aged ten years. He must feel badly let down by some of his players.
Big decision for Abramovich
The question in the media now is whether or not owner Roman Abramovich will move to rid his club of the “Special One”.
And a thought occurred to me when I considered that point. The dreaded vote of confidence has largely disappeared from the “-isms” in English football.
You don’t really hear owners coming out publicly and backing their manager in true “Championship Manager” style.
It’s probably because owners feel less accountable to the media these days. After all, the media are always trying to turn football fans against their own club.
When it comes, managers at rival clubs who may be interested in an upcoming job are immediately put on high alert.
And it also places the manager in residence in a shit-or-bust position.
It leaves him nowhere to go in the changing-room and nowhere to go in his press conferences.
There is one option open to him – try harder than ever to win every match possible in a desperate attempt to cling to the job.
We don’t really hear much from the owners of any Premier League football clubs these days, save for the porn king at West Ham United.
And, especially, we don’t hear much from Abramovich, who has been so careful with what he says to anybody down the years that most people are unsure whether the Russian actually has any teeth.
As I’ve said, Chelsea have the best manager in the world; nobody in the game disputes that.
And despite this crisis, Abramovich would be loath to lose him because Mourinho will simply walk into one of the world’s top jobs with a Russian cheque in his pocket.
I know Abramovich has all the money in the world, but he has made a point of trying to cooperate with Financial Fair Play (FFP) in recent years, and the spendthrift days of his early tenure have waned.
The compensation fee that Chelsea would have to pay Mourinho is rumoured to be £30-£40 million, possibly tipping them over the FFP limit.
Expect summer cull at Chelsea
Despite that, Abramovich may well be missing a trick in this particular case.
Mourinho’s best chance of turning the squad around immediately is if Abramovich flexes his muscles in front of the squad on Jose’s behalf in a way that doesn’t undermine the Portuguese.
Of course, he doesn’t have to do that publicly.
On the other hand, he could say something that places Mourinho’s position in doubt and hope for a response from the playing staff.
If you want my honest opinion, I think that you haven’t seen Mourinho at even a tenth of his anger.
He is hurting from the fact that some of the players who he put together are revolting so publicly.
I think that the Chelsea board have written off this campaign and have accepted that they will start again next season.
As long as Mourinho qualifies Chelsea for the Champions League, I believe that he will keep his job and that next season will be very different.
And that is why some of the players are involved in a dangerous dance with Mourinho.
They don’t know for sure that he won’t be at Stamford Bridge next season and if he is, they won’t be.
As players, you must all hang together wherever possible, otherwise you’ll be hanged separately.
Whatever happens, Abramovich has options, certainly before he has to contemplate the prospect of paying off Mourinho, something he definitely doesn’t want to have to do.
And as I’m sure the Russian would tell you – if he could speak, that is – it is always necessary to get behind somebody before you can stab them in the back.