Fantasy League tells you a lot about The Premiership. It is why many of us play it so avidly. Instead of just being interested in your own team you become an expert in the form of every player. Without Fantasy League I would in no way have appreciated what a top class goalkeeper Jack Butland is or even that there was a player called Allan Nyom. It would also have taken me a lot longer than early September to realise that currently the best player in the Premiership is Riyad Mahrez.
Last weekend as I looked across the Top 10 teams in our own Fitzroy Fantasy League (Sedge’s Super League) there was one very obvious and utterly amazing fact about the 2015-16 season. Very few managers, if any at all, had a Chelsea player. Last season everyone had Hazard, most had Ivanovic and Fabregas and there was a smattering of others. Most had three Chelsea players in their team. That reveals the unbelievable drop in form of these players.
Today Jose Mourinho paid the price for the unprecedented follow up to a Premiership title winning season. Sacked seven months after two trophies and a Manager of the Year Award. Some will say that the players not Mourinho have let Chelsea down. I say, not so fast!
The demise of last season’s champions, who if we remember won that title with consistency and ease, is a phenomenon that needs serious investigation. It is one of the great mysteries of sport. Has Eden Hazard really dropped off everybody’s Fantasy League team as a result of becoming a bad player? For anyone who is watching carefully something strange has gone on.
Jose Mourinho is something strange. Many are suggesting that he will be missed and that the Premier League has lost a real character. To be patronising, rude and disrespectful might be character and might create media drama but it is not the kind of example that our society needs. I will not miss Mr. Mourinho.
It has been his character that some say has made him the success that he has been. It has distracted the media from his team after bad performances and put fear into the opposition and referees. In the end I surmise that it was his downfall.
I of course might be wrong but for some weeks I have moved away from believing that a dip in form or bad tactics have been to blame for the Chelsea demise. For me it culminated on Monday night when Eden Hazard simply didn’t seem to want to play on after falling heavily after an innocuous challenge. As he walked down the tunnel, seemingly against Mourinho’s wishes, the whole piece of yarn seemed to have finally unravelled. The speculation that Mourinho had lost the dressing room seemed to be there for all to see.
For me, it all began back in August. Team doctor Eva Carneiro got the wrath of that Mourinho character. Simply doing her job when she was called onto the field by the referee to attend that man Eden Hazard again, in injury time with Chelsea drawing with Swansea, Mourinho raged against Carneiro leading to her eventual sack. She should have known more about football and that she was wasting valuable time, Jose reasoned. As I said, she had no choice. Health and safety gave her no option. The character I will not miss had pointed a finger at a member of the backroom staff and, for those who looked closely, at Hazard too. I am not sure that he ever recovered any respect after that incident.
Around the same time, with transfer deadline day looming, he tried to pull a fast one on club owner Roman Abramovich by substituting captain John Terry. He was screaming that he needed Everton’s John Stones immediately. He didn’t get Stones and Terry might have been a little peeved. When Jose doesn’t get what Jose wants that character turns. He was an unhappy man from then on.
So the club spiralled downward and we all thought that next week they would begin a winning run of 15 games to be back in the top 4. Indeed Arsenal and Manchester City kept throwing points away to encourage them but by the end of most weekends Chelsea had lost again. It soon became a situation that Mourinho had never been in before.
He had always managed big successful teams. Third in the table was as far as humiliation had previously taken him. 15th was a whole other embarrassment and never having been through such a bad patch before Mourinho seemed to flounder in knowing how to stop the slide. That character started getting grouchier and grouchier, first at the media, second at referees and most importantly with his players who he stated on Monday night had “betrayed” him.
There was no recovery from that. The character that made him a success led to his downfall. He also spoke on Monday night about how he had made the players better than they were last season. In that sentence he pointed the fingers back at himself. If he made them better than they were last season he had obviously failed this season. It was his fault. Jose lost the team and lost his job.
He will be back. If he comes to City, I have said before, I will take a sabbatical from my support. I think he will most likely manage the quiet neighbours. I think he could be successor to Sir Alex’s dynasty at Manchester United. Though Alex never stooped so low he was gruff and obnoxious at times. He was also a football man who was a better manager in almost every respect.
So the character is gone. What next? Well, some of us will be watching carefully to see if it causes a change in players' form. How much is Eden Hazard in Fantasy League?!