LONDON (Reuters) - ‘There may be trouble ahead’ was the opening line to Nat King Cole’s memorable 1964 tune ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ and Chelsea fans could have been forgiven for thinking along the same lines back in the summer.
The Londoners had romped to the Premier League title by an eight-point margin in May but Jose Mourinho, who was sacked as manager on Thursday, was clearly unhappy when the board sanctioned the sale of goal keeping great Petr Cech to Arsenal in the close season.
Mourinho recognised Cech’s need to move on following his demotion to second choice behind Belgian Thibaut Courtois.
However, what the Portuguese found difficult to stomach was the club’s willingness to allow the Czech to move to cross-town rivals Arsenal to bolster the title hopes of arch nemesis Arsene Wenger.
Mourinho’s equilibrium was also disturbed when close-season targets like Everton defender John Stones and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba proved to be unattainable.
Chelsea may have been champions but the manager was aware that a team risks being overtaken by their rivals if they fail to improve from a position of strength and his fears have materialised, with the club now toiling fifth from bottom in the table.
Despite last season’s title success, Mourinho recognised a weakness with Cesc Fabregas’ defending from midfield and also wanted back-up for ageing captain John Terry at centre half.
Then, on the first day of the season, things really began to unravel when Mourinho fell out with doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn when they went on to the pitch, without his permission, to treat winger Eden Hazard at home to Swansea City.
The Portuguese described the pair as “naive” and relieved them of first-team duties.
Carneiro went on to leave Chelsea and she has now brought a legal case against the club for constructive dismissal, with Mourinho being named as a respondent in the case.
”He and (owner) Roman Abramovich have been playing cat and mouse all season,“ former Chelsea favourite Alan Hudson told Reuters in an interview, ”ever since the incident with the doctor.
“You’ve got to think that something has been going on (behind the scenes).”
Matters went from bad to worse for Chelsea when they were thumped 3-0 by Manchester City in their second league game of the season and Mourinho caused a bombshell by hauling Terry off at halftime.
It was the first time he had taken his trusty skipper off in the heat of battle.
As Chelsea continued to struggle, Mourinho tried every trick in the book to try and galvanise an improvement from his squad.
Hazard, the league’s Player of the Year last season, Diego Costa, Gary Cahill, Oscar, new signing Pedro, Branislav Ivanovic and Fabregas were among several players left out for brief spells.
The body language between Hazard and Costa and the Chelsea manager left a lot to be desired.
Hazard stopped Mourinho providing a congratulatory pat on the left cheek for his performance when the winger came off during the 2-0 Champions League win over Porto earlier this month.
Costa was also caught by the television cameras throwing his bib towards the manager in frustration when he was an unused substitute against Tottenham Hotspur.
“Whilst there is huge sentiment for the individual who has done so much for the club, the fact of the matter remains that Chelsea Football Club is in trouble,” technical director Michael Emenalo told their in-house television channel on Thursday.
“The results are not good, there obviously seemed to be a palpable discord between manager and players and we feel it was time to act.”
Editing by Justin Palmer