It has not been the smoothest of returns to English football for Jose Mourinho but he saw signs in Chelsea’s 3-1 comeback win over Southampton on Sunday that his players are understanding his football philosophy.
Mourinho has struggled to repeat the consistency that was the hallmark of his first spell with the London club, when he won two Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.
But the Portuguese coach, who returned to Stamford Bridge over the summer, took encouragement from the way Chelsea recovered from conceding a goal after just 13 seconds to turn the game round with three second-half strikes.
“It’s the sign of a team that is going step by step, that understands my ideas and understands my mentality,” Mourinho said.
“Some of them, the ones that are not completely in my mentality and my philosophy, are adapting progressively.
“They must feel the responsibility of playing for Chelsea…that Chelsea cannot be in December, like it happened in a few seasons, completely out of the title race.”
Chelsea have had a stop-start season and needed a controversial last-gasp penalty in their last home league game to snatch a draw against West Bromwich Albion.
Most other title challengers have dropped points too, however, and Chelsea’s victory over Southampton left them in second place, four points behind Arsenal as the busy Christmas period approaches.
Mourinho claimed credit for his part in the win over a young but super-confident Southampton side who threatened to leapfrog the Londoners when Jay Rodriguez pounced on a bad backpass by Michael Essien to score almost straight from the kickoff.
Mourinho said his decision to bring on Demba Ba as a second striker alongside Fernando Torres for the second half proved a decisive factor.
“We changed to 4-4-2 and I think we gave Southampton a different game, a game they didn’t expect,” he said after goals by Gary Cahill, John Terry and Ba sealed Chelsea’s win.
With the January transfer window edging closer, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers might be drawing up a shopping list after he blamed a lack of quality in key areas for their surprise 3-1 defeat at Hull City on Sunday.
The Merseysiders looked short on inspiration as they slumped to a lacklustre defeat, with Steven Gerrard’s superb curling free kick to level the scores in the first half the only bright spot in an otherwise poor display.
With in-form striker Daniel Sturridge ruled out for up to two months with an ankle ligament injury prior to kickoff and Philippe Coutinho benched with an ankle sprain, the Reds seemed entirely reliant on Luis Suarez for inspiration.
As it was, the Uruguayan striker had an uncharacteristic off-day at the KC Stadium and Hull took full advantage.
“I just thought we lacked quality. With the ball we just didn’t create enough and we didn’t keep the ball long enough in order to move them about,” Rodgers told reporters.
Unstoppable at home, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will try to solve the riddle of their away form in the next two matches at West Bromwich Albion and Southampton.
Seven wins from seven at The Etihad and a stack of goals, including 16 in their last three without reply, is the form of Premier League title winners.
Away, however, their form is nothing short of mediocre.
Only one win in their six away league games, eight goals for and 10 against, is a worrying statistic for the Chilean and he knows he needs to put it right soon if the club are to begin reeling in Premier League leaders Arsenal.
City are six points behind in third place after Sunday’s 3-0 win over Swansea City whose manager Michael Laudrup was clearly impressed with what he witnessed.
“At home, City are the best team right now. What I’ve seen here and in other games, I think they have so many top players and they have (Sergio) Aguero,” Laudrup said.
“I know he didn’t score today but he’s a fantastic player. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s so difficult to mark.
“City were one of my two favourites before the season started and if they can play as well away as they do at home, they are the best team.”
Wayne Rooney scored twice to help Manchester United stretch their unbeaten run to 12 games in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
Rooney twice levelled for United in a captivating game at White Hart Lane, showcasing his poacher’s instinct to cancel out Kyle Walker’s opener before firing home a penalty after a Sandro thunderbolt had put Tottenham back in front.
Champions United remained eighth on 22 points, nine behind leaders Arsenal, with Tottenham a further point back.
Sunday saw the departure from the Premier League of former Spurs manager Martin Jol, who was sacked by Fulham after six defeats in a row.
Fulham are third from bottom of the standings and lost 3-0 at West Ham United on Saturday.