Jose Mourinho faces Newcastle today with his squad in fine fettle as they go for a seventh straight win in all competitions. A perfect October ended on a particularly satisfying note, with victories against Schalke, Manchester City and Arsenal leaving us well-placed in both league and cup competitions.
Past trips to St James’ Park haven’t always ended well for the Portuguese. Three league matches there during our manager’s first tenure did not yield a victory, though it should be noted that two of them were played after we had already been crowned champions, in 2005 and 2006. Newcastle come into the clash on the back of a disappointing derby defeat and a gruelling extra-time loss to Manchester City on Wednesday night, but our manager doesn’t think those results will have a significant bearing on this afternoon’s outcome.
‘Newcastle have a good manager. They have good players, a good team and a good crowd. They lost a local derby which normally shakes the pride of the players, but every time I played in Newcastle it was always difficult: I only won a Carling Cup game there,’ Mourinho pointed out.
‘It’s normal that everybody tries to win against the top teams in the table and at the moment everybody wants to win against us, against Arsenal, against Man City. I’m waiting for a difficult match today.’
The strength and depth of our squad was on show during Tuesday night’s resounding victory at the Emirates, and Mourinho is delighted with the effort all the players are putting in, not just for him but also for their peers.
‘A manager without players is nobody. You can have ideas, you can have strategies, you can have experience – you can have everything, but without the players you are nothing. They are the most important thing,’ said Mourinho.
‘The way we are working is obviously different from seasons before. We have a different identity and we are searching for that identity. It’s not an easy process but there is good evolution in the team. The players are accelerating the process and they doing that because of the collective mentality they are showing.
‘The team, and the objectives of the team, are more important than the individual. Players have their individual ambitions and their individual targets but they realise the team is more important than themselves, and their team-mate is important too. When they play they give everything and when they don’t play they want the team to do well and support their mates.’
Mourinho has been keen to stress the significance of the collective since he returned to the club. The team spirit and sense of unity the manager fostered in his first spell in charge was one of the defining features of a Chelsea team he helped transform from nearly-men to champions of England and European heavyweights. Despite that, however, he says his door is always open to players who want to speak to him individually.
‘Normally I speak to my team together because we are a team. Of course if somebody asks me to have a chat in private I am ready for that.
‘I try to be honest and justify my options to them,’ Mourinho continued. ‘Sometimes, though, you arrive in a moment where you have not much to justify. At the moment I cannot justify my options to them. That’s how the situation is right now because they are all working amazingly well.’