Jose Mourinho takes his side to Cardiff City later today as the 2013/14 campaign, his first back in charge of the Blues, comes to a close.
Speaking ahead of the game, the Portuguese has been explaining what’s changed, and perhaps more significantly, what hasn’t, since his first spell as Chelsea manager.
‘The top teams changed, because in my time it was about a three-team title race and then it became two teams,’ he said.
‘Before it was Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, and then Arsenal dropped down. Now it’s a problem with City becoming an economical force and Liverpool coming up. It’s much harder so in that respect it’s changed.
‘Champions League positions were not an issue, everything was under control from the first moment and now, when you start the season, all the big teams are at risk of not finishing in the top four.
‘For the teams that respect Financial Fair Play, to finish in the top four is very important because it helps attract the best players and the best sponsors. I don’t think a club can be two or three consecutive years outside the top four, so that’s become a problem which didn’t exist before.
‘What hasn’t changed are things that could change, because people like to hide behind decisions which have been made years before. The fact you have to play two days before a Champions League semi-final is something that only happens in England, and sometimes you have to change. This is one of the things I don’t really understand.’
With his squad made up of many younger, less experienced players compared to the team which he led to back-to-back Premier League titles, Mourinho has been fortunate enough to have the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech playing regularly.
Terry, in particular, has enjoyed an impressive campaign, marshalling a defence which has conceded fewer goals than any other side in the league.
‘You can’t find leaders, they appear, and some of them are hidden,’ he explained.
‘In a certain moment they then come into the picture. Probably, when you have John in the team it’s not so easy for a younger guy to come in and push, to say “I’m here.” It has to happen naturally, you can’t just go and find the next one.’
Mourinho also had some kind words for one of Terry’s former Chelsea team-mates, Damien Duff [pictured above], who is expected to leave Fulham, and English football, during the summer.
Duff was part of the side which, under Mourinho, won our first title in 50 years in 2004/05.
‘He was one of the guys that left Cobham crying and left the people here crying, because nobody wanted him to go,’ said the Blues boss. ‘He didn’t want to go, but he wanted to be playing regularly and enjoying his football.
‘At that time, as well as him we had Robben and Joe Cole. They were all so good and he wasn’t playing all the time. The offer from Newcastle came, he wanted to accept it but at the same time he didn’t. We couldn’t stop him going but we wanted to stop him.
‘He was a fantastic player and he had a great impact on Chelsea in that generation. He had a big influence on our style of play, I don’t remember many teams playing with two left-footed players on the wings.
‘They [Duff and Robben] were changing a lot during the game and changing when they wanted. They were creating different kinds of problems for the opponents because they were similar but different.
‘Robben was better coming inside from the right, and Duff was better, even on the right, going outside. On the left side Robben was more effective because his shot was better but Duff was better at attacking the spaces. They were fantastic players and he’s a player who gives me good memories.’