By beating Manchester City 1-0 on Monday evening, Chelsea became only the second team to win beat Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit at the Etihad Stadium this season, the other being European and World Club champions Bayern Munich. For manager Jose Mourinho, the Premier League title race is now becoming as much about mind games as the football on the pitch but some shrewd activity during the January transfer window may have also worked to the advantage of the Blues.
Mourinho continues to express his belief that winning the Premier League is not important for the current campaign and it is a case of building a team capable of clinching the title next season. Such a relaxed attitude is most definitely helping his players with the result that Chelsea have conceded only one goal in 2014 and collected 23 points from 27 in their latest league fixtures.
Don’t believe for a moment that Mourinho is not interested in winning the Premier League in his first season back at Stamford Bridge and the January transfer activity is a case in point. Bearing in mind the new regulations regarding UEFA Financial Fair Play, designed to allow clubs only to spend from what they can earn, Chelsea have financed three useful acquisitions with sufficient movement on outgoing transfers.
Kevin de Bruyne spent the majority of his time in Chelsea employment by being loaned to Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga and has now been signed by Wolfsburg for a fee approaching £20 million, while Juan Mata has been sacrificed for a mere £37 million.
With the proceeds, both Mohamed Salah and Nemanja Matic have arrived from Basel and Benfica respectively whereas Mourinho has also cast an eye for next season with the purchase of defender Kurt Zouma, who has been immediately loaned back to St Etienne. The books have been balanced accordingly but Mourinho has strengthened in positions deemed appropriate for the remainder of the season.
While Manchester City and Liverpool failed to add to their squads during January and Arsenal were limited to the loan signing of the currently injured Kim Kallstrom, Mourinho has set his stall with these new arrivals. Salah produced impressive wing displays when Basel encountered Chelsea in the Champions League while Matic was named player of the season in the Portuguese Primeira League for 2012-13.
Both featured in the squad during the win against Manchester City and are expected to become more involved as the season progresses with increased options for tactical adjustments.
Chelsea are now only two points behind leaders Arsenal and yet Mourinho displays an attitude of nonchalance when asked about title prospects for this season. It would seem to be all part of his famed mind games designed to alleviate the pressure on his own team and discomfort his opponents at such a crucial stage of the season.