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Nevermind the gaffer....



Cesc Fabregas's appearance on Sky with Thierry Henry last night has been seen by many as a confirmation that Chelsea players, and not the manager, are the true cause of the club's present malaise. But what Fabregas's appearance told me, quite categorically, was that the dressing room is a pernicious place to be. He was saying - and he would, wouldn't he? - that players had to take responsibility, had to lift themselves and show pride. What I didn't hear was any suggestion that the manager's behaviour had nothing to do with them being in the position they are in. This interview told me that the players recognise their responsibilities, but that it now doesn't matter how they got here and that they have to put in the hard yards to get themselves out of it. For me, rather than being a show of support for the manager, it was an interview with horrific subtexts. 

Henry, who as a consequence of his relationship with Fabregas likely knows far more about it than he can say on public television, arrowed in on this point when he suggested that whether you like Mourinho or not, he is now irrelevant and now is the time to show pride.  I have heard one fan say that Fabregas was suggesting players had "sabotaged" the season - we can't expect fans to hear anything but that which they want to hear, but Fabregas was saying nothing of the sort. Quite apart from his evident reluctance to be there, his language was, to anybody who cared to listen, damning. It is possible that Mourinho himself may have misunderstood it as well, but then, he does live in his own peculiar mental Ivory Tower.

Footballers are sensitive and precious and, above all, human. Fabregas can only go so far in what he says; and one would expect him to say the players need to show more. They do. But I found the interview painfully revealing of how they are all feeling at the moment. For football fans, the blame game is based on very, very thin lines. Right now, partly because of their adoration of Mourinho and partly because Mourinho goes out of his way to inform the narratives of player failure and betrayal, the fans are pouring a great deal of hate onto the team. Last year, when the same group won the league, they were of course pouring all the love onto Mourinho. Such is life and we have seen all this before from Jose. Some of us have always felt that Jose couldn't turn this around: he needed to take a very different course to the one he has evidently chosen, but as I suspected, that seems beyond his personality. It was fascinating (and alarmingly predictable) to hear him talk about how he elevated these players last season; I wonder if it would be scarcely credible if I were to have invented half of what he says sometimes, but with such comments, it is not difficult to see why the players probably wouldn't mind seeing the back of him.

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