A Premier League Half-Term Report on Chelsea

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A Premier League Half-Term Report on Chelsea
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Jose Mourinho has a problem.

It's not Chelsea's strikers and their lack of goals that should be his concern right now. Nor should it be the problems that have befallen his defence at varying stages of the campaign.

No, Mourinho's biggest issue that he needs to tackle at Stamford Bridge is managing expectations—the expectations of Chelsea fans, the media and most importantly his boss, Roman Abramovich.

The Portuguese's return to West London has served to do many things, but above all, it has brought with it a heightened sense of expectation.

Regardless of where Chelsea find themselves right now, such was the impact of Mourinho during his first spell in charge as Chelsea manager, the Blues are expected to not only win the Premier League this term, but a host of other trophies along with it.

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Is it realistic? Not quite, which is why Chelsea's performance in the first half of 2013-14 must be applauded. It's why Mourinho needs to create a sense of perspective.

This time last season, the Blues were experiencing a civil war of sorts. It may not have involved frequent battles on the sidelines or in the dressing room, but there was a conflict of ideologies that threatened the club.

It all circled around the appointment of Rafa Benitez as interim manager, and despite the temporary nature of his reign, the fans were having none of it.

Benitez is, of course, a former Liverpool manager, and with claims he once derided Chelsea supporters for being "plastic," an allegation later proved to be false, the majority of fans refused to give him any backing.

That Chelsea were 14 points off the pace in the title race only added to the woes experienced at Stamford Bridge and the club's season looked to be fading away with a whimper.

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It actually ended on a high note, with the Blues sealing major silverware in the Europa League, although that victory only papered over the cracks.

What Mourinho has done this season is bring a sense of unity to the club. Things may not be perfect on the pitch right now, yet harmony exists, and that is the best thing anyone can hope for at this stage.

From once being a divisive figure, Mourinho has lived up to the notion he is a changed man—a man wiser for his travels across Europe in the intervening years since his first spell at Chelsea.

It will only last so long, however. If Chelsea struggle to compete, questions will be raised over whether it's just his character that has altered over the years. What about his ability to bring success to the club?

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The evidence suggests that it is alive and well.

Sitting third in the table, just two points behind leaders Arsenal, Chelsea are yet to hit fifth gear. They've impressed at various stages but have long left the impression more is to come—which it will.

For now, the Blues are a side coming together—one very different to the team Mourinho inherited way back in 2004 when he joined the club from then-European champions Porto.

Combining the talents of young and old, he's going to face more trials and tribulations along the way. It's how Chelsea deal with them that is going to define his second coming.

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There is a steely character emerging, though.

Against the elite, Chelsea remain undefeated in the Premier League. They have already dispatched Manchester City and Liverpool on home soil, while away visits to Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotpsur have seen them take points on each occasion.

Those results are encouraging for the future, although defeats to the likes of Stoke City and Newcastle United mean there is certainly work to be done.

It's unclear if Chelsea will win the title in 2014. One suspects that will largely be based on whether Manuel Pellegrini does enough to get the best out of his Manchester City squad.

If they fail in that pursuit, however, it shouldn't be seen as a failure. Mourinho's Chelsea have shown enough the first part of the season to suggest the future is in the right hands.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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