- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

LONDON (AP) - Putting all the blame on Jose Mourinho for Chelsea’s rapid downfall is easy - but wrong.

Mourinho isn’t the manager who signed Alexandre Pato, the forward who seems no closer to making his debut after more than six weeks with the club.

The only sign of progress at Stamford Bridge since Mourinho was jettisoned in December is an unbeaten Premier League run that removed the threat of relegation for the champion.

Although the atmosphere seems to have improved around the humbled club after “palpable discord” prompted Mourinho’s firing, Chelsea won’t have a trophy to parade in May for the second time in three seasons.

For that Mourinho is not entirely at fault.

The Portuguese was long gone by the time the January transfer window opened and Chelsea squandered an opportunity to beef up the squad to aid the pursuit of silverware.

Entering January, with Guus Hiddink back in the stop-gap role that ended with FA Cup success in 2009, Chelsea remained in contention for two trophies: the Champions League and the FA Cup.

But Chelsea has been made to pay the price for the continued haphazard approach to player recruitment.

The priority in January was signing a striker, given the over-reliance on Diego Costa, who had scored only five times by Jan. 1 and always seems susceptible to injuries.

Chelsea’s solution was to respond to Pato’s December PR offensive in the English media and grant the 26-year-old Brazilian his Premier League move.

“I don’t think the physical part of English football would be a problem,” the former AC Milan forward told the Mail on Sunday newspaper in December.

“When I went back to Brazil to play, after a few months, my body was perfect … after three years there I feel my body is very strong.”

Chelsea seemed convinced, despite Hiddink calling it a “brave step” and questioning if Pato could “adapt to the high demands of the club.”

Pato did pass a medical examination to complete a six-month loan from Corinthians and posed with a club jersey. But the wait to see him pull on the kit for real continues.

Pato made the trip to Everton for the FA Cup loss on Saturday. He just never got close to the pitch or even the substitutes’ bench, staying wrapped up in a Chelsea hoodie high in the stands.

Chelsea could have benefited from a fit and firing Pato at Goodison Park. But this is a player who has been overlooked by Brazil for international duty since 2013 as his career stalled.

Had Pato been fit, Costa probably wouldn’t have been on the pitch to be dismissed late in the game, receiving a second yellow card for an altercation with Gareth Barry.

In explaining the red card, Hiddink even highlighted the need to rush Costa back into the team after undergoing treatment for a hip injury which forced him off during Wednesday’s Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain.

“It is all the combination (of factors) - not fully physically fit and all the provocations and he has to take responsibility for the incident,” Hiddink said.

Costa will be suspended for at least one game, starting with Saturday’s Premier League game against a West Ham side closing in on the top four while Chelsea plays for pride from 10th place.

Who will replace Costa?

Not Radamel Falcao, who was signed on loan from Monaco despite a woeful season at Manchester United. The Colombian managed one goal and two starts before being sidelined in October with a serious thigh injury. He is yet to make the squad since then and was omitted from the Champions League squad.

Loic Remy has been blighted by calf injuries, managing only three goals in 18 mostly substitute appearances this season, and Bertrand Traore has been favored by Hiddink over the French forward.

As Chelsea prepares to appoint Mourinho’s permanent successor - Italy coach Antonio Conte is favorite - the club will also be looking out for much-needed squad reinforcements who are satisfied with no Champions League football.

Everton’s goal scorer on Saturday is just the type of mobile striker with clinical finishing who would usually be on Chelsea’s radar.

Romelu Lukaku’s FA Cup double, including a buccaneering solo goal, that lifted his tally this season to 25 goals in 36 games.

At 22, the Belgium striker’s career is only just taking off.

But he has already been rejected by Chelsea, offloaded in 2014 for 28 million pounds (then $47 million) after spending most of his three years on loan away from west London and making only 15 appearances for his parent club.

Not giving Lukaku a chance to flourish typified the misguided short-termism of Chelsea and the manager at the time.

And for that, Mourinho is to blame.


Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide