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Chelsea has changed, even if Mourinho hasn’t

What’s happened to Chelsea? The English Premier League’s reigning champions have had a horrendous start to the season, even if their decline in form had already begun last term. I’ve heard a variety of explanations ranging from fatigue to style of play to what’s-the-matter-with-Matic, but another one has been on my mind for some time.

A month ago I mooted the idea on Twitter that Mourinho’s attack on Eva Carneiro lost him the confidence of his players. Now, you might read this and say, “Hey, aren’t you a data analyst, not a psychologist?” – and you’d be right. Yet a look at a different kind of data suggests why the Carneiro affair may have been more influential than anyone, including Mourinho, might have expected.

From what I’ve gleaned, there are two sides to Mourinho’s work with his clubs. Internally, he cultivates close, emotional relationships with his players to build loyalty and propel performance. Externally, he works to attract the media’s attention to himself, leaving his players to do their work in peace. Destroy the internal bonds, though, and the external persona just seems like an arrogant buffoon, especially when results don’t back up the bluster.

Mourinho acted in an unmistakably misogynist way toward Carneiro. If he’d been coaching a club of stereotypical English Premier League players from a decade ago – young, rootless men with more money than sense, in dire need of a fatherly hand to keep them on the straight and narrow – he might have gotten away with it. The problem for Mourinho is that almost no one in the current Chelsea squad coincides with that stereotype.

Of the 15 players with the most minutes so far this season, all but two are married, and all but two are fathers*. This is the case despite the players’ ages being close to the league average; they are an unusually mature bunch. Moreover, 11 of the 13 fathers have at least one daughter:


This is the 21st century. If these fathers – and the mothers of their children – want equal opportunities for their daughters, then they probably won’t look kindly on a successful, professional woman being treated shabbily by their boss. In fact, all of the players bar Diego Costa have long-term female companions who probably gave them an earful about Mourinho.

It’s hard to respect someone whom your significant other doesn’t respect, especially when his behavior comes from an era that you hope your children will leave behind. The culture of the Premier League may be as macho as anywhere else, but the Chelsea squad is hardly a bunch of puerile jocks. Mourinho may have found this out the hard way.

* The data in this post come from sources I wouldn’t normally use, such as newspaper articles and Wikipedia, but they’re all I have to go on here.