Mourinho benches Costa and Chelsea fail to win
Mourinho pays price for benching striker after row
Jose Mourinho put principle ahead of pragmatism. Or maybe it was good old-fashioned pig-headedness.
Either way, he left any chance of victory on the bench. He dropped Diego Costa and Chelsea settled for a 0-0 draw at Tottenham last night.
Mourinho played the taskmaster, but came off looking timid. He punished his errant striker, but the bigger crime was his caution.
Had Costa featured, even in a second-half cameo, Chelsea might well have triumphed against an exhausted Tottenham side.
Mourinho may claim a well-earned point against a serious top-four contender, but Spurs were a shadow of their usual selves, their Europa League exertions clearly taking a heavy toll.
And yet Costa was left behind, along with any daft ideas about playing an attacking game against tiring opponents.
The handbag-waving and pigtail-pulling between the two bickering parties during the midweek Maccabi Tel Aviv game ensured the striker was always going to be less popular with his manager than a female club doctor.
So Mourinho sent out Chelsea looking like a guy going commando with no underwear, always at risk of being exposed if Tottenham pulled their pants down.
Eden Hazard was the nominal front man, with Pedro, Oscar and Willian all swopping positions, but the Belgian seemed more determined to impress his manager by chasing Kyle Walker at the other end.
Hazard's work rate was commendable, but ingenuity was in short supply. Chelsea failed to muster a single shot on target for more than an hour, with Tottenham's confused back four never quite sure who to mark.
In the blustery conditions, empty plastic bags and coffee cups spent more time in Spurs' box than anyone in a blue shirt.
Of course Mourinho has an elephant's memory.
Chelsea's previous visit to White Hart Lane was a 5-3 hammering, a defeat that scratched at the shiny surface to reveal the Blues' soft underbelly. That loss hinted at the mediocrity to follow. Mourinho was in no mood for a repeat viewing.
As always, he relished the chance to strangle a contest, slowly squeezing the life out of the midfield with the efficiency of a medieval torture chamber.
It became a battle between the wary and the weary.
Mauricio Pochettino said otherwise, but the 8,000-km round trip to Azerbaijan in the Europa League - the longest in Tottenham's history for a competitive fixture - had a huge impact. Spurs started leggy and finished laboured, happy to hold on for a draw.
Ryan Mason struggled to fill the space usually occupied by the suspended Dele Alli.
The obvious exceptions were the irrepressible Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele, who forced a smart save from Asmir Begovic in the first half.
Their endeavour only amplified another insipid showing from Cesc Fabregas. His title-winning influence last season now seems like a lifetime ago.
Where his boots were once covered in Velcro, they are now dipped in Vaseline. Nothing sticks. In the first half alone, he gave the ball away 10 times.
Once again, he cut a frustrated figure, unable to influence proceedings or cope with the pace of his environment.
Whatever Costa seems to have, it's catching. Last season's superstars are losing their lustre, but the reasons remain elusive beyond the obvious.
Mourinho didn't regenerate the squad in pre-season. The paltry options on his bench were a damning reflection of Chelsea's lack of depth.
But as the game petered out, drifting from average to awful, the Blues should have pinched all three points.
Hazard's superb volley in the 67th minute - Chelsea's first and only decent effort on target - was palmed away by Hugo Lloris, but the subtle shift in possession should've convinced Mourinho to send on Costa.
This was the manager's moment; the impending chess move that he usually thrives upon, a chance to demonstrate his peerless ability to dictate proceedings from the dugout.
Costa kept warming up, but Mourinho would not be moved. The manager's stubbornness prevailed, which meant his side couldn't.
The wilting home side were there for the taking, but the man most capable of pulling off a late smash-and-grab was left to rot.
Mourinho got the draw he came for. But such a cynical, defensive attitude is hardly the stuff of champions.
"The message to every one of my players — not (just) Diego, to every one of my players — when we play as a team and when, especially, we defend as a team, the team are much better. I’m convinced at the end of December we’ll be in a different position to where we are now, and we will shorten clearly the distance to the top teams."
- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Jose: I'm fine with diego
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho played down any suggestion of a falling-out with Diego Costa after dropping the striker for yesterday's goalless draw at Tottenham.
Costa was not used at White Hart Lane as Mourinho lost patience with the striker, who tossed his substitutes' bib over his shoulder in the direction of his manager in the final moments of a result which will do little to kick-start the English Premier League champions' season.
Mourinho said: "If he wants to hurt me, it's not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problems.
"I think Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be (put) on the bench.
"Everybody was on the bench. I kept him in the team for all these matches and today we thought the best strategy to play was this one. We are happy with the decision."
Costa did not warm up ahead of the game and appeared pitch-side with trainers, rather than boots on, broadcasters sitting near the Chelsea bench reported.
Mourinho says Costa warmed up when instructed to do so.
"A top player going on the bench, they are not happy," Mourinho added.
"For me his behaviour was normal. He was ready to play when they went to warm up."
His opposite number Mauricio Pochettino was frustrated that Spurs had not emerged victorious.
"Chelsea had only one shot on target and it was a good save from Hugo Lloris," said the Argentinian.
"They did not do much to win the game. We deserved more. We tried to win it.
"I think Chelsea will be happy with the point. It is more important to them than us." - Wire Services.