The case for and against Mourinho
For anyone associated with Stamford Bridge, he's the Messiah. For others, he's a very naughty boy. For the purists (and ironic Arsenal supporters), he's boring. There isn't a manager in world football that polarises like Jose Mourinho. The Chelsea manager is the leader of the pack with a 10-point lead at the Premier League summit. And yet, after holding the Gunners yesterday, he was accused of being boring. So which is he? Boring or brilliant? Our columnist defends and prosecutes in the case for Mourinho...
THE CASE FOR THE BRILLIANT MOURINHO
1 Winning isn't everything
The famous sporting quote has been attributed to UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell Sanders.
It's Mourinho's mantra. He is the quotation.
Barring a catastrophe, the manager will pick up his eighth league championship, spread across four countries.
The silver bauble will be squeezed into the cabinet alongside two European Cups, the Uefa Cup, the FA Cup, three League Cups, the Spanish Cup, the Italian Cup and other pots and trinkets picked up along the way.
Mourinho is programmed to win. It's his default setting.
He's permanently stuck in top gear. He doesn't slow down or make way for purists. All other concerns are insignificant, for both him and Chelsea supporters.
Unlike other Premier League dugouts, the Blues are not cursed with a malleable man, but blessed with an unbreakable winning machine.
Green-eyed Arsenal fans can sing about Mourinho being boring. But the Blues could retaliate with Sanders' original quote.
Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.
2 Supreme strategist
The best sides can't beat Mourinho's mischievous teams. They just can't.
Brendan Rodgers was sent back to school by his old master last season. In recent weeks, Louis van Gaal was put down by his old protege and the raging Gunners also fell silent.
Mourinho stands alone with his Svengali-like capabilities of controlling both the opposition and a game's direction.
Rodgers has whined like a neutered stray all season long about his paucity of striking options. Chelsea went into their two biggest games - against United and Arsenal - without their main strikers.
Against United, Mourinho sent out a 37-year-old talisman in Didier Drogba, bolstered his defensive midfield to subdue Maroune Fellaini and tilted the play towards the left, towards Eden Hazard.
Against Arsenal, he went with Oscar in a false No. 9 role, pulled Nemanja Matic and Ramires further back and cut the hosts' supply line.
Arsenal were held in Mourinho's vice-like grip. Wenger tried. But he couldn't cut the Portuguese puppeteer's strings.
3 Peerless motivator
Three years ago, John Terry was just about done.
Too many scandals for both club and country left a sour taste. The Chelsea skipper's temperament had gone and his legs weren't far behind.
He was a fading graduate from that golden generation, along with Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard.
But Mourinho rips up the birth certificate and focuses on self-belief.
Terry's performance yesterday defied the eye. He was everywhere, making tackles, reading the game and marshalling the line.
At full-time, he needed a tailor to remove Olivier Giroud from his back pocket.
Mourinho can find an extra pair of legs to support Terry, but he can't yet replace him. So he recalibrates and restores the skipper.
The contrasting fortunes between Terry and Gerrard this season says all you need to know about their respective managers.
4 Believe stats, not hype
Wenger's sarcastic comment was ill-judged for several reasons.
When he heard the United-Chelsea scoreline last weekend, he said: "One-nil? Usual."
His funny line was like offering a bloodied hand to a piranha. First, he stoked Mourinho's unquenchable fire. Second, the facts made Wenger look foolish.
Chelsea did not pull off a 1-0 win in the EPL until Feb 11. Since Mourinho returned to the club, the Blues have only one more 1-0 victory (eight) than Arsenal (seven).
Third, Mourinho had to make allowances for injuries and suspensions to Diego Costa, Loic Remy, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas. Three out of those four names were among Chelsea's most dynamic performers before Christmas.
And finally, the Blues have outscored every other EPL team except Manchester City.
Don't believe the hype. Believe the Premier League table.
THE CASE FOR THE BORING MOURINHO
1 Mavericks not trusted
The list is reasonably long. Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Juan Mata and even Arjen Robben didn't entirely earn their manager's trust.
All four picked up splinters on the bench and Robben savaged Chelsea's negative approach last season, insisting it didn't have "anything to do with football".
Mourinho likes his wizards to be workhorses, with the creative ingenuity and improvisation mostly coming from the chief maverick in the dugout.
Eden Hazard's crowning as the PFA Player of the Year might counter such a claim, but he is the quintessential Mourinho magician.
His box of tricks needs the manager's approval first and his stagecraft is controlled and contained. Hazard tracks back almost as much as he terrorises fullbacks.
He's about to pick up a Premier League winners medal, but at the expense of his personal freedom.
2 Champions play to win
The two halves of Manchester divided the last four championships between them.
They shared both the silverware and the same positive philosophy. They attacked. They picked strikers, sometimes two, and trusted the instincts of their creators.
Fundamentally, United and City focused primarily on scoring rather than stopping. Perhaps the gung-ho tactics contributed to United's gradual demise and City's boom-and-bust cycle of victory and despair.
The clubs entertained as much as they infuriated (and pretty much did the same again this season). But they still swing when they're winning. They rarely shackle.
The same could be said for Arsenal. At their captivating best, the Gunners illuminate like no other.
Mourinho's sides simply do not function this way. The manager laughs at such tactical folly and dismisses the puerile romanticism of his rivals.
He may be right. But, at times this season, Chelsea have been as dull as dishwater.
3 Dull formation
A line-up can be interpreted in many different ways. But a first 11 without a recognised striker pretty much does what it says on the tin.
A 4-6-0 formation is a containing exercise, a cynical attempt to contain and hold the line, with the odd sneaky counter-attack throw in.
The art of defending is indeed a laudable art, best encapsulated by Terry's remarkable performance against Arsenal.
But the greatest sides pick strikers. A centre forward is a statement of attacking intent, a belief in one's superior capabilities.
Costa and Remy's injuries forced Mourinho's hand, but there's a sneaking suspicion that if he could manufacture a line-up that left six men loitering on the halfway line before springing the offside trap once or twice a game, he would.
Arsenal's legendary manager George Graham has nothing on Mourinho. He has truly mastered the dour 1-0 win.
- HUMPHREYS' FINAL VERDICT: 4-3 in favour of Mourinho. He's never going to produce scintillating, carefree football, but he'll always boast the biggest trophy cabinet. His teams are sometimes paint-strippingly boring, but his achievements are no less brilliant.
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"If we are boring and if the number of goals is what decides who is good, bad or boring, then we have in the Premier League 18 teams who are more boring than us."
- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Mourinho: People will throw kisses at us
With Chelsea six points from a first Premier League title since 2010, manager Jose Mourinho happily turned a deaf ear to suggestions his team are unloved by neutrals.
Chelsea dazzled during the season's first half, putting several teams to the sword but, with the finishing line in sight, they have tightened up in trademark Mourinho fashion.
After a run of seven wins by a one-goal margin, they were taunted with chants of "Boring, boring Chelsea!" during Sunday's 0-0 draw at Arsenal, but Mourinho said he did not care about the perception of his side.
"I have lots of love," he told reporters in a mock-romantic voice. "If you tell the truth, people will fall in love with us. But you have to say the truth, and sometimes you don't.
"If you say the truth, we will walk on the streets and people will throw kisses to us."
If Chelsea win at Leicester City on Thursday morning (Singapore time), they can secure the title with victory at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday and Mourinho believes his team will be worthy champions.
"If we do that, and we are going to do that, we will be champions being top of the league since day one," he said. "Only top teams can do that."
Making his return to the club where he previously spent eight years, former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas experienced a day of contrasting emotions. He was conspicuously booed by sections of the home support and was booked for diving in the first half, but warm applause burst through the wall of jeers as he made his way off in the 90th minute.
"I won't deny that it was a special day for me," said the Chelsea midfielder, who left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2011.
"To be substituted at the end and feel the love of the Arsenal fans meant a lot to me. I'm grateful for the life they gave me. Some people will be disappointed in me for the reasons I left, but I am grateful forever."
Arsene Wenger believes there is "not a lot" between his Arsenal side and Chelsea.
"We were at our top level again and we are a bit frustrated because we always score here (at the Emirates Stadium). Not to score means you go home and think, 'What happened?'," Wenger said.
"Do we put that down to the quality of Chelsea's defending? Do we put that down to the fact that we lacked a bit of sharpness in the final third? Maybe both. You could see that (there is) not a lot (between the teams).
"We missed the first part of the season - after six games, we had one win and Chelsea were already five or six points in front - that played a big part in the run-in."
- Wire Services.