JOSE MOURINHO counted the heads as he dismissed any suggestions of a dressing room revolt at Chelsea.
The Stamford Bridge manager is in the middle of what he admits is the worst run of his career. His team, champions only six months ago, have won only two of their opening eight Premier League games, and lie an alarming 16th in the table.
Already, the Special One has had an unprecedented vote of confidence from his normally trigger happy owner Roman Abramovich.
For now, the Chelsea board are backing a man who has won the title three times in two spells at the club – but the prospect of not finishing in the top four, should it begin to loom any larger than it already is, could prompt a change.
Chelsea’s form has been woeful, with a host of top players, such as Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic – mainstays of last years’ title winning side – performing way below standard.
Something is clearly wrong. But Mourinho fiercely denies it is because he has lost the confidence of his players. The Portuguese has said he would walk away if that was the case.
Mourinho has at other clubs had a record of falling out with players before – goalkeeper Iker Casillas at Real Madrid is one example.
But since the defeat against Southampton two weeks ago, Chelsea, as well as publicly backing their manager, have wheeled out a succession of players to lend their support to Mourinho.
And that was what Mourinho pointed to on Thursday night at the launch of his book “Mourinho” – which is an illustrated record of his so far glittering career.
Mourinho said: “My reaction to reports of a mutiny?
“My reaction is that Asmir Begovic said: ‘We have the best manager in the world.’
“Kurt Zouma said the same. John Terry said: we have the manager we want, the one who can help us to revive this situation.
“Diego Costa said: if you ask every player in the world, they will all answer the same, that they’d like to work with three managers and one of them is this one (ie Mourinho).
“Who else? Cesc Fabregas said the same. Ramires, the same. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the same. Gary Cahill, the same. Eden Hazard, very similar.
“So I think the mutiny must be must be Baba Rahman and ….who else? Papy Djilobodji? Radamel Falcao? Oscar?”
With a grin on his face the Chelsea manager said: “So these four don’t play Saturday for sure.”
It is known that Mourinho has had training ground rows with some of his players this season – and he has publicly criticised Ivanovic and Matic. It is known that some players are unhappy with his methods.
Against Aston Villa tomorrow at Stamford Bridge, which is a ‘must win’ game for Mourinho if there ever was one, those potential ‘divisions’ have to be put aside.
Eight games have gone by. If Chelsea’s league season is not to become a car crash, then they have to become a unit again, like Mourinho’s teams usually are. Together.