LONDON • Jose Mourinho admitted yesterday that he could not say if Chelsea had finally turned the corner after a disastrous start to their Premier League title defence.
His side have recorded back-to-back clean sheets after the international break, beating Aston Villa in the league before securing an away point at Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.
Despite that Villa win, Chelsea go into today's match against West Ham in a lowly 12th position.
The Chelsea manager believes his side's performances in those two games signalled a return to the defensive strength that marked their title-winning campaign last season.
But the Portuguese is not ready to declare that the Blues' difficulties are a thing of the past. "I don't know (if the bad start is behind them)," he said while insisting, however, that the unity in his squad has never wavered in light of repeated reports of tensions between the manager and some of his players.
"The players who were man enough to assume responsibilities and to say even publicly, some of them, that they were feeling responsibilities in their individual poor start.
Chelsea conceded six goals from "isolated individual mistakes"
"Statistics are very clear for us. As an example, we conceded six goals as a consequence of isolated individual mistakes, but the team were always together.
"At this moment we have two important results, three points in the Premier League after two matches without a victory. And against a direct rival in qualification in the Champions League, we got a point away.
"The group was always solid, compact and together, but the mood improves with results. People are happy. It's important. Not just the clean sheets, but the way the team played to keep the clean sheets. Both were based on good teamwork."
Mourinho is adamant he has seen signs of improvement, and singled out Nemanja Matic for praise for the way he responded after being left out of the starting line-up.
The manager said: "Matic went from being on the bench against Aston Villa, played the second half positively, to being the man of the match three days later. So just one example. Other players also improved in their performances. A bit better."
Eden Hazard was left out of the starting line-up against Villa, with Mourinho making it clear after that game that he had to improve his all-round contribution.
The Belgium playmaker was recalled for the Kiev clash and played the entire game but Mourinho refused to indicate whether the 22-year-old would start today.
What the Portuguese is certain of is that his relationship with the British press has deteriorated.
Mourinho made the news this week when a video showed him reacting seemingly aggressively towards a youngster who was filming him on the London streets, reported the Daily Mail.
The club have defended Mourinho's actions, with a club spokesman saying that the video of the manager was "overly intrusive".
The 52-year-old fell out with the Spanish media during his time at Real Madrid, when he declared that "I am loved by the fans and the media (in England) who treat me in a fair way". But he made it clear yesterday that he no longer harbours that view in his second spell in London.
"You don't get from me good and funny headlines," said Mourinho. "I'm going to treat your bosses the same way they treat me. No respect, no respect. And I'm not speaking about football. Football I'm ready to accept any kind of criticism, even the stupid ones.
"Private life and stupid things that you bring to light, I don't like it. So we go to a different level of professional relationship."
WEST HAM V CHELSEA
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