Fuming Jose refuses to give up

December 31, 2006

Jose Mourinho may have given his defence and some of his shot-shy strikers a verbal pasting ahead of Tuesday's clash with Aston Villa but he is still unconcerned by the widening gap between the champions and Manchester United.

GettyImagesLampard barges past Michael Brown

Chelsea's shock home draw with Fulham on Saturday left them six points adrift of United at the top of the Barclays Premiership.

Mourinho slammed his side's woeful defending after they dropped two home points for the second time in four days.

He also lambasted strikers Andriy Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou and Shaun Wright-Phillips by claiming that Didier Drogba was the only one of his attackers in form.

Mourinho is expected to raid the transfer market next month but only if the price is right.

Portsmouth's former England defender Sol Campbell (32) is the latest defender to be linked with a move to Stamford Bridge while Valencia's David Villa could be the one to add some beef to an attack that is too heavily reliant on the 20-goal Drogba.

Mourinho has also been hit hard with the loss of England midfielder Joe Cole, who now looks to be out of the rest of the season with surgery now advised as the remedy for the stress fracture of his foot.

The return of injured captain John Terry and goalkeeper Petr Cech should help Mourinho's cause but he has plenty to ponder on at the turn of the year.

However, he remains confident of catching United and refuses to believe the gap cannot be narrowed before they meet in April.

Mourinho said: 'Our task is to keep winning games. We have not a lot of fit players at the moment, but we have enough.

'We know we need to be two or three points behind Manchester United at worse, when we play them at Stamford Bridge towards the end of the season.

'It would be lovely if we can be better than that but if you are not prepared to have to battle to the end, you might not be capable of battling at the end.

'They will go on winning. But they will also drop points. We must go on winning.'

Despite his brutal assessment of Chelsea's defending, Mourinho still regards the situation as perfect for some of the fringe players to make a name for themselves.

Mourinho added: 'There are great opportunities now for the players who have not played a lot so far and they must take them. That is what happens when a squad suffers injuries.

'Players who are going to be great take their opportunities, I am confident in ours.'

But Mourinho was distinctly lost for words when asked why he sold defenders William Gallas to Arsenal and Robert Huth to Middlesbrough in the summer.

The sales left him short of defensive cover and while Khalid Boulahrouz was acquired as a replacement for one of them, he has yet to prove he can adapt to English football.

Boulahrouz missed the draw with Fulham through suspension but will be back for the trip to Villa, although Mourinho will be without banned German midfielder Michael Ballack.

Mourinho said: 'Why I sold Huth and Gallas? It is a good question. There is no answer, there is no answer.

'They are not here any more and to be fair they are both injured at the moment, so if they are both here and injured, we have the same problem.'

But their departures left Chelsea vulnerable to the kind of situation they now find themselves entrenched in.

Without the inspirational leadership of injured Terry, they have conceded eight goals - two in every game - a rare statistic under Mourinho's reign.

Boulahrouz's absence against Fulham once again forced Mourinho to play Paulo Ferreira, normally a right-back, alongside Ricardo Carvalho in the centre of defence.

Carvalho has played the last 10 games carrying an ankle problem and Mourinho cannot afford to have the Portuguese defender sidelined as well.

But Huth and Gallas provided Mourinho with the kind of defensive power that he now accepts he is lacking and for the first time since he arrived in this country, Mourinho is discovering why the English game remains far different from the one played in the rest of Europe and in the Champions League.

He added: 'In the last month, the matches Chelsea won are because we won in the last minute.

'The opponent had no time to react, it happened to Wigan and Everton.

When there is 15 or 20 minutes left, we cannot hold a result at the moment.

'In this country you need to have very strong central defenders in the air. In this country everybody has tall and strong strikers and put the ball in the box. Against Fulham it was Brian McBride and Antoine Sibierski for Newcastle. We do not dominate the game in the air, that is obvious.'

That fact, more than any of the injuries, will prompt Mourinho to move swiftly in the transfer window.

Chelsea's alleged interest in Campbell stems from the fact Mourinho knows that his defence is not capable of dealing with strong attackers while Terry is sidelined.

Mourinho added: 'The way teams play in this country you need very strong central defenders in the air. I think if you play with this defence in another championship or even Champions League it is not a big deal.

'But in this country everybody has tall and strong strikers. They put the ball in the box. We do not dominate the game in the air.

'What can you do with Paulo (Ferreira) - nothing. What can you do with Geremi - nothing. The players have no qualities adapted to the game opponents are playing against us - it is as obvious as that.'