The Portuguese dismisses talk of Stamford Bridge crisis but says he did not like the way Chelsea were playing over the last few years and his long-term aim is to play a very different style
In the end it took five weeks of competitive football, four matches without a victory and a pair of defeats, each exasperating in its own way, to spark José Mourinho into a defence of his club's grand plan. Chelsea have won a European Cup and a Europa League in the last 16 months, a satisfying haul and one that, normally, would serve to suggest plenty has been going swimmingly. Yet the time has still come for change.
"The situation is pure: I don't like the way Chelsea were playing in the last couple of years," said the Portuguese. "The club doesn't like it. We want to play a different style and we have the players with the profile for that change. This project is beautiful. We had two very ugly results, which we didn't like and are not used to, and that's a problem for us. But there is no other way. This won't be easy but it's a task, we have good players, talent, and it's just a question of time."
Managers have regularly pleaded for patience at Stamford Bridge over the last six years but, on this occasion, it might be granted. Mourinho has taken on a different type of challenge, one that must yield the reinvention of a successful team's entire approach. Chelsea won their European silverware admirably, even doggedly, but rarely prettily. Bayern Munich dominated in 2012 and even Benfica stretched Chelsea for long periods a year later.
Now this team want to scintillate, dominating possession and cutting all-comers to shreds. Barcelona were never mentioned as the manager outlined the required changes before Saturday's visit of Fulham – a derby where the recent slump must be checked – but the busy yet slick style those in charge want to implement would lend itself to comparisons.
None of which, of course, is new. Successive managers have walked into this club and declared they will satisfy Roman Abramovich's thirst for spell-binding football. It is just that each, in turn, has had to resort to pragmatism in an attempt to preserve his employment when results spluttered through the teething process.
Mourinho, apparently, will not slip into that trap even if setbacks, such as the loss to Basel in midweek, occur en route.
"I had one meeting – not five, 10, 20 – with Mr Abramovich and we were convinced this was the way we want to do it. I don't want to defend as a low block, central defenders playing in midfield or long balls to a lonely striker. We want to be proactive. We cannot sell 20 players and buy 20 players but we don't want to play the same way as we did before. And I really don't want new players in January. At the end of the season, as a natural evolution, we will find these players can make us better, one here, one there. But we will learn.
"We want to play a certain style. Not what you are seeing now – we have to look better than that – but the reality still is we played at Everton, the team with the most ball possession in the Premier League up to then, and had 60-70% of the ball at Goodison Park, with 21 shots and six big chances. We lost but you need to adapt not only psychologically but also physically.
"If you sit there deep in a low block, with no spaces, you can do that for three hours. No problem. I've played like that many times at certain clubs and it's not a criticism. It's an option. I went with Inter to Barcelona and, for 60 minutes, we played with 10 men. If we'd had to play for another 60 minutes, we could have. But I don't want my team to play like that."
Instigating the change is already stretching the 50-year-old, though he dismissed talk of a crisis. He said: "Crisis of what? Syria? For me, no crisis, for me two bad results."
There was an admission on Friday that he has "never worked as hard" as now, the deflation after Wednesday's loss having prompted him to abandon his usual pre-match session before Fulham's visit and replace it with games of handball and basketball so as "not to massacre the players with tactical questions" when they are still dealing with a defeat.
While there was an acknowledgment that results must improve swiftly and a failure to progress into the knockout phase of the Champions League would be "unacceptable", the onus will remain on the long term.
"This is a totally different profile of job now, say, to that Rafael Benítez had last season," added Mourinho. "Rafa, after a couple of months, knew he was not going to stay so he had two objectives: to qualify for the Champions League and to win the Europa League, a competition for teams at a lower level than Chelsea. This is not a criticism; he did his job very well. But I have to worry about things he didn't have to. When he played David Luiz in midfield, or low block, or Oscar out wide because he can follow the full-back to the end of the world, or leaves one up front … his job was to get immediate results. I have a four-year contract. I want to build, not just for me but for Chelsea. The club knows the profile of the job and where we want to go.
"Sure, with specific situations,we can adapt. We're not naive, so in the last part of the game at Manchester United we wanted a point. We weren't going to die with our philosophy. But it's one thing to do that in specific moments and another to change the direction completely. We will not do that."