There can't have been few more rapid falls from grace than that suffered by the current champions.
After five games, sitting uncomfortably close to the relegation zone, with rumours of their manager being unhappy, and with supporters and no doubt the owner questioning his ability to turn things round, what has gone wrong – and can Jose Mourinho put it right before the knives are further twisted?
Saturday’s capitulation to Everton’s substitute was pitiful, with the body language of the players suggesting they were beaten before a ball was even kicked.
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Players not performing
Much of the blame must sadly rest with the under-performing squad. Players who were turning in great performances last season look jaded, short of ideas, and frankly lacking in confidence and need a rest.
Chiefly, right back Branislav Ivanovic, who seems to have lost a yard of pace and the ability to mark his man. His crossing has also been awful, and he seems to be being targeted by the opposition as a weakness. New signing Baba Raman must surely come in, with Cesar Azpilcueta swapping to his more natural right side, though the Spaniard too his been a shadow of the player from last season.
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Diego Costa needs to concentrate on getting goals rather than yellow cards. At the same stage last season, he had seven goals, he has just one in his five Premiership games this season. Perhaps more worrying, is that the goals dried up in the latter part of 2014-15 and it is rumoured that Mourinho’s frustration with the target man goes much deeper than the continued frustrations with the striker’s hamstrings. There have been allegations of him indulging too much in partying too much before the 1-1 against Liverpool back in May and consequently angering the Chelsea boss.
Others underperforming include Nemanja Matic, though the big Serb scored a great goal at the weekend, last season’s star Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, the latter also in need of a rest - or a kick up the backside. Some of the other squad players like new signing Kenedy and young Ruben Loftus-Cheek must surely be given a chance. One encouraging point from the weekend was that goalkeeping Asmir Begovic was not to blame, and looks a capable deputy for the injured Thibald Courtois.
Pedro too has disappointed last two games after shining on his debut.
One area Mourinho seems uncertain is his centre back pairing. Last year, John Terry and Gary Cahill were the best in the country, both have suffered this season, with Kurt Zouma getting the nod in recent matches and new signing Papy Djilobodji from Nantes seemingly not in favour before even playing a game. Terry is too good a player to discard at this early stage, but he needs to recapture his commanding presence quickly.
Other players such as Brazilians Oscar and Ramires seem to have been absent through injury on and off for ages, and it might be questioned if both are also out of favour as it was often rumoured they might join Juventus in the transfer window.
With Costa off form and Falcao looking a shadow of his former self, will Mourinho give Loic Remy some game time?
Mourinho – the angry one
The majority of the media feel that the Portuguese looks an unhappy man, and his demeanour and attitude suggest all is not well. The well publicised attack on the medical staff did nothing to lift the mood of the dressing room, and may be his epitaph unless things improve.
It seems that many employees at the club, do not agree with the treatment of Eva Carneiro. There are also stories suggesting there is some resistance among the players to Mourinho’s autocratic and rigid system, with some players in that team preferring to play with more flair and style, something that the owner and many fans would also seem to want. Recent press stories about his daughter’s dress would also have done nothing to lift his mood.
“Third season syndrome” is something often attributed to Mourinho. He claims to still be the best man for the job – but needs to prove again why he is the best in the business in winning against the odds.- and fast.
Critical week ahead
While it is still too early to call this a crisis, and for Mourinho’s head, the blues need to turn things around, starting with what looks like a relatively easy first Champions League game on Wednesday at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv, followed by a tricky derby match against Arsenal, and old legend Petr Cech on Saturday. Defeat in either will open up new wounds that may be too difficult to heal.
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