It's funny how much can change in a year, isn't it?
This time last year, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea were making an early surge for the Premier League title, brushing aside anyone who who dared try to take them on.
Fast forward to this present moment and the picture couldn't be more different. Four points from a possible 15 and three losses represents the most incredible fall from grace, with it bewildering how Chelsea have gone from a near-unbeatable side, to one that is struggling both defensively and when going forward.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250 word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Article continues below
The facts speak for themselves lately, if anyone needs reminding of just how steep a decline the west London outfit are in:
- Chelsea have now lost four of their last seven Premier League fixtures, having lost just four of the previous 44 before such time
- They are yet to win at home this season, registering only a draw at home to Swansea and a defeat to Crystal Palace
Article continues below
- The defeat to Palace was Jose Mourinho's second in 100 home league games
- The Blues are 17th in the table currently with the worst goal difference in the division after five games
None of this makes for pretty reading for the self-proclaimed 'Special One'. Mourinho has made his name for Chelsea as a front-runner - in seven of the eight titles he has won in his career, he has led at Christmas.
The only time he trailed after five games by more than five points was in his final season at Real Madrid, when he ended up losing the title by 15 points.
These figures all point to a Chelsea side that is in urgent need of a victory. Mourinho is not used to trailing and looks increasingly irascible, while the players seem jaded and fault-ridden.
Branislav Ivanovic has regressed at an alarming rate since his promotion to club vice-captain, while skipper, John Terry, has had his own on and off the pitch issues with selection and suspensions.
It is difficult to prescribe a cure for the infection that has overtaken Chelsea's title defence. The transfer window is closed, so Mourinho must work with what he has. The team looks suited to its present formation as much as any other tactical variant, too, so there is no obvious alteration. The 4-2-3-1 system that is being exposed weekly at the moment is the formation that saw Chelsea romp to the title last term.
Therefore, it seems the one thing that Mourinho can most readily adjust is the motivation that seems to be seeping away from players week-on-week. Where last season there was boundless energy, there is now lethargy.
Opponents, sensing weakness, are working ever-harder to claim the scalp of the champions - and so far it is working.
Right now, the Portuguese knows that if he loses the dressing room his position could become untenable - if the players revolt, results will continue to disappoint. The only hope is to keep the faith in this group, and so Mourinho has refused to publicly criticise his players following the latest defeat at Everton.
This current malaise will require every bit of cunning in the Special One's armoury, though - and even that may not be enough. Chelsea now face a defining match next weekend at home to Arsenal - a side Mourinho dares not lose to.