Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has opened up on the horrific start to the season and the impact Jose Mourinho had during his tenure at Stamford Bridge.
He believes the former Portuguese manager should not be blamed for the faults of the players and the dressing room simply couldn’t handle the pressure of being champions.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, the full-back said: “We didn’t know what was going wrong around us. No-one inside the club knew. We finished brilliantly last season. We won the trophy. We knew how difficult it was.”
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THE SPECIAL ONE, THE PERFECT ONE
He hailed the genius of Mourinho and the impact he had on each and every member of the squad.
“Jose told us the hardest season in football is the year after you win because everyone else has extra motivation. We were ready for that, but we didn’t start well and we lost control of our game, of our minds.”
Ivanovic added that if it was possible owner Roman Abramovich would have got rid of all 25 players instead of sacking only Mourinho.
“Football is about players. The managers are not on the pitch. It is 11 against 11. You have to be better than your opponent and, at the beginning, we weren’t.”
“The players were more responsible for that situation than the manager. Of course it is difficult in football to change 25 players halfway through the season. But I think at this club if [Abramovich] could have, he would have changed all of us as well.”
EARLY SEASON FORM
The Serbian also revealed he had begun to doubt his own performances after an error-strewn start to the campaign.
“I thought about it a lot. I took criticism from the public, but I was more critical of myself.”
“I tried to find the reason why I was not performing as I was last season. We gave everything last season. Even more, than we could. And we didn’t realise how dangerous it was to be champions. We fell down quickly.”
The 32-year-old suggests that part of the side's downfall was linked to losing the fear-factor that comes when playing Chelsea.
“For me, that period of three or four months was one of the most disappointing moments in my career. Player by player, we could not deal with the pressure of what being champions of England means.”
“Your opponents have big motivation and they look at you differently, they start to be scared of you. But when we didn’t win for six or seven games, people realised we were not as strong as last season. They could use that. And then they weren’t scared of us. This was our problem as players.”
BACK TO GLORY DAYS
But since the appointment of Guus Hiddink as the interim boss, not just Ivanovic but the whole squad have found their previously missing confidence and are on course of overturning their fortunes, with a top four finish not ruled out.
The west London outfit have lost just once since December and are ready to stretch their unbeaten run even further and salvage something from a disappointing campaign.
The 32-year-old has extended his Chelsea contract until 2017 and is slowly returning to form, captaining the side in his 350th appearance for the club in the absence of John Terry during midweek win against Norwich City.