It’s all a little bit confusing at Stamford Bridge this season. Mark Young casts his eye over the main reasons why the Champions of England are struggling for points.
At the start of last season Chelsea were playing extravagant and pulse-racing football, so much so that the title was pretty much wrapped up by Christmas. The Blues, with Jose Mourinho at the helm for a second time, only lost one game before the turn of the year.
Particularly impressive performances included a 6-3 win at Everton, a 4-2 win at home to Swansea and a 3-0 thrashing of Tottenham at home. Goals aplenty were to be had, with Eden Hazard running the show, the defence only conceding more than two goals in one game up to New Year’s Day, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic bossing midfield, and Diego Costa scoring goals for fun.
A loss away at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day came as a surprise, particularly given the emphatic manner of the defeat, but between that game and lifting the trophy there would only be four games that they would score more than two goals in one game.
Chelsea did put in a complete team performance away at Swansea in January, netting five against an upwardly mobile Swans side.
But that was where the fun stopped.
Chelsea had points in the bank and a back-four and goalkeeper that probably couldn’t concede too many goals even if they wanted to. And Mourinho’s philosophy seemed to have changed. The Chelsea side that entertained their way to the top of the Premier League were grinding out results as the title drew ever closer to a return to Stamford Bridge.
You can’t blame them for this, but the bubble that they enjoyed in the first half last season had completely burst and Mourinho’s house has been collapsing ever since last season finished.
The Blues boss tried re-shaping his squad once again, but Juan Cuadrado was signed in January only to be moved on in the summer: another victim of the pedestrianism of the Blues.
Mourinho then made noises about wanting Paul Pogba and John Stones over the summer, but had to do with Radamel Falcao and Baba Rahman. And whilst their rivals strengthened, the Champions did not. If anything they weakened themselves by strengthening a rival, with Petr Cech heading to Arsenal.
Then came the very curious Eva Carneiro business at the start of the season and the dramatic dips in form of the majority of the club’s best players of the trophy winning season before.
John Terry was dropped, while the horribly out-of-form Branislav Ivanovic was kept in the firing line.
Costa was getting more cards than goals, Hazard was dropped for poor form and then recalled, and Nemanja Matic looked a shadow of the player he was last season.
Every combination and everything Mourinho tried tactically just wasn’t working.
Fabregas struggled (much to the joy of Arsenal fans) and first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was injured before the season really even started.
Chelsea have now won just three games this season and sit 15th after ten games, nine points off fourth and 11 off the top of the table. The champions of England are almost out of the title race before November.
On the face of it, these issues are down to Mourinho, with the once all-powerful coach struggling for control. Chelsea are stuck in a very difficult phase, with the manager struggling, but the players have also been at fault for this. Their performances are pedestrian in comparison to last year.
However, Mourinho’s treatment of Eva Carneiro – who the players would have had a close relationship with – is troubling. Negative headlines create controversy, while the chopping, changing, dropping and shaming of his players will not have done the world of good for his squad’s morale.
His comments, his conspiracy theories and his behaviour have been poor, with bad errors of judgement seeping into everything he seems to be doing at present.
The now Grumpy One seems unable to breathe new life into his beleaguered stars, and if this continues then spell number two in charge of Chelsea could well be over sooner rather than later.
It is really difficult to pin where this sudden decline started at Stamford Bridge, but the price of it could be the Special One receiving his P45 for the second time at the Blues.
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