How the mighty have fallen. Chelsea have transformed from a side that was completely dominant in the Premier League last season, to a side that is currently languishing in the bottom half of the table. The champions’ terrible start to this season has quickly spiralled out of control, losing half of their eight games so far, as well as an appalling defeat to an average Porto side in the Champion’s League. It leaves them with only eight points from eight games, already 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, and possibly even more importantly, a shocking 17 goals. The implications of all of this are plentiful: a manager under pressure, a team bereft of confidence and too many baffling off-field incidents. But, how has this gone so wrong, and can it be fixed in time to save their title ambitions?
Poor Squad Improvements
The problems at Chelsea are easily traced back to a summer transfer window that culminated in some poor and rather bizarre signings. Only two new faces started Chelsea’s the abysmal 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and the still unconvincing Radamal Falcao. Although they cantered to the title last season, it was evident that Chelsea struggled at times with a lack of strength in depth. The close-season was the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to invest in a top-quality back-up for Costa, with Carlos Tevez, Mario Mandzukic and Carlos Bacca all changing clubs this summer. All of these would have perfect to compete with and support Diego Costa.
However, Falcao was Mourinho’s choice, in a signing up there with Chelsea’s strangest. Granted, it may have been the case that he may not have been first choice, but to sign a player who had only managed to score four goals last season for Manchester United, incidentally the same number as centre-back Chris Smalling, is perplexing. The failure to capture John Stones seemed to panic Chelsea and their continued attempts to acquire him shows that he was seemingly their only target. Subsequently, the signings of unknowns such as Rahman and Djilobodji scream of players that were at the bottom of the list. Whilst Pedro, Begovic and the youngster Kenedy are all strong signings, the business done this summer completely opposes that of last year in terms of the quality.
Has Mourinho lost the magic touch?
At home to Manchester City last season, Mourinho seemingly won the title, because of one decision. He chose Kurt Zouma over Gary Cahill. City were in top gear, Chelsea were starting to waver, with the crushing 5-3 defeat to Tottenham that very month. Young Zouma had only played a handful of minutes that season, and his selection confused many. Zouma matched Aguero for pace and strength, making some superb blocks and tackles, and City had no way through and had to settle for a draw. This is the type of tactical awareness that has made Mourinho one of the most successful managers of his time.
BIZARRE SUMMER SIGNINGS AND AN OUT OF FORM SQUAD HAS FORCED MOURINHO TO MAKE SOME QUESTIONABLE DECISIONS.
However, nothing has encapsulated the recent disintegration of this team more than Mourinho’s decisions this season. Away to City, the removal of Terry at half-time lost them the game, and benching the captain for following matches seemed sudden and confused. Removing in-form player, the few there have been, whilst sticking with those out of form has left the team out of balance, and it is obvious that some players just want to hide from the spotlight.
Against Southampton, the removal of substitute Nemanja Matic after less than half an hour, seems to show Mourinho publically blaming his players, something that he has always shied away from. His relationship with his players is seemingly on the ropes, with key player such as Matic, Terry, Oscar and Cahill all seemingly unsure of their manager.
Players Out of Form
To have a run of poor games is normal for any player. For a manager, maybe one or two players out of form is controllable. But, to have eight or nine players out of form in a side is the point at which the alarms start to ring. Outside of perhaps Willian and Azpilicueta, seemingly no-one in the Chelsea side is in any sort of good form. Terry, the man who epitomized the title campaign last season, playing every second, looks lost.
Famed for his positioning and organisation, the defence is a mess, and Terry’s form is perhaps at the heart of it. Gary Cahill is himself a mess, and Branislav Ivanovic’s performances have been woeful, although not helped by the arrival of the less defensively minded Pedro at right-wing and a lackadaisical Fabregas. All through the team there are players that look unfit and uninterested.
Can they turn around?
At the very least Chelsea will want to claim a top four spot this year, and that will be the more likely outcome of this already very poor campaign. With Klopp now at Liverpool, there is even more competition for those European spots and Chelsea cannot afford to lose out. As for Mourinho, he may have proclaimed himself the best manager the club has ever had, he will still need to produce results, and certainly if he cannot, the club will look at other options. Can Chelsea win the tiltle from here? Time will ultimately tell, but on the face of it, they do seem very much out of the running. It certainly will take something truly special, from “The Special One”.