Troubled waters at The Bridge

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Chelsea are in a slump. There are no two ways about it, at the time of going to press, Chelsea are in a much worse predicament than they found themselves in at this time of the season last year. Dan Reuben investigates their decline...

14 games into last season, Chelsea were unbeaten, having won 11 games, drawn three times and they had scored 33 goals. However at the same stage of this season, they have won just four times, drawn three and lost seven times, which is four more defeats than Jose Mourinho’s side suffered in the entirety of the last campaign. Meanwhile the Blues have scored just 17 times so far and conceded 23.

Chelsea have not played with any of the panache that typified their performances last term

It is not just the statistics, however, that demonstrate the stark contrast between the Chelsea of last season and the Chelsea of this season, it is also the change in the nature of their performances on the pitch and in their handling of matters off the pitch.

Last season, Chelsea took opponents apart with the ruthlessness that has become a common characteristic of teams playing under Mourinho’s stewardship. They hit six past Everton at Goodison Park, four past Swansea and three past Aston Villa all in the first six games and with a solid defence and a powerful strike force, they seemed unbeatable.

However, since the start of this season, Chelsea have not played with any of the panache that typified their performances last term and have been lacklustre as a team; their decline has been as clear as it has been unexpected.

When Chelsea beat Crystal Palace on 3rd May to seal their first Premier League title in six seasons, there was a strong feeling that this Chelsea team would continue to dominate the top flight for years to come. However, this was the first point from which the Blues began to unravel. In order to win and win continuously, there has to be no sense of complacency and targets need to be constantly realigned.

There has however been an apparent complacency within the Chelsea ranks and an arrogance, coming from both the manager and the players, that they would be able to retain the standards of last season and regain the title that they won in such an impressive manner.

Mourinho has personified this arrogance during his dealings with the media. He has been at odds with the FA due to his often explosive, often awkward but never dull post-match press conferences. He was recently fined £50,000 and given a one match stadium ban due to his outburst against officials after his team lost 3-1 at home to Southampton.

they have kept just two clean sheets in the league all season.

This constant blaming of defeats on officials hints at a refusal to accept the problems that his team are facing. Furthermore he could have handled his well-documented argument with Eva Carneiro in a much better manner. Carneiro was a respected member of the Chelsea backroom staff but angered the manager by running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard in the Blues’ opening draw against Swansea. This was deemed naïve by Mourinho and she has since been sacked and is suing the club for unfair dismissal.

This would have likely caused a rift in the dressing room as the doctor had a good rapport with many senior members of the squad and so her departure would have frustrated some of the team and reduced team morale. This has in turn caused problems on the pitch.

These problems are arising from key performers last season who are underperforming this term. For example, in August last year the signing of Cesc Fabregas increased Chelsea’s creativity and the acquisition of Diego Costa in attack added an extra edge to an already imperious looking side. Fabregas went on to make a league-best 18 assists and Costa found the net 20 times. However, these two players have been two of Chelsea’s worst performers so far in this campaign. Players like Branislav Ivanovic and the captain, John Terry have also struggled to find the form that they hit so consistently last season.

It is also worth noting that Chelsea have suffered injuries to key players, in particular Thibaud Courtois, who sustained a knee injury at the beginning of September and has been out since then. This has brought Asmir Begovic into the fold, and despite him being a very worthy replacement, his presence does not carry the fear factor that Courtois exudes. Therefore when Courtois returns to the team, as expected in early December, it is likely that Chelsea’s fortunes will improve, at least in defence, as they have kept just two clean sheets in the league all season.

Despite these problems, even the most pessimistic Chelsea fans should surely see that their squad have enough quality to recover from their bad start to the season. If the Stamford Bridge faithful continue to support both their team and Mourinho as much as they have been doing, it will only be a matter of time before the Blues bounce back from their slump. What remains to be seen, however, is how long this slump will last.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons


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