What has gone so wrong for José Mourinho's Chelsea?
How have last season’s Premier League champions gone from favourites to retain their title, to dangling perilously towards the foot of the table? If you had asked anyone five months ago where would Chelsea be in the table, few would have imagined anywhere but first place. Yet seven matches into the 2014/15 campaign, they find themselves adrift in 14th place, in fact sharing more time with the basement boys than the established elite they are used to. You would think there was a good reason or two for the sudden demise of this group, yet on the surface, it does not appear so. You have to dig much deeper into what happened over the summer and the first few weeks of the season to determine the defining factors.
One fundamental difference between Chelsea and every other team in the top flight is that they all significantly strengthened their respective squads from the previous season. In contrast however, Chelsea barely managed to cover the cracks during the summer transfer window. Asmir Begovic was signed to replace the Arsenal bound Petr Cech, Abdul Baba Rahman replaced Filipe Luis and Radamel Falcao was drafted in on a season-long loan to plug the gap left by club legend Didier Drogba. Other than these three signings, the only other additions were Champions league and World Cup winner Pedro from Barcelona and Papi Djidibodji from Nantes on deadline day. Any other acquisition proved to be a youngster who would be farmed out across Europe via Chelsea’s infamous loan system. Among these were Danilo Pantic from Partizan Belgrade and Nathan de Souza from Atletico Paranaense. Both were sent to Vitesse Arnhem, one of Chelsea’s feeder clubs.
With all of the previous information taken into account, it makes you think that the squad must be pretty thin on the ground – and you would certainly not be wrong. Not only is it short on numbers, it also lacks any real competition for places. This can cause players to drop off in performance and expose cracks in the team which were not addressed in the summer. This is the case of both Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas for example. With only three senior full-backs at the club; two of which ply their trade at left-back (even though César Azpilcueta is a natural right-back), there is not enough pressure on Ivanovic to perform. The same is true for Fabregas. If he is removed from the starting 11 then the whole dynamic of the team changes and is more inclined towards “parking the bus” – a phrase all too frequently linked with Mourinho’s side. This is an example of how the weaknesses are being exposed and entwines with the failure to add in the transfer window. This is further exemplified by the statistics that Fabregas racked up last season. In the entirety of the previous campaign, he claimed 21 assists in all competitions. It only took him until December to rack up 14 and in stark contrast, he only has one assist in seven appearances. The same can be said for Ivanovic who; along with Fabregas, was included in the Premier League Team of the Year last season. He is now being targeted by opposition players as a chink in Chelsea’s armour, so much so that he has been directly at fault for 11 of the 18 goals Chelsea have conceded so far this season.
Now, it is clear that all the players cannot turn bad overnight or in Chelsea’s case, five months, especially considering they eased their way to the league title with the current squad. In addition, not all should be doom and gloom for fans as there has been some bright sparks this season, such as emergence of Ruben Loftus Cheek from the academy and Kennedy (another summer signing). Furthermore, Asmir Begovic has provided some superb displays while deputising for the injured Thibaut Courtois. Also, if the dodgy patches of form continue into January then you can be sure that Roman Abramovich will grant José Mourinho the necessary funds to reinforce his beleaguered side. Operating on the assumption that the billionaire owner keeps the faith with the former Porto boss, there is undoubtedly no other manager that football fans; let alone those favouring Chelsea, would want at the helm of their sinking ship trying to resurrect them from an early season slump.
Although some may brush it off as a mere blip; with such an occurrence now commonplace in modern football, it is clear to see the fundamental mistakes that took place over the summer. The club’s failure to strengthen in a league that is forever strengthening is proving to having a seriously detrimental effect on the team’s fortunes. This remains the case even though they only just won the league. While considering Chelsea’s current plight, I still would not hit the panic button just yet for the simple fact that; as the old saying goes, “Form is temporary, class is permanent”.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Saud Aldakheel
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