16th after 12 games, what is going wrong at Chelsea?

As time marches on in the Premier League, Chelsea and their manager Jose Mourinho slip backwards into the dark ages of Chelsea Football Club. Never in the history of the Premier Division has a defending champion had this poor a start to a campaign, not even in the 1995/96 season after Blackburn Rovers started with only three points from their first four games, have the champions sat so low on the table with such a small points tally. In Blackburn’s season, they had 14 points after 12 games and sat 11th. Chelsea have 11 points and sit 16th, slap bang in the middle of a relegation battle.

To compound any Chelsea fan’s worries, nothing coming out of Stamford Bridge makes for good reading; Mourinho sat out the 1-0 defeat against Stoke on Saturday after accepting a misconduct charge and a one match stadium ban, Mourinho and the club are also still dealing with the fallout from the Eva Caneiro incident – with the ex-Chelsea doctor threatening legal action against the club, and last but not at least, Roman Abramovich has been suspiciously quiet about Mourinho’s future.

It is highly unlikely that Mourinho will be fired any time soon. The breakdown in the relationship between the Russian and the Portuguese has not been revisited yet, and there is not the same type of player-led revolt that Luis Felipe Scolari had to deal with before his sacking. The players that Mourinho has at his disposal, the likes of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois (currently injured), Branislav Ivanovic to name a few, are still playing for Mourinho, but their form is not at the level it was at last season.

This is perhaps the biggest issue for Mourinho: a man used to winning week-in-week-out has found himself at the wrong end of results, and not for the lack of trying. This drop in form – Mourinho has never lost seven games in a domestic season in his career until this season – has coincided with what can only be described as a self-destruction of the Mourinho cult of personality. ‘The Special One’ is no more, replaced by an angry, petulant, and arrogant man who is now more likely to criticise one of his own players than himself, a change that is seismic in a man that in the past has refused to do so.

Despite this though, the problems appear to run deeper. This is the first season that Mourinho has had to deal without all of his core group of players from his first spell at Stamford Bridge. John Terry has fallen down the pecking order behind Kurt Zouma, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech left during the summer after Diego Costa and Courtois made it clear they were of a different era, and most notably this is the second season without Frank Lampard in Chelsea’s engine room. The loss, or demotion, of all of these key players is surely having an effect on the Chelsea squad. While Drogba and Cech did not play much last season, their mere presence in the dressing room will have been enough to have awarded Mourinho some inherent respect from difficult players. With them gone and John Terry relapsing his role in a bad sitcom, Mourinho seems to be struggling to get the respect necessary for his squad to perform to his standards.

With Hazard unlikely to remain at Chelsea, especially on current form, for much longer than the season with PSG interested, and Ivanovic, Terry and Oscar having their worst seasons in memory, Mourinho’s job is not easy.

The saving grace may well be a run in the Champions League, but with qualification to next year’s competition looking unlikely, Mourinho may not last past Christmas.

Image courtesy of Ronnie MacDonald

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