Chelsea in disarray as Mourinho approaches crossroads
As Chelsea's opening to the 2015/16 Premier League campaign continues to descend into something resembling a farce, Jose Mourinho is having to answer the unthinkably posed questions once more. Not least his position as Chelsea manager. As Saturday's game with his managerial nemesis Arsene Wenger draws a-pace once more, is Jose Mourinho approaching a crossroads at Stamford Bridge?
The Blues' horrific start to the domestic season, has left many scratching their collective heads as to their apparent fall from grace - on such a grand scale. Akin to a waiter whipping not only the tablecloth, but the table from under the West Londoners'. Chelsea have, as documented, slipped into the 'Champions trap' , but is there more to it?
Four points from a possible fifteen is remarkable. The sheer notion is hard to fathom. Here we have a team, who last season conceded just 32 goals; less than a goal a game. Chelsea have conceded at least two goals in each of their five games thus far. Their only win came versus a West Brom side who had a penalty saved by the now stricken Thibaut Courtois at The Hawthorns, on the way to a 2-3 victory. Surely the draw that Swansea held Mourinho's side to, was just a hiccup after a earlier-than-usual start to a campaign? So it appears - it was not. There is something not quite right at Chelsea currently.
It was also during that game versus The Swans, that Mourinho and club doctor Eva Carneiro, had their much-publicised medical spat over the swift treatment of a player. Mourinho has stoutly refused to not only apologise, but reinstate his exiled medical staff to a degree which suggests an imbalance somewhere, albeit it almost intrinsically out of sight. The question has to be asked though, would this have occured last term? There seems to be more than a hint of disharmony at Stamford Bridge. But answers seem to be few and far between.
Chelsea's out-of-sorts start, prompted the Portuguese boss to swoop for Barcelona's Pedro - which some will have you believe was snatched away from Premier League rivals Manchester United - but even the tricky Spaniard couldnt prevent a third defeat at Everton, this past weekend.
The worrying nature of the steep drop in form of their key players, has been baffling. Branislav Ivanovic has taken the brunt of criticism. Indeed, the Serbian right-back of this and last season, has been like chalk and cheese. Cesc Fabregas also seems like a player whose honeymoon period has concluded, but with a player of his experience in the English top flight, that would be erronious to claim so. Nemanja Matic likewise, seems to be visibly absent in his cutting off of opposition attacks. Chelsea's central midfield appears to be significantly wounded.
The champions' attacking unit has also be markedly blunted, almost as a result of the ailments across the park. Diego Costa seems like a player whose physical game has been rumbled. Eden Hazard has failed to replicate the form of the early stages of last term and only has one assist to his name and Willian has resembled the antithesis of Chelsea's lack of a plan 'B' in attack.
But the main issue has been Chelsea's ailing defence. As pointed out, Ivanovic has been a shadow of his excellent best, in both offense and defence. Particularly in the latter department. The Serb seems to be too keen to step off and let opponents on to him now and Mourinho has to address the growing weakness on the right of his side's play.
The seemingly evergreen John Terry is starting to show signs of infallibility at 34 years of age. The Chelsea skipper's dismissal versus West Brom after being outmuscled and outpaced by Salomon Rondon could be a sign of things to come, although their defeat to Crystal Palace in his absence, may suggest the problems lie elsewhere - despite his return for the loss at Goodison Park.
On that note, we should also of course look at the huge influx of money that is being pumped into the Premier League. Not only Tony Pulis' men but most sides in the league have made at least one big signing in the off-season. For Stoke; Xhedran Shaqiri, for Newcastle; Georginio Wijnaldum, for West Ham, Dimitri Payet.
As we have seen with The Hammers already, beating both Arsenal and Liverpool on the road, it is not so much that the quality has increased in the league, but the distance between the top clubs and the rest is narrower than ever before. It is likely we will see more shocks in the vein of those, that Chelsea have suffered.
So baffling is the situation at Stamford Bridge, that on the opposite flank, Cesar Azpilicueta has almost taken the reigns from his teammate. After Ivanovic scored four goals and allotted six assists last term, the Spaniard has scored and assisted already after five games. Are we seeing 'Dave' venturing forward more, and with Ivanovic unable to cover to the level of Azpilcueta, do we have an imbalance, that is causing Chelsea problems?
The same is evidently true of the midfield. Where Matic is not as water-tight in the holding role, Gary Cahill is not afforded the same room for error. Especially given the question mark over Terry currently.
So what of the crossroads we speak of? With Baba Rahman, Kenedy and Kurt Zouma all waiting in the wings to stem the bleeding in West London, Jose Mourinho is approaching the time where the trigger may be needed to be pulled on certain names as automatic starters for Chelsea.
It has been mooted in more than a few circles, that Azpilicueta is ready to switch back to his natural right-back role, with left-back Baba assuming the role on the left. That would of course mean Ivanovic being benched, which last season would have been unthinkable. With Zouma also impressive many with his speed and strength, should Cahill or Terry drop out also?
The Portuguese has decisions to make with his personnel, but more immediately, Arsenal and his great rival Arsene Wenger, this Saturday lunchtime at The Bridge. Following The Gunners' victory in the Community Shield last month, Wenger finally usurped his nemesis and with Arsenal six points ahead of Chelsea - not to mention eleven behind runaway leaders Manchester City - this weekend's game holds huge significance.
Despite a morale boosting 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv for Chelsea and hugely chastening defeat in Zagreb for the North Londoners on Wednesday night in the Champions League, Mourinho is under immense pressure for his side to perform and win against the man who Mourinho famously stated himself, as a 'specialist in failure'.
The game is primed for Arsenal to finally exorcise their league demons. Nevertheless should the unthinkable happen and Arsenal beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, would Jose Mourinho's words be coming back to bite him? Whilst no-one is suggesting that a shock departure is on the horizon, moreover, could a defeat leave not only Chelsea fans, but Mourinho asking questions as to his own suitability, for Chelsea Football Club?