Jose Mourinho has a number of huge problems to address if Chelsea are to get back into the title mix after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Everton plunged the defending champions into crisis.
“Let’s be objective. I don’t want to leave the club, in any circumstances.
“And the club doesn’t want me to leave. I’m not going to walk away. The club is not going to sack me.”
Those were the words of Chelsea boss Mourinho going into Saturday’s clash against Everton – and although it’s probably too soon to discuss another parting of ways for the Portuguese and the reigning champions, the manner of the 3-1 defeat – making it their worst start to a season since 1988 – will have serious alarm bells ringing.
Chelsea have now lost three of their first five Premier League games – as many as they lost in the entire 2014/15 season in which they were crowned deserving champions.
But that side looks a shadow of its former self. Tired. Jaded. Bereft of ideas. And somewhat staggeringly, they could find themselves as many as a 11 points behind Manchester City should Manuel Pellegrini’s side pick up maximum points from Saturday afternoon’s game at Crystal Palace.
All being told, he wouldn’t be the first Chelsea manager to lose his job on the back of a defeat at Goodison Park either – that fate befell Carlo Ancelotti just two hours after their 1-0 defeat there in May 2011.
Mourinho, with two weeks to reflect on his side’s 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace before the international break, caused something of a surprise by recalling John Obi Mikel to play alongside Nemanja Matic in the central midfield; a move which freed up Cesc Fabregas to revert to the more advanced role he revelled in during the first half of last season.
However, Fabregas struggled to get a foothold in the game, often seeing the play pass him by and too often looking to make the killer pass when more often, a simple one would do.
Fabregas made 75 passes in the game, and whilst his pass completition rate of 93% wasn’t the worst by any stretch, it does dip below the Spaniards usual high standards.
The plan to play Fabregas in a more advanced role was designed to help him influence the match offensively for Chelsea, but zero dribbles, zero shots and not one tackle won tells its own story and it was no surprise to see him withdrawn on 75 minues for Willian.
Perhaps most worryingly for Mourinho will be the way his defence has struggled this season, with the chopping and changing of players in the central defensive positions epitomising their fall from grace.
Normally the bedrock of Mourinho sides, Chelsea have struggled to maintain any kind of defensive cohesion this season.
The tone was set in the first game after Thibaut Courtois’ crazy dash from his goal against Swansea and has continued ever since with probably only Kurt Zouma to emerge with any sort of credit for his defensive efforts so far this season.
The stats don’t lie and make poor reading for Chelsea.
- As of full-time, Chelsea have conceded the most goals in the Premier League this season – proof if ever there was that the Blues are not wearing their golden champions badge with ease.
- Chelsea have faced 36 shots on target in the Premier League this season, 30 more than Manchester City.
- Chelsea have now conceded 16 goals in their last seven Premier League games, one more than they did in the whole of Mourinho’s first season (2004-05)
- No team with Chelsea’s record after five games of a Premier League season (W1 D1 L3) has ever finished higher than third.
- Number of Premier League games taken to concede 12 goals under Mourinho: 04-05: 32; 05-06: 23; 06-07: 19; 13-14: 14; 14-15: 15; 15-16: 5.
Whatever the combination selected in defence, Mourinho needs to find a way to awaken Chelsea from their defensive slumbers sharpish.
Ivanovic past his best
He’s been on borrowed time for most of the season, but if ever Mourinho needed a reason to drop the struggling Serb, he needn’t look much further than today’s game. Time and again Ivanovic was caught out of position. From dropping off too deep for Ivanovic’s second to failing to cut out the danger posed by marauding Everton left-back Brendan Galloway, the sands of time have surely elapsed on his time in Chelsea’s defence.
Mourinho must have contemplated the change before hand, but now must be severely tempted, to switch Cesar Azpilicueta to right-back and bring in summer signing Baba Rahman as left-back.
Perhaps I’m being harsh – particularly as it’s easy to forget that Ivanovic is a centre-half by tradition – but surely he needs to focus on his first job as a defender – defending – and that’s not an art he’s excelling in at the moment.
Costa not firing
The favoured 4-2-3-1 formation which Premier League teams tend to prefer these days means the art of playing as a centre forward is not as glamorous as it once was. Costa, in scoring 21 goals in 39 games last season, looked like the master of that art and the perfect foil to the trio of attacking midfielders playing behind him.
Whilst it’s also fair to level criticism at that triumverate operating behind him, Costa’s drop in form will again be of huge concern to Mourinho.
Costa scored twice in this fixture last season; this time around he couldn’t even manage a shot on target – his best opening on goal coming in the 70th minute when he delayed too long after an Ivanovic pass and allowed the excellent Phil Jagielka to snuff out the danger.
Mourinho’s alternatives – Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy – may not be quite suited to the solo role, but could find themselves propelled into action sooner rather later.
Everton v Chelsea
- Steven Naismith has now scored six Premier League goals against Chelsea; four more than against any other side.
- Naismith has scored in three different Premier League games against a Jose Mourinho Chelsea side – more often than any other player.
- Naismith was the sixth player to score a hat-trick after coming on as a sub in a Premier League game and the first since Lukaku (5-5 v Man Utd) in May 2013.
- He also became only the fifth player to score a Premier League hat-trick against Chelsea and the first since Robin van Persie in October 2011.
- Cesc Fabregas hasn’t scored or assisted in any of his last six PL apps – his longest run in the competition without a goal involvement since a nine game run in Jan-Apr 2007.
- This is the first time that Jose Mourinho has lost two successive Premier League since May 2006.
- In their last seven Premier League games, Chelsea have conceded 16 goals – one more than they conceded in the whole of Mourinho’s first PL season in charge of the Blues in 2004-05 (15).
- The last time that Chelsea had a worse start to a top-flight season was in 1986-87 (three points – P5 W0 D3 L2). They finished that season in 14th position.
- Chelsea have already equalled their tally of defeats from the whole of 2014-15 (3) in after five games of 2015-16.
- Chelsea have lost four of their last seven Premier League games – they had only lost four of their previous 44 PL games before this run.
By James Marshment