By Danny Shin
Manager Jose Mourinho did not see this coming.
Last season, he saw his Chelsea squad dominate most opponents on their way to the Premier League title. Their new additions were brilliant, as striker Diego Costa scored 20 goals and midfielder Cesc Fabregas dished out 18 assists. On top of that, their defensive solidity across the backline made the Blues unstoppable.
Most of the players had the entire summer off to recuperate. Chelsea thwarted off Manchester United and signed Pedro in addition to bringing in striker Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco. Sure, Petr Cech and Felipe Luis were sold, but there was little reason to be skeptical about the team heading into the new season.
Yet after five games, Chelsea find themselves in 17th place, just two points above the relegation zone. Their 3-1 defeat to Everton on Saturday was their third loss of the campaign, while the goals-against column already reads 12 – over a third of what they gave up last season.
So let’s get to the root of the problem: what’s wrong with Chelsea?
It all started in the preseason, when Chelsea returned to training a week later than all of the other teams in an effort to prevent from running out of gas. They travelled to the United States over the summer, returned to England out of shape and that set up their poor start and got them into their current rut.
Chelsea did not make enough additions in the summer transfer window. They didn’t need replacements – they needed to strengthen an ageing squad that had weaknesses in key areas last season, like attack and midfield.
So many players are out of form. Fabregas looks nothing like the figure of influence from last season while Costa is still getting under his opponents’ skin but that’s about it. In his first five league games in 2014, the Spanish striker had seven goals – he only has one this year and looks nothing like a threat.
Center back and captain John Terry played at Everton but was substituted in favor of Kurt Zouma at Manchester City and was sent off against West Bromwich Albion. Gary Cahill was just a substitute at Everton and right back Branislav Ivanovic has seen his form dip dramatically. In other words, three-quarters of Chelsea’s incredible championship backline have struggled mightily in the new season.
With all of that being said, is it time to sack Mourinho? Not just yet. After all, he did sign a new contract in the offseason that keeps him with the club until 2019.
Chelsea will get better. Mourinho is too good a manager and the squad is too talented to continue this poor play. However, Manchester City is currently head and shoulders better than every team in the Premier League and have an 11-point lead over the defending champions. On the bright side, Chelsea can still finish in the top four of the Premier League and potentially go far in the 2016 UEFA Champions League.
Chelsea have the chance to get back on track this week with a matchup against fellow rivals Arsenal. But for right now, the first step for Mourinho is to instill belief back into his players and improve their work-rate.