Chelsea have had a terrible start to the season that doesn’t look like improving any time soon. The opening day draw was followed by a loss at Man City. Not even a loss but more a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of a side who they comfortably beat to the title last season. Since then Chelsea have been poor. The side have lost four league games, winning just two. Crisis is certainly not an overstatement in this context.
When they beat Arsenal 2-0 many might have suspected that Chelsea were back on the road to redemption. This wasn’t the case and turned out to be a false dawn. Arsenal are second, Chelsea are sixteenth. Defeat after defeat, with six in all competitions now. The loss at Porto might not be critical as Chelsea’s group isn’t too tough, but it’s certainly not going to be plain sailing.
This weekend they can afford nothing short of a victory as they face Aston Villa at home in what must surely be a banker for them. If they lose, pressure will mount on Jose Mourinho, who despite signing a new deal in the summer, is definitely in the firing line. He may well be Chelsea’s best ever manager, a fact he graciously alluded to himself, but how long can he go on losing? How long can he blame referees when his title winning side are languishing above the relegation zone?
People are talking up the third season syndrome but in reality this is misleading. In his third season at Chelsea he won two trophies. He’s never had such an awful third season, this isn’t a normal occurance this is something completely extraordinary by his standards. The problem he faces now is that in a new era of football, he is suffering from a philosophical crisis.
Modern day management is a lot about philosophies or at least talk of this. Liverpool spoke up the philosophy of Brendan Rodgers and now Jurgen Klopp. Everton did the same with Roberto Martinez. Chelsea did it to a degree with Andre Villas-Boas. A manager coming in with the view to build something unique, to imprint a style.
Jose Mourinho doesn’t do this. What is Chelsea’s philosophy? They have none. They aren’t a ball playing team per se, even if they do enjoy a lot of possession. They’re not a team of tricksters or creators. They’re not really a direct counter-attacking side. They’re in a state of indescribable flux. This was true last season although the cracks were papered over. From September to January they were flying. They looked a fast paced attacking side. The opening day which saw Andre Schurrle score a tika taka type goal was a case in point.
Cesc Fabregas was purring but now it’s all gone down hill. It did in January 2015. Chelsea’s form nose-dived but they had enough points on the board to protect their position and keep the players motivated to grind out win after win. Now they aren’t defending any leads, they started at level and couldn’t keep the same fire. The side was way off the boil in January.
A lack of philosophy is key. Do the players know what Mourinho wants to do with them, other than turn them into winners? Mourinho’s philosophy is win, win at all costs. But because of this Chelsea are awful to watch, not because they’re defensive but because going forward they lack ideas. The attacking play is sluggish and confused. The overlaps aren’t there. It’s all pretty stale. The players seem confused.
For Mourinho to get past this he needs to start imprinting a style. The 4-2-3-1 formation was one he adopted from AVB and Rafa Benitez and it perhaps isn’t the best way to play. Part of it is that the board have signed a lot of players and it’s unclear whether Mourinho has got his top targets. That being said, cry me a river, in the modern game, few managers get to pick all their players. The age of the technical director has put an end to out-right managerial control.