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3 Reasons Why Chelsea FC's 2015/16 Season May Be Irredeemable
Eight matches into the 2015/16 season and Chelsea FC continue to wallow barely afloat the relegation zone in the English premier league. The title holders have looked like everything but champions so far in the current campaign. Match outcomes that were rarities and rather unthinkable in previous campaigns under Jose Mourinho have become commonplace as The Blues have conceded loads of goals, surrendered leads in both home and away ties, lost half the total amount of games payed, and looked far from their indefatigable selves especially at the back (in defense).
Chelsea's home turf and fortress, the Stanford Bridge, that has always proved impossible for many teams to get even a single point from, has been breached twice already amidst two of their most horrendous defensive displays in recent times. Displays that have sadly highlighted a rather unusual and vulnerable side to a Mourinho-led Chelsea team.
The English Premier League Table - Week 8
On the plus side, the premier league is a marathon and not a sprint; and there is a chance, no matter how slim it may seem, of a possible bounce-back since the season is only 8-matches old and the the leading pack and perennial title contending trio of Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United have also displayed defensive frailties of their own in their last couple games. Also, the talents and potentials of the Chelsea guard is all too apparent to overlook, and the abilities and credentials of their world-class handler cannot, without a shred of doubt, be called to question.
But as positive as all that may sound, there are, however, certain factors that suggest that Chelsea's season may well have ended already. Here are 3 reasons why Chelsea's 2015/16 premier league season may already be irredeemable.
Is Chelsea's Season Over?
1. Unexplanable Slump
It is not that unusual for a club in English football to suffer some sort of slump at the beginning of a season. Chelsea FC may have managed to avoid such flattering starts in more than a decade but lots of clubs including their title rivals (Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United) have recently suffered similar shaky starts to their seasons. Only recently, Manchester United struggled to find their footing following the arrival of their new coach, Luis van Gaal and a host players being introduced into their ranks. But though the Red Devils were able to dig themselves out of their slump to finish in the top 4 and guarantee Champion's league football in May, unlike Chelsea, their darkest hour came amidst the furry of an injury-laden start.
Losing matches while all hands are on deck hardly inspires confidence in any team and is certainly not a statement of intent of a title defense. Chelsea's lackluster showings so far have come at a time when all their field players have been fit to play. The only exemption being their first choice goalie - Thibaut Courtois - who got operated upon right after serving a 2-match ban for a straight-red he incurred on Match Day 1. He is expected to be back in action sometime in December this year.
Unlike Chelsea, Manchester City, Chelsea's biggest title rivals in recent years, enjoyed a fairy-tale start to their season with all their players giving good account of themselves. Their blistering form saw them concede an impressive 0 goals in their first 5 matches.
The team from the blue side of Manchester have, however, suffered 2 loses so far in their campaign. But be that as it may, City have only managed to shed points when key squad members such as David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure where out of action. This is rather understandable being that the loss of key players in any team makes it very difficult to sustain momentum and rather easy to drop points.
Quite unlike Manuel Pellegrini's team, Chelsea have struggled from day one for no particular reason. They have conceding goals that have exposed defensive frailties that once seemed alien to Mourinho-men. And when the Chelsea goalie got sent off in their first game against Swansea, the team crumbled under the Welsh onslaught, and try as they may on the afternoon, they managed to salvage just a point in a game marred by drama on the part of their manager and his medical staff.
Stumble after stumble and the blue's title defense is looking long over following their 1:3 tromping at the hands of Southampton at Stanford Bridge on match week 8. And while there is no doubt that the players on the Chelsea roster have the talent and ability to turn their season around, and the manager to help them accomplish that, the fact that such an unusual slump has come so early in the season, something that is rather uncharacteristic of a Chelsea team for a long time, coupled with the reality that the string of poor form has come at an injury-free period makes it all more unlikely that a solution is in the offing.
2. Jose Mourinho - Pride, Faith & Preference
Chelsea may have one of the best managers club football has ever since in Jose Mourinho, but sadly, certain reasons may suggest that that could as well be working to their disadvantage at the moment.
The Portuguese tactician is too pride to admit when he may have stepped out of line and admit the things he should have done differently. This is evident in his outburst towards Chelsea's erstwhile doctor, Eva Carneiro, on the opening game of the season. A simple apology for harsh criticisms and over-reaction would have saved him all the unnecessary negative attention that received and could have averted further repercussions including the doctor's exit and an FA ban for misconduct.
Mr. Mourinho's great pride can also be seen in his unwillingness to share the blame and take responsibility for his side's lackluster performances and his team rather rather unattractive style of play. He has been found of late making all manner of excuses which inevitably has led to his airing some dirty linens in public and taking jibs at opposition managers.
The tone of blame resonated loud and clear from Chelsea gaffer as he has accused his players of not giving their utmost; stressing that unmotivated players may be dropped from the starting line-up altogether with no exceptions whatsoever. His dissatisfaction with much of his team recently has been anything but subtle as is evident from his press conference right before his latest defeat to Southamption where he even went as far as insinuating that there may be "rats" among his flock.
Following his side's 1:3 loss to Southampton, and with the possibility of an imminent sack, the Portuguese gaffer could be seen throwing his credentials at everyone's faces; making somewhat boastful remarks on how Chelsea would be at a loss if they fired him and how he is their best ever manager. And although no one can possible refute his claims as he is indeed the clubs most successful manager, belaboring the obvious instead looking towards a way forward is nothing short of a sign of misplaced pride and may well work against the tactician in the long run should things go all wrong for him in the next couple games.
Faith & Preference
After watching Chelsea get mauled by Manchester City in their second game of the season, I was sure that Mourinho's faith in certain squad members will be Chelsea undoing this season. In fact, I remember kidding with a Chelsea buddy of mine that: "Mourinho's love or Fabregas will be the death of him and Chelsea." Eight matches into the season and I am totally convinced that Chelsea's team selection has been the bane of their season.
It is actually not that difficult to understand why managers stand by their key players in times of bad form; for as the saying goes: "Form is temporal while class is permanent." But what is rather peculiar in the case of the Chelsea boss is the fact that he chooses to completely overlook the shortcomings of certain players in key positions in his team altogether. Chelsea's defense and midfield have been the most suspect of areas with Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabragas the main culprits.
Much of the defensive blame has been heaped on the big Serb as his defensive qualities that saw him end last season on a very high note has been called to question all season. He has looked a shadow of himself in every game he has played and Mourinho's undue confidence in him coupled with his unjustified choice in naming Ivanovic as captain in the absence of John Terry brings to question certain aspects of the Chelsea boss' decision making.
As for Cesc Fabregas, his slow start to the season that was earlier masked by Chelsea's defensive problems has suddenly come to the fore 8 matches into the season, as stats have revealed not only the Spaniards attacking blemishes, but also his defensive shortcomings. The former Arsenal and Barcelona man has contributed almost nothing so far and his lone assist against Arsenal all season can not begin to compare with the number he garnered in his first season at Chelsea where he already had double digits at the point in the season.
While Mourinho's reluctance to drop Ivanovic makes little sense, his continued inclusion of Fabregas in his team in every game so far is either a reflection of his faith in his out-of-form "star" man or an indication of the lack of depth of his Chelsea side.
Who Should Mourinho Drop From Chelsea's First 11?
3. Squad Depth & Anti-Rotation
It is no secret that Jose Mourinho has little confidence in youth hence his over-reliance on the same group of players, week-in week-out. This fact became apparent following his side's worst defeat last season in their 5:3 loss to Tottenham Hotspurs on New Year's day at White Hart Lane. While pundits continually called Mourinho lack of faith in his youth players to question and clamoured for change, the Portuguese remained resolute, justifying his choice of sticking with only a handful of his squad with results that saw his side win 2 silverware last campaign.
As straightforward as Mourinho's winning the league last season may sound, following the January 1 loss, Chelsea struggled to sustain the same momentum that saw them catch the fancy of football followers all around the world in the first half of 2014/15 season. In fact, but for the stuttering performances of the chasing pack (especially Manchester City) that saw any chance of a catch-up blown away long before the end of the season, Chelsea's form in the final stretch of their 2014/15 season was far from those of champions.
Truth is, since their elimination from last season's champions league at the hands of French heavyweights PSG, Chelsea have looked like a team in serious need of some restructuring and in certain areas, a complete overhaul altogether. Mourinho's difficulty in dropping players like Fabregas reflects the lack of depth in his side as he does not have that many options to call upon for creativity in the middle of the pact. As reliable as John Mikel Obi and Ramires have been in the past, both player are not particularly adept to making it count in the finally third as quick decision-making has never been their forte.
Mourinho has made no secret of his total trust in his first team, and when he has been in doubt so far, he has stuck with two of his biggest flops of the season in Ivanovic and Fabregas. The Chelsea boss has admitted that some drastic changes may have to be made to turn the fortunes of his side around. But I believe if he does not come up with an alternative to the likes of Fabregas and Ivanovic fast, his hopes (and new goal) of finishing in the Top 4 could well fade away right before his very eyes.
Who Should Be in Chelsea's Starting 11
Light At The End Of The Tunnel
As daunting as the task that lay ahead of Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea side may appear, there, however, seem to be a glimmer of hope that the Blues could dig themselves out of the mess they have found themselves in their most difficult start to a premier league season in over two decades
The onus lies solely on the Portuguese gaffer to put his money where his mouth is and start showing fans and critics alike why he has come to be regarded as one of the greatest football bosses of all time.
I am strongly of the opinion that the gifted multi-linguist must match his declaration that tough measures must be taken to address the crisis in his team with quick and decisive action. It is time for Jose Mourinho to try something different; something somewhat outside of his comfort zone: like showing more confidence in youngsters such as Baba Rahman, Kenedy, and especially the promising young England U-21 international, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has showed a lot of promise in the few minutes he has featured for Chelsea this season.
In a nutshell, a poor start to a season is nothing new in football. And even as we speak, top teams in Europe as Barcelona FC, Real Madrid and even Italian giants Juventus, continue to struggle to get their seasons underway as their campaigns have already been marred by faltering starts that have seen them drop vital points where they normally do not. But while these top teams are expected to pick up the pace at some point in the season and get back to where they belong in their various leagues, what makes Chelsea's situation a bit different and rather precarious even, is their star manager's continued insistence on fielding the same team every weekend - disregarding the stats that reflects how certain players are seriously under-performing and how much his team is in dire need of a change in his starting personnel.
The definition of lunacy is doing the same thing over and expecting a different outcome. Jose Mourinho needs to start doing things differently if he is to redeem himself and save his worst start to a football season in all of his managerial career. And with the international break and the recent vote of confidence by the Chelsea Board, the Chelsea boss has a lot of time to ponder on his "Plan B" and how to get his lads out of this hell-hole before time runs out on his 2nd term at the Bridge.