An early slip by Chelsea in the opening game of the new season has been compounded by a crushing loss at the hands of Manchester City prompting fans to ask the immortal question: are Chelsea a spent force?
Despite clinching the Premier League title in dramatic fashion last season, Jose Mourinho’s men have stumbled spectacularly already this season which means they now face a tough route back to the title. Things got off to a disappointing start in the FA Community Shield after Chelsea went down 1-0 to Arsenal. Although a mere prelude to the season and not a trophy that’s hugely important in the grand scheme of the football season, this early loss seems to have set the tone for the coming weeks.
Ominous Signs During the FA Community Shield
Following this FA Community Shield, Chelsea were pitched at around 3/1 with most online bookmakers to retain the title. Slightly less than Manchester City, but markedly shorter odds than those given to the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, it looked as though many were confident in Chelsea’s chances of retaining the Premier League title in 2016. However, an unexpected draw against Swansea at home in the first game of the season began to cast doubt over the team’s chances of success.
Although unforeseen injuries meant Chelsea were with nine men for a brief period (something Mourinho blamed on the club doctor), the performance was far from inspiring. Naturally, Mr. Mourinho was almost obliviously positive following the game, suggesting his team were nothing more than unlucky to lose; however, many experts saw it differently. Critiques from the likes of the BBC suggested that Chelsea’s back four was seriously lacking and in need of strengthening before the season grows any older.
Betting Market Turns Against Chelsea
Also losing confidence in the Blues were the bookmakers. Although the likes of Betfair were sticking to their betting lines after the Swansea match, the market was gradually changing as teams such as Arsenal were obtaining shorter prices (down to 4/1). Of course, the markets can’t simply stand firm just because of previous performances and the first crack’s in Chelsea’s betting odds appeared most recently following a 3-0 loss to Manchester City.
Failing to show any sort of defensive or attacking threat throughout the game, Chelsea were comfortably beaten from pillar to post and looked light years behind their biggest title rivals. Again, the backline looked weak and when it came to putting away chances there was little Hazard, Costa and Willian could do to breach City’s defence. However, what may have also put the nail in Mourinho’s coffin against City was his decision to substitute John Terry at half-time. Although some believe he’s past his prime, the war horse is still able to perform in big games, even if he looked less than comfortable from the opening whistle at the Etihad.
Mourinho Blissfully Overconfident
However, Mourinho didn’t see things that way and brought on Kurt Zouma to boss the defensive line. Unfortunately, this move failed to improve Chelsea’s fortunes; in fact, it resulted in the side conceding two further goals and going down in a blaze of disappointment. Once again, Mourinho was blissfully ignorant of both his time and his own performance in the post-match interviews, forcing some to question whether he’s actually lost his mind or not. If he has finally entered the land of cuckoos then the net result is a team that’s now severely lacking in confidence.
The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor believes that, while Chelsea are far from disaster, the team’s worst start to the season since 1998 is possible signs of a turning point for the champions. A lack of confidence, the absence of any big name summer signings and a general vibe of negativity flowing through the stadium all seem like reasons to look beyond Chelsea this season. Indeed, a quick glance at the latest betting markets at Betfair reveal the team’s odds have slipped to 7/2, while Manchester City are riding high at 5/4.
On the Brink of a Crisis
Of course, odds don’t mean a thing on the pitch, but there’s no doubt that the pressure is mounting on Chelsea. With the betting experts, football pundits and fans all now questioning Chelsea’s resolve, the next few games could be crucial. Another draw or loss would almost be the end of Chelsea’s title hopes this season and the calls for Mourinho’s head would likely ring out inside Stamford Bridge.
As it stands, it’s certainly too early in the season to say Chelsea are in freefall; however, there’s no doubt the side is teetering on the edge of oblivion. However, Chelsea have danced the Premier League’s dance a number of times over the years and if there is any team that can turn things around it’s The Blues. Mourinho has the necessary confidence (read: arrogance) to inspire his men to greatness, however, the question remains: are the players capable of delivering?
Could Fresh Blood be the Answer?
Caption: Atletico winger Antoine Griezmann (pictured) could emerge as a target for the Blues
Regardless of the answer, it seems as though the manager is looking towards the transfer market for some inspiration. Everton’s young defender John Stones remains a target for the boss and the latest rumours suggest Roman Abramovich has agreed to up the club’s bid to £35 million, after seeing a £30 million offer turned down. Also on the hit list is Atletico Madrid winger Antoine Griezmann for a reported £21 million.
Will the introduction of at least two new players be enough to stem the tide and breathe some new life into a deflated Chelsea side? As ever, time will tell all; however, many football lovers won’t be holding their breath. With sports bettors gradually turning their back on The Blues and fans focusing their chants on poor tactics rather than sublime play, there’s no doubt that Chelsea are on the brink of a crisis.
No, the side isn’t in freefall quite yet. However, if Mourinho and his team can’t put the past behind them within the next few games then it could be one of Chelsea’s most disappointing seasons for a long long time.