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It has been a fairly disappointing start to the season for the reigning English champions. Yesterday’s loss to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge condemned the Blues to their second league loss of the season, just four games in.
They’re now eight points behind leaders Manchester City, who on the contrary, have started the season in blistering mode.
However with thirty four matched to go until the end of the season, it would be naïve to think that their title defense is done and dusted. We look for five ways that the Portuguese manager can to turn his team’s fortunes around.
Drop Branislav Ivanovic
The Serbian center-back, turned full back has been a loyal servant for Chelsea beginning from his arrival in 2008. An astute defender who has an eye for a goal, he has been instrumental for Chelsea’s successes over the past few years.
Though some argue that he has been declining in form since their title winning campaign in the previous season, the Serb has been in a rather disastrous form since the game against Swansea on the opening weekend. Jefferson Montero, Raheem Sterling and Yannick Bolasie have all been difficult to handle, often proving the main instigators of their team’s attacks.
Thus, all these coming from the right side of the Chelsea defense is not a conundrum: Ivanovic isn’t clearly the Ivanovic of few seasons back. He seems out of pace and orientation, which is very odd for his standards. Though the entire Chelsea back four – with the exception of the ever excellent Cesar Azpilicueta – seem very dodgy in defense, the Serb seems to be quite exposed.
After yesterday’s game, manager Jose Mourinho publicly implied that it might be the beginning of the end for the Serbian as a starter. With the capture of left back Abdul Baba-Rahman from Augsburg, Azpilicueta might be played in his natural right back position, and it seems like we will see the big Serbian less and less.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Mourinho said that he hoped to acquire one more signing before the window closes. But the general feeling among Chelsea fans is that the club need two; a center-back and a central midfielder. The long coveted John Stones might stay at Goodison for at-least a year, with his transfer request and Chelsea’s continuous bids being rebuffed by Everton’s hierarchy.
Argentine center-back Eziquiel Garay of Zenit St. Petersburg remains perhaps the only good option with Aymen Abdennour, also linked to a move to West London seemingly close to joining Valencia.
Paul Pogba’s situation remains a mystery. Chelsea are reportedly willing to bid £73 million for the former Manchester United man, who is one of European football’s hottest properties. Though acquiring his signature would make it the best and surprising transfer of the summer, Juventus are unlikely to let him go.
Having to defend their Serie A title and hoping for another impressive run in the Champions league, and with players like Pirlo, Vidal and Tevez no more in the helm, the Italian giants are expected to keep their most valuable asset for another year.
Get players firing
There is no lack of quality at Chelsea, the club is still packed with talents that without any new signing should perform a lot better. But that has not been the case so far this season. The much admired midfield partnership of Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas doesn’t seem as proficient as it once was.
Eden Hazard, last year’s PFA player of the year seems lackluster. Diego Costa, though still seemingly hungry and hardworking, seems quite frustrated. The absence of Oscar for the last three games seems to have created a whole in Chelsea’s attack, and Willian despite being admired for his industriousness, isn’t filling the gap.
If Mourinho wants to get the London team back on track, he knows to make his players fit again, hungry again and start performing.
Give the youth a chance
In yesterday’s defeat, there was one positive for the Chelsea fans to cheer about. Brazilian starlet Kenedy and English U-21 prospect Ruben Loftus-Cheek were quite impressive on their cameos, with Mourinho especially praising the former.
Chelsea have an impressive pool of young players, most of them loaned out to clubs all over Europe. Their U-21 setup, which are the reigning European Champions contain lots of talents to choose from, and it’s quite agreeable that it is time to give the kids a chance to shine.
Mourinho is no Arsene Wenger when it comes to such circumstances. He rarely uses youth in his starting eleven and is quite careful about it all, with his obvious preference being experience.
However, Chelsea fans in particular are hungry to see their youth given minutes on the pitch regularly, and after yesterday’s brief treat, maybe the Portuguese manager is ready to grant their wishes.
Resolve internal affairs
Though blaming it entirely for the recent dip in performances is implausible, the recent disagreement between Chelsea’s medical staff and the manager hasn’t helped. Situations like these slowly affect stability and create a negative atmosphere in the dressing room.
Though the exact source of quarrel remain hidden, Mourinho replaced his on-pitch medical staff to a much talked about, and rather unneeded attention.
As one of the best coaches in world football, Mourinho surely knows that such events don’t bring good fortunes. He and his staff should resolve such affairs early and preferably inconspicuously, because it doesn’t do good for the club.
Written by Andreas Teferra
Follow Andreas on Twitter @AndreasTeferra
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