Connect in the back of the net

One suspects that Jose Mourinho will be enjoying the current round of internationals. The Chelsea manager will be itching to get back to Premier League duty and the task of turning his side’s wretched form around, but the break will spare the Portuguese from the intense scrutiny that now surrounds his position.

In what is the worst defence of the title since the Premier League’s inception in 1992, you have to scroll down to 16th place to find Chelsea, who have the number seven in the loss column with the season just under a third of the way through.

Three of those defeats came in their last three games and Mourinho, who missed the most recent of those losses at Stoke as a result of the stadium ban he received for his vitriolic outburst towards match officials in a 2-1 defeat at West Ham, is becoming increasingly vulnerable despite delivering his third title for the club back in May.

The decline has been astonishingly sudden and markedly unpleasant. Mourinho’s unhappiness at a “short” pre-season planted the seeds to the verbal torrent towards club doctor Eva Carneiro in the nervous 2-2 draw with Swansea on the opening day and the recriminations still haunt Mourinho in the form of a lawsuit brought against the manager by the medic.

 

The infamous Carneiro incident

A master of creating a siege-mentality and picking fights to divert attention away from his players, Mourinho chose the wrong target in the form of the popular Carneiro who simply shouldn’t have been subjected to cries of “son of a b*tch!” for just doing her job by attending to a prone Eden Hazard.

The treatment of Carneiro swung public opinion away from Mourinho and his fixation on turning everybody against him and his team has now satiated. The Portuguese has racked up £141,000 in fines since re-joining the London club in 2013 and has paid out £90,000 already this season, hearing of Mourinho being censured for blaming the referee, or taking pot-shots at Arsene Wenger, is now markedly boring.

According to Mourinho the stadium ban “changes everything” about how he will approach future matches and though it remains to be seen, perhaps he meant it. He will surely do well to get rid of the temptation to antagonise that he finds so hard to resist and maybe that will ease some of the pressure placed on his squad.

It has worked previously- for instance the claim that referees ran a “campaign” against his team led to a league and cup double last season- but the consistent attraction of negative headlines, just like what occurred during his time at Real Madrid, will certainly begin to have a detrimental effect on squad harmony.

 

Loss of form of some of his key players

Of course the simple factor of lost form has also played its part. Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic, Diego Costa, who reported for the new season out of shape, and a list of others have failed to match the high standards set last season and a summer of stagnation in the transfer market has exposed a squad that is gradually growing stale.

The signing of Pedro from Barcelona for £18 million was a good one but there was a feeling that, with other deals completed for Asmir Begovic, Radamel Falcao and Abdul Baba Rahman, who is experiencing difficulty with adapting to the Premier League after moving from FC Augsburg, Mourinho failed to address the areas of his squad that desperately needed refreshment.

It would have been much easier for Mourinho to ease the 34 year old John Terry’s workload had John Stones been signed from Everton but failure to do so has meant Kurt Zouma, Gary Cahill and Terry have been rotated without managing to forge a solid partnership in the mould of the one that provided the foundations to last season’s title win.

With Ivanovic, who Mourinho finds it very difficult to drop despite the Serbian’s woeful form, and Cesare Azpilicueta exposed at full-back by the lack of protection given by the wingers, Chelsea have already conceded 23 goals. They shipped 32 in the whole of last season.

It is expected that Roman Abramovich’s patience still has a long way to run for the manager he went to significant compromise to bring back to Stamford Bridge in 2013 and who he knows is most likely to continue to fill Chelsea’s trophy cabinet, and who also has the added bonus of being adored by the club’s fanbase, but it will be interesting to discover just how long the Russian is willing to court the idea of missing out on the riches of the Champions League.

However there will be a mutual understanding that form will have to improve, and soon.

 

International break a welcoming comfort

The international break will have provided small comfort to Mourinho who will have been notified of Cesc Fabregas’s outstanding performance for Spain against England on Friday, in which he set up Mario’s wonderful opening goal, but Costa again toiled in the midst of a worrying run that has yielded two goals from 10 league games so far this term.

Falcao and Loic Remy, sharing three goals between them, aren’t exactly prolific deputies so it is vital that the former Atletico Madrid man starts to rediscover some of the quality that got him 21 goals last season.

With Norwich, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Watford providing the opposition for the next four games at Stamford Bridge the opportunity is certainly there for Costa to start firing and for Chelsea to build some much-needed momentum.

That will happen if Mourinho’s men continue in the same vein as the loss at Stoke where, despite the eventual loss, there were many indications of improvement.

 

Watershed moment

Following what seems to be the watershed moment in the stadium ban, the Chelsea manager has identified his need to change tact and this week away from the firing-line is the perfect chance for Mourinho to enjoy a mini personal reinvention.

His job, and his Chelsea players may be all the better for it.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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