The Malaise at Chelsea

The Malaise at Chelsea

There seems to be little rhyme or reason to Jose Mourinho’s decision making thus far. A team overly reliant upon the jaw dropping excellence of Eden Hazard last season has been relegated to mid-table mediocrity.

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Some analysts point to a third season syndrome suggesting Jose’s teams at Chelsea (first time) and Real Madrid all struggled in their 3rd season. What is apparent is that players appear to be playing within themselves. It can be no coincidence Eden Hazard has 3 goals and 2 assists for Belgium in 3 games and yet zero goals for Chelsea in 11 games. Naturally it begs the question is Hazard prevented from fully expressing himself in a Chelsea shirt?

Chelsea’s game plan is over reliant on Diego Costa holding the ball and linking the Midfield play and he has had his difficulties. Jose decided to bring the squad back to pre-season a week later because he felt he had worked them too hard in July2014. He felt they tired in April 2015 towards the end of that campaign culminating in the 3-0 loss to WBA due to the fact the team had been overly worked in pre-season. This has led to the lack of sharpness quite acutely displayed in the Charity Shield loss to Arsenal. Confidence has proved to be far more brittle than Jose anticipated from his assortment of International stars.

The double whammy of losing Courtois to suspension and then injury and losing Costa to suspension has further impeded them. When the team is set up for the benefit of the almost ram-raiding techniques of Costa, his deputies Remy and Falcao are found wanting when trying to fit into that style of play. Both Remy and Falcao appear to be “touch” players who require to be playing week in week out and find life on the bench a different proposition. Neither has excelled from the bench and for Falcao that is a recurring theme from his experience at Manchester United. The more cynical Chelsea fans suggest without the Portuguese connection of Mendes (Falcao’s agent)Mourinho would not have gambled on Falcao. The rumbustious style of Costa is difficult to replicate and Athletico Madrid had the same problem when Costa was missing for them, the goals significantly dried up in their title winning season, as the team were so accustomed to Costa’s style of play.

The fringe players also to a degree appear to play with anxiety, and this is obviously fuelled by the conveyor belt of talent Schurrle, De Bruyne, Salah and Cuadrado that have arrived and departed in rapid succession. All of the afore-mentioned have gone on from Chelsea to be successful at Wolfsburg (Schurlle and De Bruyne) Fiorentina (Salah last season) and Juventus (Cuadrado) respectively. Ramires, Oscar, Willian, and latterly Pedro are fighting for game time, knowing that the microscope at Chelsea is often the most damning in English football. Arguably at all of their competitors Arsenal, City, United and Liverpool, Schurlle, DeBruyne, Salah and Cuadrado would have been given more time to settle and be successful. This contributes to the anxiety in the play of the (for want of a better word) “fringe” players Ramires, Oscar, Pedro Willian. They know a snapshot judgement awaits them creating their inhibited play, playing without freedom and without expressing themselves. It’s very telling that the highest scorer from midfield is Willian from set pieces, that is symptomatic of their fluidity and inhibited play that the environment has created at Chelsea and Jose Mourinho has fostered.

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The play is extremely regimented and very easy to predict and competitive teams such as Crystal Palace and Southampton have stifled them. The anxiety in the squad is further fuelled by the humiliating subbing on and then subbing off a mere 28minutes later of Nemanja Matic versus Southampton. Both Hazard and Fabregas have been unable to conjure up the level of performances that won Chelsea the league at almost a canter last year. The mood in the camp has also probably suffered from the issues relating to Dr Eva Carneiro and John Fern during the Palace game at Stamford Bridge. When one assesses the creativity of their main title rival Manchester City of Silva, DeBruyne, Sterling and Toure, Chelsea’s triumvirate of Hazard, Fabregas and Pedro seem lacking. Added to that the lack of a firing striker and I think most realists and pragmatists amongst Chelsea fans are realising Top four is a more realistic prospect.

The reasons Mourinho had of curtailing the careers of Schurlle DeBruyne Salah and Cuadrado has inevitably had a negative impact on their creative output. Particularly DeBruyne who has subsequently proven how well he has developed by returning to the Premier League with Manchester City and making a significant impact.

The other pertinent question for Jose is however long he stays at Chelsea, one has to ask is there a big club for him after Chelsea? It seems with his recent furore over Dr Carneiro he has further embellished his reputation and football increasingly becoming a “brand business” it’s hard to see him at United, City or Bayern the only 3 big clubs left?

Mourinho is the marmite of football you either love him or hate him, but his record of 1 La Liga and 1 Copa Del Rey in 3 years at the biggest club in the world Real Madrid and “potentially”1 Premier League in 3 years at Chelsea is not the mythologised record his protagonists often proclaim.