Jose Mourinho faces scrutiny after Chelsea's poor start to season
The Premier League season is only five games old, but Jose Mourinho is already facing a stern examination of his credentials as Chelsea manager.
London: The Premier League season is only five games old, but Jose Mourinho is already facing a stern examination of his credentials as Chelsea manager.
Only four months ago, he was lifting the Premier League title at Stamford Bridge for the third time as Chelsea cruised to its fourth championship, eight points ahead of runner-up Manchester City.
Now, the Blues already trail Manuel Pellegrini's side by 11 after Saturday's 3-1 loss to Everton. It was their third loss of the season, equaling the number from the whole of the last campaign.
Chelsea looked unfit, uninspired and stagnant against Everton, which relentlessly carved up the defending champions.
Mourinho, so often a figure of charisma and swagger, was restless and riled, something which is fast becoming a familiar sight.
Eden Hazard propelled Chelsea to the Premier League title last season and won three separate player of the year awards after starting all 38 games and scoring 14 goals. But the Belgium international has been underwhelming and off the pace this season. He is yet to score and appears void of the flair and creativity that saw him become one of the most feared players in the league.
It is something that has swept through Chelsea's team: Diego Costa has only scored once so far, Cesc Fabregas is yet to replicate any of the invention which saw him lay on 18 assists last season and captain John Terry has been so inconsistent, Mourinho took him off at halftime in the 3-0 loss to City in the second game of the season. Their form will be key to any resurgence.
Chelsea made a very public attempt to sign Everton defender John Stones in the summer and on Saturday, it was clear to see why. Stones dissolved a number of Chelsea attacks with a reading of the game that belies his age of 21. He was comfortable in possession, passing the ball out from defense and allowing Everton to build attacks from the back.
The decision to let Petr Cech join Arsenal also looks dubious now that No 1 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois faces a lengthy absence after surgery on his right knee. Asmir Begovic was bought from Stoke and the Bosnia goalkeeper has made a number of good saves so far but doesn't have the commanding presence of Courtois or Cech.
Then there's Radamel Falcao. The Colombia striker was once one of the most feared goalscorers in the world but since coming to England last season with a loan move to Manchester United, he has become one of the most maligned.
He managed four goals last season at United and despite Mourinho gambling on him this season, Falcao is yet to start a game for his new club.
Mourinho needlessly embroiled himself in a row with his medical staff on the first day of the season, after Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearns treated Hazard for a knock on the pitch during the 2-2 draw against Swansea.
Mourinho was visibly livid at the pair going on to treat Hazard, as their presence forced him to leave the field of play before re-entering for Chelsea, which was already down to 10 men with Courtois sent off.
Carneiro and Fearns have not been seen in the Chelsea dugout since as Mourinho revised the duo's match day duties.
Despite Carneiro's actions being supported by the English Football Medical Association, Mourinho has refused to lower his stance that she was wrong to enter the pitch. It was a big off-field distraction for Mourinho, and one that could have easily been avoided.
The Portuguese might look at his own mentality as something to change after Chelsea's atrocious start. He stormed off during a live interview on British television before the start of the game at Everton on Saturday, saying it was "too long," before being recorded by the BBC swearing at Everton manager Roberto Martinez after the match.
Is it just Chelsea's bad form that is causing his unruly behavior? This simple answer is that at Chelsea, it is impossible to know for sure.
Owner Roman Abramovich runs the club discreetly but he is impatient for success and a dispute with Mourinho was a factor in his departure the first time around in 2007.
Chelsea faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at Stamford Bridge in its opening Champions League encounter on Wednesday, followed by a clash against fierce London rival Arsenal on Saturday. Nothing other than two wins will be acceptable for Mourinho.