Monday, August 31, 2015

Is Chelsea Already Out of the Title Hunt?

Manager Jose Mourinho will have to correct things quickly if the season is to be saved for Chelsea.
By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

It was a cool London day in March and the year was 1982. Second division foes Chelsea and Crystal Palace locked horns in a tight and hard fought game, ultimately ending with the Eagles winning 2-1 on a late goal. If you are suffering from deja vu, don’t worry, you're not alone.

For the first time in 33 years, Palace won at Stamford Bridge using the same formula. 

After new arrival Radamel Falcao came on and pulled the Blues level with his goal in the 79th minute, it was a forgone conclusion the game would end in a tie, or worse, for the Eagles. Unfortunately for Chelsea supporters, Joel Ward was having none of that Kool-Aid. Just two minutes later, Yannick Bolasie sent in a cross that found the outstretched leg of Sako, passing it on the volley to Ward who gracefully headed it home.

To put in perspective just how big of a win this was for Palace, consider that Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho’s side had lost just ONCE in 99 home games. In typical Mourinho fashion, he deflected some of the blame for the loss, placing it at the feet of the referee, while heaping a small amount of praise on Palace.

"The first thought is to Palace,'' Mourinho said. "They come with everything. They were lucky but they deserve the luck. My team, I think we deserved more. I don't want to say we deserved to win, because it's not true."

"The referee did a big mistake. Clear penalty with the result 0-0 and obviously with influence in the result. The one with Zouma that I watch at half-time on television. It was a clear penalty. (But) I prefer to go in this order, when I say Crystal Palace first.''

Through four league games, Chelsea have only managed a total of four points, putting them eight points adrift of league leaders Manchester City and 13th in the EPL. City, on the other hand, have looked unbeatable.

City's defense, which was at the heart of their inability to retain their crown as champions in 2014-15, has been this year's shining jewel. With four wins in four games, the City back line have yet to concede a goal, while the offense has done it’s job putting home ten. For perspective, the second best goal differential in the league belongs to Palace and Leicester with three.

Though it is very early in the season, there are reasons to ring the alarm bells in central London.

Chelsea’s defense, which was the best in the EPL a year ago with only thirty two goals conceded, have already given up nine, second worst in the league. It is the club's worst defensive start to a campaign since 1971-72.

To make matters worse, captain John Terry was embarrassingly hauled off at half time in a 3-0 loss to Man City, and then shown the red card in the following game at West Brom. forcing him to sit out yesterday's game via suspension.

Inexplicably, as the game against Palace unravelled before his eyes, Mourinho decided against substituting Ivanovic and Fabregas, who closer resembled matadors than defensive stalwarts.

Ever the mind game master, was Mourinho attempting to force the hand of club owner Roman Abramovich to enter the transfer market? Perhaps the long rumored arrival of center-back John Stones from Everton comes to fruition, only time will tell.

In Fairness to Mourinho, he did shoulder most of the blame for a lack of changes.

"I'm not happy,'' Mourinho said. "I cannot say that I had 11 players performing at the same time."

"Two or three of them, their individual performance was far from good. I blame myself for not changing one of them. I kept him in the game for 90 minutes. When I made the third change I realized I needed a fourth, and I don't have a fourth.''

The international break could not come at a better time for Chelsea, as they will have two weeks to probe for solutions before facing a gritty Everton side on the road. More than ever, the onus will be on the self proclaimed “ special one” to prove his worth and turn around a season that is slowly turning to disaster.

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