Chelsea are currently occupying 16th spot in the league standings after a run of four defeats, two wins and as many draws from their first eight games of the league season so far. It is as unfamiliar a situation for the Blues as it is for their manager Jose Mourinho, a winner of league titles across four different European leagues and also a two-time European champion.
In the second season of his second stint at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho guided his men to a special campaign, when they won the league title well before the final weekend of the action was played. They also won the League Cup after defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the final at Wembley in March.
It all looked to be going good for the Blues and they were billed by many as the team that would go on to retain the title. After all, Manchester City failed to muster any kind of consistency through the course of the last campaign. Manchester United failed to inspire any kind of confidence with their disjointed displays under Louis van Gaal’s first season at Old Trafford. Liverpool folded miserably after a historic 2013/14 season where they went on the cusp of winning the title before faltering at the door. Arsenal failed to address any of their major worries in the summer and there didn’t seem to be enough quality in the ranks of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur to mount a title challenge.
In the prevailing circumstances, Chelsea did look like the safest bet for the league title.
However, scratching the surface did show that Chelsea’s bench was just that – a surface. They lack any real depth and only have academy graduates to call upon if they require substitutions or replacements through the course of the game – and probably the season, if they do not do much business in the winter transfer window.
When Mourinho took charge of the Blues, he had quality players to choose from, with Kevin De Bruyne, Andre Schurrle and Thorgan Hazard calling Stamford Bridge home. He also oversaw the arrival of Mohamed Salah from Basel and Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina. But this season he has none of them in his ranks. The Blues have long sold the first three and the latter two are plying their trade in the Italian league on loan after failing to impress Mourinho during their brief stints in west London.
Mourinho did buy the likes of Baba Rahman, Papy Djilobodji, Asmir Begovic and Pedro Rodriguez in the summer. But the first two remain unproven at the highest level and Begovic doesn’t provide the same security in goal as Thibaut Courtois. And after a good start, Pedro seems to have faded a little.
Despite all the problems it will be foolish to count Chelsea out of the title race so early in the season, especially with Mourinho at the helm. The Portuguese schemer remains one of the foremost managers in the game and will surely find a way out.