Saturday 24 March 2018 / 06:49 PM

What on earth is going on at Stamford Bridge?

Okay, I admit it, I’m confused.

You see, when Chelsea started the Premier League season badly, I wasn’t massively surprised. Sure, I didn’t expect them to lose so many games so quickly; but I was also acutely aware of how difficult it can be to defend a title, especially when you’ve had a preseason as short as the Blues had.

I kept telling myself that Mourinho’s side would get into their winning stride, that these poor performances were just a temporary blip.

And for a couple of weeks, it seemed like I was correct. First, Chelsea overcame Arsenal at home, putting paid to the idea that they could no longer cut it in the big games. Then they travelled up to Walsall and banged four past the Midlands outfit; and while Walsall aren’t exactly world beaters, it was at least a reminder that when Chelsea want to play well, they can play well.

But just three days later, Jose’s team drew with Newcastle (perhaps the worst team in the Premier League right now), before following up that dismal deadlock with a loss at Porto.

The question now is: why on earth are Chelsea playing so badly?

The Blues lie in 14th, eight points shy off City at the top, and the reality is that had City not had their own problems, it would be considerably more. After just seven games, retaining the league title seems beyond Mourinho and his men, while the outlook in the Champions League is not great after Tuesday’s showing.

I can’t claim to know precisely what Chelsea’s problem is, but I think there are at least a few factors.

Firstly, it may well be that the Blues benefitted more from other side’s poor performances last year than they realise. City were poor, United were poor, Liverpool were poor and Arsenal were poor. Chelsea were not, and perhaps this lulled them into thinking that the gulf in class between them and the rest of the league was much larger than it actually is.

Secondly, it cannot be denied that some of Mourinho’s key players are drastically underperforming. Cesc Fabregas, such a key figure in the first half of last year’s campaign, has been dire, while Branislav Ivanovic looks very much like a player that needs to be put out to pasture.

But to me, it seems a little too simplistic to say that the players aren’t playing as well as they should, because of course, it’s the manager’s job to make those players play well. So where has Mourinho’s Midas Touch gone?

Now this is mere speculation, but I suspect that perhaps Mourinho has rather taken his eye off the ball. After a fantastic second season in his second spell at Chelsea, the Special One has started to believe his own hype. Consequently, the attention to detail, the dogged determination and the irrepressible will to win have been dented somewhat. Not deleted, but dented.

For Mourinho, October is key. Win all the league games and defeat Dynamo Kiev in Europe, and the horror show of the season’s start will be forgiven and forgotten. Fail in October, and bigger questions will start to be asked.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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