If you are a fan of English Premier League side Chelsea you might be wondering what is going on. There was overwhelming belief that after some seasons of relative underachievement, the return of the clubs most successful manager Jose Mourinho would be the magic to get the club back to those years when the team was at the peak of its powers. Instead, the team has had its worst start to a season in the Roman Abramovich era.
I want to emphasise that these are still early days and nothing is decisive yet at this stage of the season but it is quite strange for Chelsea fans, especially those that started following the team after it assumed its current rich-man status, to go four matches without a win, losing three of them in as many competitions. It is exactly a month ago when the team last won a football match when they just managed to overcome Aston Villa.
Since that midweek victory at Stamford Bridge, the Blues have drawn away at Old Trafford, and lost to German giants Bayern Munich in the Uefa Super Cup, Everton in the English Premier League and Swiss side Basel in the Uefa Champions League, bringing the reunion celebrations to a screeching halt. This was certainly not in the script of this much publicised return of the Happy One.
Make no mistake about it, this only seems like a crisis because it is Chelsea, a team that was strong enough to win the Uefa Europa Cup and finish third in the league last season, has strengthened significantly in the summer and is managed by one of the most decorated tacticians of the modern game. Everything pointed to nothing but a successful campaign and it is surprising how things have turned out early on.
But because of the foregoing, no-one should dare write Mourinho’s team off as yet. They have everything to turn this around. Of course, that depends on whether the Portuguese manager has the wherewithal to manage crises. It seems like unfamiliar territory for him because he is used to being seen as a hero of messianic proportions. Being under pressure so early in his reign might be a huge test of his character.
That will be even more crucial now because the pre-season predictions of some managers, including Mourinho himself, that this season could be one of the most competitive yet seem true so far and every point matters much more. The gap between the traditional giants and the erstwhile weaker sides is apparently narrowing considerably as is the margin for error, hence the need for every team to take its chances when they avail themselves.
Taking chances is what my Liverpool did in their opening three matches that catapulted them to the summit of the table. That reign was taken to a third week on Monday night with a hard-fought draw at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium which has not been a happy hunting ground for them. While some look at the result as two points dropped, I see it a point gained looking at how things panned out.
This afternoon’s visit of Southampton gives Brendan Rodgers’ men a chance to extend their stay at the top to a fourth week, but to do that they will need to improve on their second half performances. So far, they have been very impressive in the first half but have only relied on dogged rearguard resilience to get over the line in the second half. That is not sustainable because you can easily be found out. Eventually.