Saying that Chelsea’s season has been disappointing is sugarcoating the problem. Jose Mourinho and his team are on their way to reaching the halfway mark of the season in the bottom half of the Premier League’s table.
At this point last season, the Blues were leading the Premier League with a six-point advantage over second-placed Manchester City. Mourinho’s team had a total of 36 points after 14 matches played. In contrast to that dream start, this season they have less than half of the points. With 15 points, Chelsea is dangerously close to the relegation zone, and might see themselves only one point away from the drop zone should they lose to Bournemouth this weekend.
Now the question is, how can the Blues improve and make a push for the top four in the second half of the season, without breaking the bank?
The best answer for this is that their problem isn’t a personnel or a player-caliber problem. It is a morale and momentum issue for the most part.
Compare the base lineups for last year’s Chelsea and this year’s Chelsea for matchday 14.
The starting lineup for Chelsea last season was: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Matic; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Drogba.
This season Mourinho went with: Begovic; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Zouma, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Matic; Pedro, Oscar, Willian; Hazard.
Of the three differences between those two lineups, only one is not due to an injury. Didier Drogba was the only one of those starters to leave Chelsea before the start of the 2015-16 season. Moreover, Drogba only started that match because Diego Costa was serving a yellow card suspension.
The same Costa, who didn’t play this year’s match, because he has been under-performing, which is the real problem with this Chelsea team.
They are the same squad that won the Premier League last season. Their only significant losses due to transfers were the departures of Filipe Luis, who didn’t play at his full potential at Stamford Bridge, and Drogba, who is 37-years-old now.
While those two were the main departure blows to the squad, Mourinho wasn’t left high and dry regarding acquisitions. Chelsea brought in Spanish international Pedro, Colombian international Radamel Falcao, 21-year-old left-back Abdul Rahman Baba, and Brazilian wonder kid Kenedy alongside the barrage of players returning from loans.
Chelsea has the pieces they need to turn this bad momentum around. All they need is a good run of games. A morale boost too, Jose Mourinho would agree after commenting on his players being pictured leaving a nightclub Thursday morning.
“I think they need that and many times so many circumstances, it’s not easy to do it,” Mourinho said according to TalkSport.com. “They told me the dinner was really good, and the after dinner was even better. Everybody was happy.”
Mourinho also didn’t miss the chance to take a shot of the paparazzi, who only caught Costa, Ramires, and Kenedy leaving the London nightclub.
“The paparazzi was not the best,” Mourinho said. “I think the paparazzi had a problem with the memory card. There were 25 players inside, and he only got three.”
Leaving all the tabloid stuff aside, there are still many rumors in the air about the Blues bringing in a new striker in the January transfer window to replace Costa, who was one of the players caught by the paparazzi leaving the club.
The names mentioned as the potential replacement of the Brazilian are Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo, but if Chelsea does make a move, it will likely be for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira.
Nevertheless, don’t count Costa out yet, he still has a few chances to prove the substance he is made of until January.