Two matches in and the champions are wheezing. This has already been Chelsea’s worst start since 1998, well before Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the club. The the defeat at Manchester City on Sunday left them five points adrift of last season’s runners-up in the fledgling Premier League table. It is too early to talk of crisis, with both Branislav Ivanovic and Diego Costa having publicly pushed for improvement rather than panic, but there are reasons why Chelsea have failed to find their early season sparkle.
1. There have been pre-season complaints …
The bulk of Chelsea’s first-team had only returned for training on 14 July, only 24 hours before the squad departed for Montreal. There were three games in the United States, with those personnel who had been involved in the Copa América joining the party after the game against New York Red Bulls. From that tour, with its travelling to and from Canada on the days of the game, Chelsea returned to England with only two full days to prepare for the Community Shield. If that lethargic performance owed a little to jet lag then another friendly, against Fiorentina at Stamford Bridge sandwiched in midweek before the start of the title defence, gave the programme a haphazard look.
The whole buildup felt frantic, and a far cry from the relaxed – almost idyllic – schedule put in place for a 26-man squad at their camp at Waldarena in Velden, Austria when the serious, back-breaking preparations began a year ago. José Mourinho had revealed his frustration on that front in his media briefing last Friday. “We were tired towards the end of last season and the team had problems,” he said . “We went for a slower start – a short pre-season, with only three matches before the Community Shield – and we knew that the start is not going to be the same kind of start that we had last year.”