Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has stated that it is hard to explain why the Premier League champions have had such as bad season and that the opposition was no longer scared of them at the start of the campaign.
The Blues were English football’s dominant force last season and won the division at a canter under Jose Mourinho.
However, the West London club have toiled from the start of 2015-16, with Mourinho being given his marching orders and the Stamford Bridge side sitting in the lower reaches of the table.
Ivanovic in particular struggled to replicate last season’s form, with the Serbian defender starting to show his age.
The veteran has admitted that it was hard to take and that something major had changed from one season to the next.
“We didn’t know what was going wrong around us,” Ivanovic told The Daily Mail.
“No-one inside the club knew. We finished brilliantly last season. We won the trophy. We knew how difficult it was.
“Jose told us the hardest season in football is the year after you win because everyone else has extra motivation. We were ready for that, but we didn’t start well and we lost control of our game, of our minds.
“For me that period of three or four months was one of the most disappointing moments in my career. Player by player, we could not deal with the pressure of what being champions of England means.
“Your opponents have big motivation and they look at you differently, they start to be scared of you.
“‘But when we didn’t win for six or seven games, people realised we were not as strong as last season. They could use that. And then they weren’t scared of us. This was our problem as players.”
Chelsea have put forward a renaissance since Guus Hiddink came in on an interim basis, with an outside chance that the champions could finish in the top four if their good form continues.