Why Chelsea problems are simply all in the mind

All in all, Jose Mourinho’s probably not a particularly happy bunny right now. His side, who last year resembled an awe-inspiring juggernaut, now occupy 7th place in the Premier League table.

His key defenders from last year appear to still mentally be on their holidays. His club captain has the hump because Mourinho’s left him on the bench once too often. His owner, not the most patient man when it comes to accepting near-misses and trophy-less seasons, could well be getting an itchy trigger-finger after the dismal opening to the season.

And on top of all that, he’s been involved in a ridiculous dispute with a key member of his medical staff, which is still rumbling on as I write. So yes, things definitely could be going better for the moody Portuguese. However, I’m here to offer him a morsel of hope.

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I believe that his side still has the same ability and technical level of skill that it had when it won the league last year, and that the main issues currently are with individual players’ lack of confidence. Terry, Ivanovic, Hazard, Fabregas and a fair few others are simply performing well below expectations this year. The players haven’t changed, the system isn’t that different from the 4-3-2-1/4-2-3-1 used to great effect last year, and Mourinho himself certainly hasn’t changed, either in how he sets his teams up or how he addresses the media.

Hazard, Terry et al have not suddenly lost their ability and technique that elevated them to the Premier Leagues most feared and efficient side last year, and Mourinho definitely has not lost his will to win and desire to be top dog. No, I would suggest the problem is quite simply a complete lack of confidence amongst the whole squad at the moment.

The defending in particular looks short of that swagger that coursed through the side’s veins last year. Terry, Ivanovic and Cahill are largely unrecognisable from the three players who were so resolute and efficient that the team were christened ‘boring, boring Chelsea’. Possibly the psychological damage inflicted by the teams winless pre-season and Community Shield defeat to Arsenal is still being seen.

Arguably what the players need now is that one moment of luck, a break to snap them out of their lethargy and remind them that they still have the potential to be a damn good team. The comeback from 2-0 down against Newcastle with 13 minutes to go could be just such a moment, regardless of the midweek Champions League defeat to Porto. The goals by Willian and Ramires could yet prove crucial strikes when looking back on how this years title race eventually unfolds.

The point here is that these individuals have not suddenly become bad players. They may have lost form somewhat in these opening months, but over the years Terry, Hazard and co. have proved time and again that they have what it takes to win titles.

As the over-used, cliched saying goes, form is temporary but class is permanent. This group of individuals who romped to the title need to remember that now – and if they do, they might even be able to cheer up their manager.