Chelsea: From Premier League champions to relegation candidates?

There can be no question that Chelsea were the dominant force in the Premier League last season, with Jose Mourinho’s men sweeping aside all that stood before them with ominous ease. It was the combination of superb defensive resilience and ruthlessness in attack that saw Chelsea not only set a new league record for the length of time spent at the summit, but also effectively saw them win the title in the first half of the season.

All the plaudits which headed their way were thoroughly deserved, but although their rivals looked on with enviable eyes, there was little surprise when made Chelsea favourites to successful defend their Premier League crowd. However, no-one could predict the dramatic fall from grace that they have endured this season, with Mourinho not only losing his job at Stamford Bridge for the second time in his managerial career, but Chelsea find themselves just one point above the relegation zone.

Numerous theories have developed over where the true problems lie at Stamford Bridge, with the club clearly in the middle of a serious crisis that has shown very little indication of being resolved any time soon. The 2-0 victory against FC Porto in the Champions League provided a glimpse of Chelsea that many came to admire last season, but they subsequently followed that excellent performance up with consecutive league defeats against Bournemouth and Leicester which brought the doom and gloom back once again.

It left Mourinho’s position in considerable doubt, and although numerous sections of fans remained behind the ‘Special One’, Roman Abramovich’s decision to sack him was not too much of a surprise. There will undoubtedly be interest on the latest managerial odds on, with rumours suggesting that Chelsea already have a potential replacement lined up creating a whole host of names, such as Brendan Rodgers and Guus Hiddink who both have ties with the club, who could be the next in the hotseat.

Managers are often the victim when the chips are down and results are not going their way, but there are numerous factors behind Chelsea’s downfall that have to be addressed. While Claudio Ranieiri is on cloud nine with surprise league leaders Leicester and Jurgen Klopp is hitting the headlines again for Liverpool, Mourinho now has time to reflect on where it went wrong for him and what the futures hold.

His odds on to be sacked continued to tumble with every defeat; it is a sign of the harsh reality of modern football management that you can enjoy considerable success one minute and be out the door the next, but the ‘Special One’ is unquestionably responsible for the evident lack of preparation that Chelsea made, with his decision to shorten pre-season backfiring in dramatic fashion.

Not only did they fail to win or keep a clean sheet in any of their friendlies, but the team were also miles behind in terms of fitness and sharpness when the Premier League season begun. However, the players should take a considerable portion of blame for being well below the standards they set themselves last season, with several of Chelsea’s stars being distinct shadows of their former selves. Statistics have also revealed a dramatic decrease in workrate; their determination to run and provide excellent protection to the back four has been replaced by a casual and lackadaisical approach that have left Chelsea serious exposed at the back.

With Mourinho now departed, it is now down to the players to show a big reaction to not only lift criticism of their own poor performances, but restore the damaged pride and reputation at the club. It could come down to a strong-minded manager to step in and address the numerous problems at Stamford Bridge, and with strong rumours that Pep Guardiola is due to announce that he will not be renewing his contract beyond next summer at Bayern Munich, he represents great value for anyone considering William Hill Free Bets.

Bringing in another manager until the end of the season to then allow Guardiola to walk through the doors at Stamford Bridge may be the route that Chelsea choose to go down, but all the talking must now be done on the pitch, particularly by the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and John Terry who have let themselves down this season. Upcoming fixtures against Watford and Manchester United will provide a real test of Chelsea’s true metal, and although it remains to be seen whether a new manager will be appointed by then, their first task will be to drag the club away from a perilous situation at the bottom that no-one thought was imaginable.