EyeOnEPL

To keep up, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho must inject pace, power into Blues

Defender Branislav Ivanovic (left) and midfielder Cesc Fabregas restrain striker Diego Costa (2nd left) as they leave the pitch at half time during the EPL football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at The Etihad stadium in Manchester.
Defender Branislav Ivanovic (left) and midfielder Cesc Fabregas restrain striker Diego Costa (2nd left) as they leave the pitch at half time during the EPL football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at The Etihad stadium in Manchester.PHOTO: AFP

Just two games into the season, Chelsea are feeling the blues - but the warning signs have been there for many months.

The Blues staggered to the finish line last season, claiming the English Premier League (EPL) title on the back of their scintillating form in the early months.

They then failed to win any of their pre-season matches in regulation time. And when the season began, they were out of sorts in the Community Shield loss to Arsenal, out of ideas in a dire draw with Swansea and, finally, out of ammunition in Sunday's 0-3 humbling by Manchester City.

It can be a fool's errand to second-guess Jose Mourinho, but what was he thinking by not strengthening his already-thin squad over the summer?

The world saw John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic so easily beaten for pace at the Etihad Stadium, and must have wondered why the champions have not been more decisive in moving for long-term defensive targets like John Stones.

Substituting Terry at half-time on Sunday was perhaps a message by Mourinho to his board that his ageing captain, 34, can no longer be counted on against their title rivals.

Substituting Terry at half-time on Sunday was perhaps a message by Mourinho to his board that his ageing captain, 34, can no longer be counted on against their title rivals.

As someone who played into his 40s, I am all for giving ageing legs a chance but, at the highest level, speed is king. Chelsea lack that and more in key positions.

Look at the power and panache in the City line-up: Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany are football beasts of power and speed.

It is early days but Manuel Pellegrini's men sent out a clear message with that performance.

If they can smash past Chelsea's proverbial "bus" so easily, imagine what they will do to the rest.

Mourinho can call the result "completely fake" but, to me, it is his comment that is completely fake. His team were outplayed across the park - Aguero alone could have had a hat-trick inside the first half-hour.

It looks like there are issues within the Chelsea squad, and not just related to their medical staff.

There is little, if any, link-up play between their forwards. Eden Hazard's runs are not timed for Cesc Fabregas' through balls; Ramires' passes are not in sync with Willian's movement down the channels.

And because of his transfer inactivity, Mourinho has no real game-changers on the bench.

Radamel Falcao can change his haircut but he looks like the same dud Manchester United happily let go in the summer. Fellow Colombian Juan Cuadrado is set to be the next Mohamed Salah - a flop to be loaned out unceremoniously.

Mourinho, the self-proclaimed Special One, needs all of his tactical genius to get Chelsea out of the rut.

The next fortnight will be crucial. First, Chelsea need convincing wins against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace to soothe their fans and put points on board.

Second, and more importantly, owner Roman Abramovich has to splash the cash on defensive reinforcements (young left-back Baba Rahman is a good start) and a recognised striker to keep Diego Costa on his toes.

If not, I fear Chelsea slipping behind in the title race. Keeping the same line-up week after week has made it easier for opponents to exploit weaknesses in their set-up.

The good news is that Mourinho, one of football's most astute minds, has time to make a change.

The bad news, for Chelsea fans at least, is that he is also one of football's most stubborn men.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'To keep up, Jose must inject pace, power into Blues'. Print Edition | Subscribe