LONDON • When Cesc Fabregas and Oscar received their first English Premier League (EPL) winners' medals last season, the duo predicted an era of dominance for Chelsea.
Just seven games into the new domestic season, however, and Jose Mourinho has cast doubt over how many "serial champions" there are in his squad.
Ahead of yesterday's Champions League clash with Porto, the Blues manager claimed that his players lack the mentality required for sustained success.
He has even threatened to drop his under-performing senior players and "go with the kids" should the team be ruled out of challenging for honours.
Four-time EPL winners John Terry and John Obi Mikel, as well as two-time top-flight champion Branislav Ivanovic, were exempted from the Portuguese manager's criticism.
POOR WORK ETHIC COSTS CLUB
When you have individuals with an unstable attitude in terms of motivation, desire and commitment, you will pay.
JOSE MOURINHO, Chelsea manager
Mourinho has previously been supportive of his players, and cited bad luck and poor refereeing decisions as the explanation for his side's faltering title defence.
However, he changed tack dramatically on Monday, suggesting that many of his players have grown complacent after winning the league last season.
He is understood to have been particularly disappointed with last season's PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic, Oscar and Willian.
"When you have individuals with an unstable attitude in terms of motivation, desire and commitment, you will pay," said Mourinho after seeing his side take eight points out of a maximum of 21 from their first seven EPL matches.
"There are two sorts of champions. There are champions who win something and there are lots of them, but there are the other champions who, during their careers, they win two, three, four, five, 10 or 20 titles. In this club, we have 25 champions from last season, but serial champions in this squad, how many do we have?
"John Terry, John Mikel, Ivanovic are serial champions. Almost every season, they have something in their pocket. But how many serial champions do we have?
"And that's the point. Last year, we were champions but the point for me is, are we serial champions?
"Of course, it's very difficult to win every season but you can be a serial champion in your approach and your attitude."
During his first spell at Chelsea in 2006, he labelled eight starters - including Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba - as "untouchables" because of their consistent form and desire.
But the manager warned his current crop that if Chelsea's results do not improve, he will make wholesale changes and begin starting the club's youngsters such as Nathan and Kenedy from Brazil, as well as Ruben Loftus-Cheek - all 19 - with a view to preparing them for the future seasons.
Already, skipper Terry, who played every minute in the league last season, has been limited to just four league starts this season.
"At this moment, it's difficult to win the Premier League but possible. It's difficult to win the Champions League but possible. It's difficult to win the Cups but possible," said Mourinho, winner of 22 trophies from his first full 13 seasons in management.
"I've explained to the players that when the situation is open, I have to try and prepare the kids for their future and, at the same time, bring the best out of the players with more experience.
"But if the season becomes 'closed' and we can't win trophies, I will go just with the kids instead.
"It makes no sense to play the older players when you have nothing to win.
"There can be a moment where I will look to the kids and say, 'Let's go.' I am ruthless."
THE TIMES, LONDON