Are Chelsea players taking too much flak for Jose Mourinho this season?

Chelsea’s early slump is threatening to ruin their season – but are the players taking the blame for Jose Mourinho?

Mourinho’s return to Porto was not a happy one as the club he led to a 2004 Champions League win deservedly beat his Premier League heavyweights 2-1 at Estadio do Dragao, and the champions’ malaise is beginning to set in rigidly.

Mourinho’s men were far from their best at struggling Newcastle, and only a late two-goal rally saved them from defeat against Steve McClaren’s side last Saturday, before they lost in Portugal.

Several of Chelsea’s title winning side have been far below the standard expected of them this term, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Branislav Ivanovic, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa all struggling to regain their form.

All four were instrumental in Chelsea’s charge to the title last term alongside John Terry, but the Blues skipper has been dropped in favour of Kurt Zouma – these are intriguing times at Stamford Bridge.

Ivanovic looks a shadow of the player he was last term, while Fabregas is likely to have misplaced more passes this term already than the whole of the previous one.

Diego Costa has retained his trademark combative edge, but the goalscoring touch of last year has deserted him, and while critics are right to demand more from Chelsea’s squad, Mourinho has somehow managed to avoid widespread scrutiny.

Admittedly, the Portuguese tactician's achievements in the game rightly afford him a level of breathing space, but there is a increasing feeling that the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss is wriggling free of accountability for his team’s labouring performances.

Speaking to BT Sport, reported by Sports Mole ahead of the season, Mourinho revealed that he was aware of complacency setting in, and he delivered a message to his players about remaining focused.

He said: "There is something I have to start working with my players. I have experience of winning eight titles, so I know what it is like after you have won the title.

"To follow success with success is not so easy. We at the club, not just me, but the players, everybody in the different areas, we must find the right attitude and the right mentality because to deal with success is not always easy.

"I don't know what winning at all costs means. To win, you can do it once by not being good, or by being lucky, but to win so many times, you cannot do it without top quality."

Mourinho’s admission is at odds with his players’ lack of fluency, and the manager will be acutely aware of the need to restore their confidence with aplomb.

Hazard and Nemanja Matic were dropped to the bench for the loss to Porto and speaking before the game, he claimed that no player was untouchable in his squad – as evidenced by the legendary Terry’s axing in favour of the raw Zouma.

"If the season goes in one direction, that it becomes closed and we can't win, I will go just with the kids," Mourinho told reporters, as quoted by the Telegraph.

"It makes no sense, when you have nothing to win, to play the older players. "I'll play the players we're waiting for instead. I can arrive in a moment where I will look to the kids and say, 'Let's go. Non-stop.' I am ruthless.

"But at the moment everything is open. 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."

Chelsea’s players have failed to perform this term, but they are still the same footballers who cruised to a Premier League title last term – and it is time for Mourinho to stick by his charges, rather than desert them.

Speaking to BT Sport as an analyst, former manager Glenn Hoddle summed it up succinctly by calling for Mourinho to clear his head of all the accompanying furore that follows a poor result and quite simply “get back to basics”.

Hoddle said: “He’s got to sit down with himself and ask ‘what is my best team? My best one to 11?’ He’s go to sit down and work that out and get back to basics a bit.”

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