Five tell-tale signs Chelsea are going into meltdown
After the fall-out from the Eva Carneiro controversy and the John Terry substitution during the damaging 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, Chelsea appear to be veering dangerously close to full-on crisis mode.
If that feels strangely familiar, that’s because these crises have become something of a regularity in recent years, as the likes of Andre Villas Boas, Roberto di Matteo and Luiz Felipe Scolari can all attest.
Here we breakdown the anatomy of a Chelsea crisis…
1) Manager feels a lack of support
Jose Mourinho’s substitution of John Terry at half-time on Sunday was interpreted by Graeme Souness as an attempt to force Roman Abramovich to open his cheque book.
Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to sign John Stones from Everton, and over the weekend said publicly that Chelsea have every right to flex their financial muscles this summer.
“Chelsea is Chelsea and Mr Abramovich is Mr Abramovich,” said Mourinho. “The board has worked so well, over the years, in making money with sales that if somebody has the right - the moral right – to do that (spend big money), then I say that Chelsea is one of them. Because Chelsea is making so much money selling and sometimes people forget.”
The sub-text of what Mourinho was saying was clearly that there’s no reason the club should stop spending big in the transfer market.
A Chelsea manager feeling unsupported by Abramovich and the board is nothing new, and a key component of a Chelsea crisis.
When Mourinho left the club in 2007 it was partly due to a falling out with Abramovich, and frustration at the Russian intervening more and more in the club’s transfer policy, with the £30million signing of Andriy Shevchenko in 2006 a source of friction between the pair. When Mourinho dropped Shevchenko for a match against Wigan in January 2007 it was interpreted as a direct challenge to Abramovich, and one which sowed the seeds for the manager’s departure eight months later.
Villas-Boas felt similarly let down when he clashed with key players Frank Lampard and John Terry, and he left the club in March 2012 after less than a season in charge.
His successor Di Matteo had an even flimsier hold on the Chelsea hotseat, and despite winning the Champions League and FA Cup two months after joining, was only given a cursory two-year contract in the summer of 2012.
Come November, he was sacked.
2) Results start to dip
Whether the lack of support from the board comes because of bad results, or vice versa is a little chicken and egg, but what is clear is that a Chelsea meltdown only really becomes full-blown once results start to worsen.
Mourinho ended his first spell as manager with the team in sixth and having just drawn 1-1 with Rosenborg at home in the Champions League, while Villas Boas had won one match in seven when he got the boot and Di Matteo had enjoyed just one victory in eight games.
Chelsea are not yet in anything like a run as bad as that, but trailing their closest rivals City by five points after just two matches will concern Abramovich and the club’s hierarchy.
3) Rumours of dressing room discontent
A Chelsea crisis wouldn’t be a Chelsea crisis without murmurings of off-the-pitch disagreements.
Under Avram Grant, the rumour was that Michael Ballack and the senior players pretty much ran things themselves, while falling out with Terry made the position of Villas Boas and Rafael Benitez untenable.
Will the substitution of John Terry see Mourinho falling into that same trap? Just how strong their relationship is now is open to debate - they were certainly close last season - but at the age of 34 perhaps the influence of the former England captain is on the wane.
4) An extraneous event adds to the sense of unease
Just to add an extra frisson to the crisis, it’s important for an external event to take place that doesn’t really have much to do with what’s happening on the pitch.
It’s this which, to borrow Edmund Blackadder’s phrase, turns the crisis into “A twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'.
This time around we have Mourinho’s roundly condemned treatment of club doctor Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn, which has proved almost as salacious as the famous John Terry and Wayne Bridge fall-out in 2010.
On that occasion, Stamford Bridge was rocked by revelations that Terry had slept with his then team-mate Bridge’s girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel.
Carlo Ancelotti was able to keep Chelsea on course for the Premier League title despite the distraction, but not before a crisis erupted as Bridge refused Terry’s offer of a handshake when playing for Manchester City, in a game Roberto Mancini’s side won 4-2 at Stamford Bridge.
Ancelotti was not so lucky the following year when the struggles of his team were undermined further by Ashley Cole accidentally shooting a 21-year-old student on work experience with a .22 calibre air rifle.
The incident was seen as symptomatic of Ancelotti’s dwindling authority, and he was sacked at the end of the season.
Benitez meanwhile had to deal with the hysteria surrounding Eden Hazard kicking a ballboy in the 2013 Capital One Cup semi-final at Swansea.
5) A trip to the Hawthorns is the final straw…
Away defeats at West Brom did for Villas Boas and Di Matteo, and on Sunday it’s Mourinho’s turn to enter the Midlands fortress.
Watch this space.
Or more realistically watch Chelsea win 2-0, and see someone else take their place as the League's crisis club.