I guess we’re in trouble then. Before this afternoon’s depressing defeat, I guess it was possible to turn half a blind eye but this was the day that issues to be ironed out became full blown problems to be solved. The moment when an uneasy feeling surrounding the club, solidified into a state (not of crisis, but) of very serious concern.
The decisions not to send off Fernandinho for a reckless elbow to the back of Diego Costa’s cranium, as well as the decision to rule Ramires off-side were frustrating and obviously influential to our detriment, but to blame the defeat on those calls would be unhelpfully narrow-minded. This was only our second competitive Premier League defeat of the calendar year, but it was also, I think, the worst all-round performance of Mourinho’s second spell. And this ridiculous non-story about the club’s physio team that has been circulating this week has only served to increase the sense of disarray surrounding proceedings.
Here is a fairly concise list of things that have gone wrong so far:
– John Terry, subbed for the first time in his career under Mourinho, has within the space of a fortnight seen his imperturbable status as the best defender in the country suddenly crumbled. Jose insisted his captain remains a player who has his complete trust after the game, though his clear disapproval of the Englishman’s first half display would suggest otherwise
– Diego Costa, with his trimmed beard and comb over looked like less of a street-fighter on the pitch and more of a sane human being and he played like it also, with even a smack to head not appearing to fire him up. His average goal scoring record in 2015 is becoming harder to ignore also.
– Even more concerning still was the way which Mourinho managed this game. Allowing the obvious flaw in our system, with Cesc struggling to cover ground in midfield, to exist for more than half an hour, leading up to Aguero’s opening goal. By his standards this was a shocking lack of proactive thinking from the Portuguese.
– Other concerns: Branislav Ivanovic (our usual dependable muscular full back) being outmuscled by Vincent Kompany at the near post. Thibaut Courtois (one of the least rash keepers I’ve ever seen) rashly conceding penalties and getting sent off. Nemanja Matic (our ubiquitous dominator) wandering through matches. Willian (that ultra-efficient workhorse) is looking tired and sloppy as well…
The good thing about these problems I suppose is that not only are they fixable, but its almost inconceivable that they won’t just fix themselves in time – these players are all too good and too experienced to remain in this terrible vein of form for long. What will remain a concern however is the quality of the rest of the squad. In my opinion, of our 22 first team players, aside from the usual 11, only two players are anywhere close to good enough to play regularly in this team: Asmir Begovic and Kurt Zouma – neither whom are obviously game changers.
What Jose described as a calculated risk not to strengthen, and to rely on this current group, is looking increasingly quickly like a mistake of epic proportions. Ramires and Mikel have now surely had ample opportunity to reach the required level, it hasn’t happened and at this stage of their career, I think it almost certainly isn’t going too. Juan Cuadrado’s total contribution since he joined has been embarrassing. Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao are good back-ups to have, but right now, that’s all they are.
And so you would imagine the temptation to panic-buy will almost certainly exist for the remainder of the month, after our worst start to a season since 1998. Abdul Rahman’s signing from Augsburg is a needed relief, but the likelihood of anyone following the Ghanaian into the club looks slim. To be honest, I would struggle to come up with any names of players who could improve the side who may be available over the next fortnight. The crazy, risky type of bid it would take to secure a big enough name isn’t the type of investment we’ve been in the habit of making in recent years, and while that may be a good thing, it might just be the type of risk we need to take in order to save this season from slipping away before it’s even seriously begun. And I’m not sure Jose could be trusted to ride out a season in which the league isn’t a possibility, without imploding with frustration mid way through. Concerning times indeed…