It is too early to talk of a crisis, but recent events at Stamford Bridge show that fissures are starting to appear.
For Chelsea and Jose Mourinho alas it never rains but it pours. Beaten by Arsenal the first time for years, at Wembley in the Community Shield. Held to a draw by Swansea at Stamford Bridge in the Premiership opener. Now thrashed 3-0 by a Manchester City side which took them apart. All this and the cataclysmic row over the club doctor and her companion, for daring to go on the field when they had not only every right but obligation to run on to the field to treat a prone Eden Hazard, at the behest of the referee.
Mourinho, as we know went apoplectic near the touchline. Dr Eva Carneiro was absolutely right as was physiotherapist Jon Fearn. Indeed they had no alternative but to do what they did. Nor was there any alternative to Hazard coming briefly off the pitch in what was, you will recall, the very last moments of injury time.
That both should be taken off their duties by Mourinho seemed an action of sheer petulance, though I felt that Dr Carneiro was dicing with death when she sent out a Facebook message thanking those people who had supported her. To a monumental egotist such as Mourinho, that was never going to be accepted.
At the press conference which followed the draw with Swansea Mourinho, always prone to blame referees for things that went wrong, was expected to have something pungent to say about the expulsion of his Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, whose foul, resulting in a penalty and expulsion may not quite have taken place in the box. But this time, not a word of condemnation and exculpation.
There can be no question of Mourinho leaving Chelsea; he has just signed a new four-year contract. But when his team crashed as it did at Manchester City, when the previously reliable Ivanovic, suddenly as against Arsenal, Swansea and Manchester City becomes almost a liability; when even the iconic John Terry is pulled off at City, accused by Mourinho of lacking pace – a well known deficiency for which his numerous other strengths and qualities have compensated over so many years – you knew there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark. Or Stamford Bridge.
Again, Mourinho could hardly be blamed for an untypically pallid performance by the usually influential Cesc Fabregas at City, though his own tactical dispositions seemed debatable. The two Brazilians Ramires anything but happy on the left flank and Willian, similarly used in an unfamiliar role in the so-called hole were palpably out of their element.
Meanwhile, Chelsea continue to win trophy after trophy at youth level, where, if there were such a thing as iron gates before the youth section at Cobham, you feel that there should perhaps be a notice: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.
In Manchester the young attacker Loftus-Cheek did get as far as the bench; but no farther. How significant that Liverpool’s 18-year-old Joe Gomez has made such a great beginning; leaving a Charlton club which had nurtured him since boyhood, while the Charlton contemporaries who decided to move to Chelsea, Kasey Palmer and Charlie Collett, still await their chance in the first team, for all their prowess in the successful youth side.
Chelsea last season ran away with the Premiers League which was arguably as much a criticism of their remote challengers as proof of their own qualities. That embarrassing defeat to the New York Red Bulls on their pre-season tour was clearly rather more than a straw in the wind.
Meanwhile, how ironic that probably their best player at City was Asmir Begovic, signed recently from Stoke City as back up to Thibaut Courtois after the loss of Petr Cech. His early saves were gallant yet in the event unavailing. It is still surprising that he, with all his abilities, should have decided to quit Stoke for a back up role at The Bridge.
At Shepherd’s Bush, on the same day as Chelsea’s debacle, I saw the prolific QPR centre forward Charlie Austin come back on to the field, having been substituted earlier, to wave to the crowd in what might well have been a gesture of farewell.
Afterwards the QPR manager or whatever they call him now, Chris Ramsey said he’d taken Austin off because he was tired. In fact he looked anything but. With Wayne Rooney so dismally out of form with Manchester United and Harry Kane not firing on all cylinders, England could do much worse than give Austin a chance in the coming match against Switzerland, having already picked him in the squad for a couple of matches.
As for QPR, whatever his periodic excesses, it is clear they miss the commitment of Joey Barton in central midfield. For all those sudden explosions, all those pretentious quotes from his book of apophthegms, I believe he was a crucial figure in a QPR midfield which looks porous without him.
Whatever the size of his wages, buying any kind of a replacement for him would cost a great deal more money. Odd that at the time of writing, no one has come in to acquire him.