By Editor Wayne Veysey
Jose Mourinho is skating on thin ice, Diego Costa could be a one-season wonder and what we learned from Stoke 1 Chelsea 0.
Mourinho will be fearing the Roman axe
Sat powerless in front of a TV screen, this seventh Premier League defeat of the season must have made excruciating viewing for Mourinho. His job is undoubtedly now hanging by a thread. Chelsea fans donned Mourinho masks to show their support for the absent manager – and once again sang his name at regular intervals – but the adoration of the masses counts for little. Ultimately, the only opinion that matters is that of the silent but deadly owner. History tells us Roman Abramovich acts ruthlessly when he feels the team is not playing to their potential, particularly when a top-four position is under threat. Mourinho will be fearing Roman is ready to end the Portugese’s empire.
No cohesion and cutting edge from Chelsea
The Londoners were not awful – in patches they played pretty well – but the lack of conviction and cutting edge from a fine group of players that cut a swathe through English football only last season will be of huge concern to the Chelsea hierarchy. Eliminated by Stoke in the League Cup 11 days previously, Mark Hughes’ team once again snuffed out the threat of their gilded visitors. Eden Hazard showed glimpses of flair and tried his best to haul his team over the line, but the frank truth is that too many of his team-mates were not up to it. This has developed into one of the most dramatic falls in Premier League history. The paymasters will want answers.
The old Costa is nowhere to be seen
What happened to the destructive spearhead of last season? Where did the real Diego Costa go? The imposter, who postures, dives, insults opponents, generally behaves like a sulking teenager and is a yard slower than the 2014-15 version, was once again evident at the Britannia Stadium. Intriguingly, Costa is the only outfield Chelsea player not to have been dropped this season. That might say more for Mourinho’s faith in Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao than Costa’s performances over the last three months. His goals record – three in 14 matches – pales in comparison to his outstanding debut campaign at the club. But it is his lack of penalty box presence that might worry those in the dugout. Is Costa a one-season wonder?
Butland is the best young keeper in England
Jack Butland made some vital saves, particularly when the scores were goal-less. The Stoke goalkeeper’s first-half parry of a Costa drive across the face of his goal was out of the top drawer. But it was not so much the show-stopping moments that really impressed. Butland, aged just 22 and opposing Asmir Begovic, the man he has replaced in the Stoke goal this season, has a command of his area and penalty box that is heartening to anyone of an English persuasion. He looks the real deal and an emerging star.
Fabregas no longer the apple of Jose’s eye
Relegated to the bench for the second consecutive Premier League match, life at Chelsea must be bringing back the worst memories for Fabregas of his time at Barcelona. An undisputed first-choice for his opening year-and-a-bit in west London, his sub-standard displays this season have echoed those of the team. Mourinho, who has spoken so warmly of the Spaniard since landing him for £30million in a deal that initially looked a bargain, kept the faith until the Liverpool match last weekend but, despite being restored to the team against Dynamo Kiev in midweek, Fabregas is no longer the apple of the manager’s eye. He came on for the last 20 minutes against Stoke but failed to make much of an impact.