It seem no one is safe at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho is flailing and his only answer seems to be to allow one of his loyal troops to suffer. The John Terry/Mourinho bromance is one that seemed unbreakable. When the Portuguese returned to the club he lavished praise on his skipper. He was repaid with arguably the greatest season of the former England man’s impressive career last time out. Terry led the Blues to the title with ease with is world class marshalling of the best defensive unit to grace the Premier League in years.
However, this term it has all gone sour. Chelsea have gotten off to what can only be described as an absolute stinker. They have already lost five games and it is not even October. That is their manager’s worst ever start to a campaign, and disturbingly it is one that he seems powerless to rectify.
After the debacle at Man City and then a red card at West Brom, Terry has become the easy target for the media and, more importantly, for his manager. He has started just twice in all competitions since he was handed an early bath at the Hawthorns, once at Walsall in a League Cup victory and the other in the 3-1 loss at Everton that saw the Pensioners dismantled by a rampant Steven Naismith.
Looking at those facts it may seem like a sensible decision to not field the ageing centre-half, after all Chelsea beat Arsenal without him and breezed past Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League in his absence. However, not playing Terry against Newcastle at the weekend was verging on lunacy.
Newcastle are not a team blessed with any pace up top, Aleksandr Mirtovic has many qualities but outpacing centre-halves is not one of them, yet the Chelsea manager set up as if his side were facing the likes of Theo Walcott or Sergio Aguero. If he had played his captain at the weekend, there is no way that his team would have conceded the first goal in the manner in which they did.
Terry is still a wonderful defender with the game in front of him, and playing him at St James’ Park looked a no-brainer, Mourinho’s failure to recognise so is a real worry.
The problem for Terry this term hasn’t actually been his ability to defend. It has been the inability of those in front of him to protect him. Teams have been trying to isolate John Terry for years. Last season, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas would not allow that to happen, in this campaign they have been handing out free passes to anyone even slightly fleet of foot.
It’s as if Mourinho is clutching at straws. His approach has become scattergun and unmethodical, it is all very average. The Special One has gone missing.
His faith in Kurt Zouma is admirable, and there is no doubt that the Frenchman is destined to be a wonderful defender, but placing him in such high-pressure situations is only going to have an adverse effect on his development. He is still adjusting to life in the Premier League and he struggles when handed the task of shackling a physical threat.
The Blues’ next two top-flight fixtures are against a Graziano Pelle-powered Southampton and an Aston Villa team spearheaded by aerial powerhouse Rudi Gestede. If Terry is overlooked once again then Mourinho’s faith in Zouma has become blind, and that is dangerous.
Another player who seemingly has license to perform terribly and avoid the manager’s wrath is Branislav Ivanovic. The right-back has been nothing short of atrocious so far this season. He was at fault in the north-east for Ayoze Perez’s equaliser at the weekend and he was left floundering for Porto’s deadlock breaker in midweek. To add insult to injury, the Serbian has been handed Terry’s armband of late, maybe in some brash attempt to inspire confidence, it is an experiment that has failed.
With the Portuguese manager it is difficult not to imagine that all this is psychological. Is it that the trust between Terry and himself is so mutually solid he believes dropping him for an extended period may act as a wake-up call to the rest of his players? If so, it isn’t working.
Terry’s shoulders are undoubtedly broad but at present he seems to be the one suffering greatly for his team-mate’s and manager’s failings.