Spec­tre of Chelsea’s mis­er­able ‘Mour­inho’ season looms large over open­ing day de­feat

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Miguel De­laney

It was a day of un­be­liev­able and gen­uinely un­prece­dented ac­tion at Stam­ford Bridge… but also a few un­said words, if ob­vi­ous thoughts.

After his Chelsea side’s sen­sa­tional 3-2 de­feat to Burn­ley, An­to­nio Conte was asked how wor­ried he was about the­si­t­u­a­tion,whethertherew­ere­deeper con­cerns. No-one men­tioned 2015-16 or, a “Mour­inho season” — to use the Ital­ian’s own words — but it cer­tainly hung there, in­fus­ing an edge to ev­ery­thing. It also added fuel to what was al­ready a dif­fi­cult sum­mer.

Andthat’sthe­re­al­con­cern­here.Ifthe ideao­fasim­i­lar­cam­paign­tot­woyears ago re­mains ex­ag­ger­ated for now, it’s fair to won­der if the champions could at least get into the type of early slump that greatly af­fects what they can do in this season as a whole.

Chelsea after all still have a fine core squadand­supre­mebestXIwhenavail­able, while Conte him­self re­mains one of the best and most cut­ting-edge man­agers in the game, but they can’t re­ally ben­e­fit from any of that when theysim­ply don’t have so many of those play­ers now. That was the deeper sig­nif­i­cance ofthis­re­sult,be­yondthe­set­back­ofjust get­ting de­feated in your first game. Chelsea have a very tricky spell com­ing up with games away to Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and home to Ever­ton and, with­out so many key play­ers for both of those games, al­most needed to get a win in this no­tion­ally more for­giv­ing fix­ture—ath­ome­toaside­tipped­for­rel­e­ga­tion—in­order­toof­fer­that­cush­ion.

There is now al­ready the pos­si­bil­ity that they could go into the in­ter­na­tional break with an aw­ful lot of work to do once they get back.

They could of course well beat Spurs at Wem­b­ley just as they did in the FA Cup in April, but Conte is going to have to be even more cre­ative with his XI be­cause­heis­nowmissin­ga­lotof­play­ers, es­pe­cially in mid­field.

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