Chelsea crisis: 7 problems that Jose Mourinho must solve, including what to do with Cesc Fabregas and how to kick-start Eden Hazard

The defending champions have made a dreadful start to their campaign

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The Independent Online

We are only five games into the new Premier League season, but already Chelsea's title defence is in grave doubt.

The sudden decline of Jose Mourinho's team has caught most by surprise and, less than 150 days after they won the title so convincingly, it appears that there are many problems to fix.

Here Press Association Sport's Matt Somerford looks at seven areas that Chelsea must improve if they are to save their season.

1. The defence

The obvious place to start simply because Chelsea have conceded more goals than any other club in the Premier League. Who would have predicted that? The Blues' pursuit of John Stones confirmed they knew it was an area they needed to strengthen - John Terry was never going to play every game of the season again - but they could hardly have forseen the decline of Branislav Ivanovic, while Mourinho appears to have lost faith in Gary Cahill after the 3-0 loss at Manchester City. The Portuguese knows how to whip a defence into shape and you imagine that is his number one priority at the moment.

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2. Lethargic midfield

If Chelsea's defence has looked exposed a fair portion of the blame can lay in midfield where Chelsea have simply failed to take control of any contest. Chaotic encounters have ensued - a very un-Mourinho trait - and the Blues' only win of the campaign was a 3-2 slugfest at West Brom. Mourinho tried to stabilise central midfield at Goodison Park by pairing Nemanja Matic with John Obi Mikel - freeing Cesc Fabregas from defensive responsibility - but still the goals came.

 

3. Give Hazard a helping hand

Eden Hazard was Chelsea's best player by some distance last season. This season the Belgian has hardly got a touch without two or three defenders harassing him. The Blues have to find a way to let him break free of the shackles because at his most devastating Hazard slides past opposition players to unlock defences. It's hard to remember him dribbling at a defender one-on-one at all so far this season and as a result Chelsea have looked static going forward.

3. Strikers curse

Is Diego Costa going the way of Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Mateja Kezman and Adrian Mutu? It's hard to put him in that category just yet, but since his flying start to last season the Spain international has scored four goals in 17 games. He's also only scored once for Spain since moving to London. Costa's back-up, Radamal Falcao, hardly had a better record at Manchester United last season while Loic Remy has never got started at Stamford Bridge due to injury.

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Chelsea's Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa look dejected after Everton's third goal

 

4. What to do with Fabregas?

It is not apparent what Mourinho wants to do with Fabregas at the moment. He led the Premier League in assists last season, but his defensive frailties were exposed at the back end of the season working in a deep role alongside Matic. That has been the case again this term, prompting him to be pushed further up the pitch against Everton where the game largely bypassed the Spaniard. Barcelona did warn Chelsea upon Fabregas' exit that his contributions for them had waned as the seasons went on.

5. Lack of depth

For all of Chelsea's wheeling and dealing over the past couple of years, they appear to have a lack of depth. When they went behind at home to Crystal Palace, Mourinho responded by bringing on teenagers Kenedy and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The cupboard looks even more bare in defence where Papy Djilobodji and Baba Rahman - both uncapped at Premier League level - are the next best options.

6. Turn to youth

It might already be time to give youth a chance. Chelsea have a long list of young talent and Mourinho has indicated he is willing to expose them to the Premier League. We've already seen that with Loftus-Cheek - although he was overlooked for the experience of Mikel at Everton - while Kenedy impressed, albeit briefly, with his pace and skill against Palace. Attacking midfielder Bertrand Traore is another exciting talent who is not out on loan.

7. Mourinho

The Portuguese must come to terms with his worst-ever start to a season as a coach. When Mourinho took Chelsea to the title in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge in 2004-05 they conceded just 15 goals in total. Already this season they are just three goals shy of that and, for a man famed for having every detail covered, that will hardly be acceptable. Off-field dramas have further added to the descending gloom, but so often in chaos Mourinho draws strength. It would be a brave person to bet against the master tactician engineering something remarkable now.

PA

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