Jose Mourinho sprang a surprise at the weekend with his decision to leave Juan Mata and David Luiz, two of Chelsea's star performers from last season, out of the squad entirely for the visit of Fulham.
The decision was vindicated to an extend, with the Blues easing to a 2-0 victory over their west London rivals.
However, it was another performance that failed to excite and did little to dispell early season concerns over Chelsea's attacking prowess.
The loss to Everton and stumbling defeat in their opening Champions League group game at home against Basle were unexpected for a side installed as the early favourites to win the league title this term.
Mourinho has now admitted for the first time that he is unsure of his best squad - and has called on his players to provide the answer for him.
“Of course, I don’t know [what my best team is],” he said. “But the players have to give me the answers. I cannot dig and dig and dig looking for the best team. The players must give me the answer.
“Do I have a doubt that [Branislav] Ivanovic is in this moment my right-back? I have no doubt. You see the way the guy performs. So it is up to them.
“If somebody is waiting for me to give shirts because of status and history, that’s not the point. Of course, I have some doubts in some positions and I think it’s normal.”
Mata will be given a rare chance to shine in the Capital One Cup third-round tie from the start at Swindon tomorrow night, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand, who have also been ignored, are also expected to get an opportunity.
Premier League rivals Arsenal and Tottenham, as well as Napoli, Paris St-Germain and Atletico Madrid, are monitoring Mata’s situation according to the Evening Standard, with a view to making a bid for his services in January.
Mourinho maintains that the attacking midfielder still has a future at the club, although he has made Oscar his first choice for the No10 role.
Chelsea dropped to fourth place in the table after yesterday’s games but are just two points off top spot and Mourinho believes they now face a real test with four successive away games in three competitions.
He added on Chelsea TV: “The situation is difficult, we have already played away to Manchester United and Everton.
“We have won all the matches at home and have nine points from that. Now we go away for four consecutive matches. In the Premier League we have Tottenham and Norwich, and go to Bucharest [to play Steaua in the Champions League] and Swindon.
“We have to improve away, get results. At our house, we have to be better, not just win, play better and score more goals. This is our objective.
“The good thing is that we’re not being lucky but we’re there [in the League] with 10 points and the period is not good, the results are not brilliant.”Reuse content