Andre Villas-Boas's position as Chelsea manager looks increasingly insecure after the coach was involved in a heated discussion with some of his senior players on Sunday, the day after a limp defeat at the hands of Everton.
Villas-Boas claimed "full responsibility" in the aftermath of the 2-0 loss but did not hesitate to haul in his squad on their day off. And there were some angry exchanges at the club's Cobham training ground as the Portuguese gave his underperforming squad a dressing down.
On arrival at training the players were again confronted by the sight of owner Roman Abramovich, who spoke both to them and Villas-Boas in an attempt to get to the bottom of yet another winless run.
Abramovich has now visited the training ground almost every day since last Saturday, taking the time to inspect the current regime at close quarters after being sidetracked by a high-profile court case. The Russian billionaire is far from happy with recent results that have left Chelsea languishing 17 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and outside the top four.
The ongoing availability of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari for a short stint at Stamford Bridge in 2008 and remains a firm favourite of Abramovich, is a significant threat to Villas-Boas's chances of continuing with his project at the club. Although the club maintain no change is imminent, the owner is understood to have made his dissatisfaction very clear to both players and manager alike.
The midfielder Frank Lampard, who is on his seventh manager in his 10-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge, yesterday insisted that it was the players who needed to take a look in the mirror after their display at Goodison Park.
"Of course we do, it's a group thing," Lampard said. "It was a bad performance from start to finish. When you come to Everton, the one thing you know they're going to do is fight you, press you and make things tough and we didn't react to that. We created two or three chances and that's not up to standard. We can only take that on the chin and apologise to the people who came up and watched it because that's not good enough for Chelsea."
Villas-Boas has been cut more slack than all of Abramovich's previous managers, with the Russian seemingly acknowledging the difficulties of revamping an ageing squad.
But Lampard insisted transition was no excuse for the current malaise, warning the club could forget about beating Napoli when the Champions League resumes unless they got their act together. He said: "We have been fighting to win leagues. Now, we are fighting for fourth and that hurts, so we have to react. We know we are in a bad way and we have to dig ourselves out of it. Different players do come in but whoever plays has to live up to the standards we have set."