The next manager of Chelsea, whether a permanent or an interim appointment, has the task of sparking into life a championship-winning side that has spectacularly malfunctioned – to such an extent that the unthinkable prospect of relegation was mooted this week.
Restoring Diego Costa, Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Players' Player of the Year Eden Hazard and Cesc Fàbregas to somewhere near the level they were last term, when the Blues won the Premier League title by eight points, will be high on José Mourinho's successor's agenda.
The reason for the deterioration in the performances of those three in particular – not to mention the varying displays of the previously rock-solid Branislav Ivanović, captain John Terry and Nemanja Matić – has flummoxed Mourinho and Chelsea supporters alike. Their club, at least since returning to the English top flight at the first attempt in 1989, is in the unfamiliar position of being one point and two places above the bottom three.
|Player||Premier League goals in 2014/15||Assists||Premier League goals this season||Assists|
For and against
A team that struggles to score goals with any regularity while conceding them at nearly a rate of two per game is destined to struggle – that much is obvious – but Chelsea's statistics 16 matches into this unpredictable Premier League campaign make for interesting reading nonetheless.
Curiously, the Blues have scored exactly half the number of goals they had at the same stage last term and have let in twice as many as they had this time 12 months ago.
|Chelsea's record after 16 Premier League fixtures||F||A||Points||Position|
If the new man is successful in reinvigorating Costa et al then Chelsea's home form should improve. Through 2013/14 and 2014/15, the west London outfit suffered only one league defeat at Stamford Bridge – against Sunderland, the visitors to SW6 on Saturday.
This campaign, however, they have lost four top-flight matches on home turf, most recently 1-0 to promoted Bournemouth. A fixture at Chelsea is no longer viewed with perhaps the same trepidation it once was, something the tenth manager of the Roman Abramovich era will have to change if the five-time English champions are to rally.
Domestic v continental form
Whoever takes over will have a UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain to focus on in the spring. Chelsea's domestic travails have contrasted with their fortunes in Europe, where they won a section containing Dynamo Kyiv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Porto for the loss of only three goals – the joint second best record in the group stage behind Paris.
What can Chelsea salvage?
After the 2-1 reverse at surprise leaders Leicester City on Monday, Mourinho wrote off his squad's chances of qualifying for the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League, saying: "We can't finish top four, but we can still finish top six because so many teams are dropping points."
Unless the Blues win the UEFA Champions League, sixth place and the possibility of qualification for the UEFA Europa League, a competition Chelsea won in 2013, might be the best their fans can hope for. For inspiration they should look no further than Borussia Dortmund, who, in Jürgen Klopp's last season in charge, were bottom of the Bundesliga as recently as February yet rallied to finish seventh and reach the German Cup final.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.