By William Schomberg
It was supposed to be Chelsea’s chance to draw a line under their worst start to a season in nearly 40 years, but Saturday’s 1-0 loss at home to struggling Bournemouth instead marked a new low for the team that cruised to the English title last year.
A late headed goal by substitute Glenn Murray gave Bournemouth their first win since mid-September and heaped the pressure back on Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho.
The self-described “Special One” had seemed to have weathered the storm that engulfed the club in the autumn as the champions tumbled towards the relegation zone in one of the most spectacular swings of fortune ever seen in English football.
After keeping clean sheets in their previous three games, the talk at Stamford Bridge had been turning to the prospect of climbing back up the table and fighting for one of the four Champions League spots.
With the joint worst defensive record in the league, Bournemouth looked like the perfect visitors to Stamford Bridge.
Yet by Saturday evening, Mourinho was back at square one and saying a top four spot was no longer in his sights.
“I would say let’s think about winning the next game and forget targets. With our inconsistency, it is difficult,” he told reporters.
“Before this game I think it was fair to think that with our quality we could win three, four matches in a row,” he added in a post-match interview on Sky Sports.
“That would push us up to the position I was expecting to be in before the end of December but this (loss) puts us, not in a dangerous position, but our objective is not to fight for relegation. So if our objective is to fight for top four then you have to think now about finishing top six.”
Mourinho put some of the blame for Chelsea’s slump on strikers Diego Costa of Spain and France’s Loic Remy.
They started Saturday’s game as substitutes before coming on and again failing to find the net.
Mourinho said he would not try to fix the problem by buying new attackers when the January transfer window opens.
“This is more about the players to do better than the club to go to the market,” he said.
Mourinho said he believed he still had the support of the club’s owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich who gave the coach a public vote of confidence in October. A member of Abramovich’s staff reiterated that message two weeks ago.
But Mourinho questioned whether some of his players shared his determination to turn things around.
“I only know one way which is to work and give my maximum every day and if some players are not capable of that, giving the maximum day by day, match by match, the collective pays for that,” he said.
Chelsea must recover quickly from Saturday’s defeat.
They face a vital Champions League Group G home tie against Porto on Wednesday when a defeat would probably see them eliminated from the competition, leaving Chelsea’s entire season in tatters.