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What Must Chelsea Do to Start Winning Again

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 19 Aug 2015

Chelsea are the reigning Premier League champions, so we shouldn't forget that.There is a worrying habit that's been developed at Stamford Bridge, however; Chelsea seem to have lost the ability to win matches.Jose Mourinho's side endured a winless pre-season campaignone that included a Community Shield loss to Arsenaland that form has now carried over into 2015/16.The champions are winless.There's a long way to go in the title race, but if Chelsea don't start winning games quick, they run the very real risk of being left behind the leading pack, with too much to do later in the season to make up the difference.So where has it all gone wrong for Mourinho and his men'Well, firstly, there's been a lack of movement in the transfer market this summer that has left Chelsea short of numbers in the squad. A late return from their summer holidays also means the Chelsea players have looked off the pace against seemingly fitter opposition.With the transfer window open for another fortnight, there's still time for Mourinho to rectify the former, and we can assume the fitness will also come with time.In the here and now, though, what must Chelsea do in order to ensure they can get back to winning ways, starting this weekend against West Bromwich Albion'Bleacher Report spoke with Chelsea legend and respected football pundit Pat Nevin to get his views on the situation at Stamford Bridge.Has the start to 2015/16 been a complete disaster'With a solitary point from two games, it's somewhat of an understatement to say it hasn't been the strongest start to the new season for Chelsea.There have been flashes of brilliance, but overall, Mourinho and his players will be feeling disappointed with how things have started out.From a positive opening 45 minutes against Swansea City on opening day, the dismissal of Thibaut Courtois for a foul on Bafetimbi Gomis has seen everything go downhill.Swansea pegged Chelsea back to draw that game 1-1, and the 3-0 loss against Manchester City on Sunday showed there's plenty to be done before we can take Chelsea's defence of their title seriously.Nevin doesn't agree that the start of the new campaign has been as catastrophic as some are suggesting, though."I think it's one of those where you won't know where Chelsea are until four or five games into the season," he tells Bleacher Report."They've got a particularly hard fixture list for the start of the season. Chelsea have been lucky for the past few years with an easier start, but this season has been difficult."Swansea are a very special team, while playing Man City so early speaks for itself. They have Everton away in September, and they also play Arsenal. This weekend will be difficult against West Brom, too."They haven't started particularly well, but Chelsea fans shouldn't be overly paranoid about it. We need to wait until everyone is firing on all cylinders before we can judge; the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard aren't quite doing that yet."Slow starts often mean no title in the modern eraThe theory is such that a slow start is the worst thing that can happen to any team with hopes of winning the Premier League title.Jose Mourinho's Chelsea team in 2004/05 set that precedent, racing clear in the table to the point that Manchester United and Arsenal just couldn't rein them in.It happened last year with Manchester City, too. The 2013/14 champions couldn't live with Chelsea's pace in the first few months, and over the course of a 10-month campaign, it took its toll.After just two matches, the tables seem to have turned. Now it's City who are racing away, already boasting a five-point gap on the reigning champions.Should Chelsea be concerned they may well be cut adrift early on if their form doesn't pick up' Not so, says Nevin."You want to keep on the coat tails of the top teams, but it's no time to panic just yet," explains the Scot."The other teams throughout the Premier League are much stronger now, so I think we're going to see teams dropping more points than what they are used to, which may well help Chelsea."Just look at what West Ham did to Arsenal on opening day. The likes of Stoke City have made some excellent signings, too."City have proved what they are as they have Kompany and Toure back to their best, but I don't think they'll be waltzing ahead, winning every game."If it's still looking bad by the end of September, then there would be a case for Chelsea to be concernedthe same for anyone else with title ambitions."This year especially, I don't think any team will lose the title in the first few weeks."Has a quiet summer in the transfer market damaged Chelsea's title chances'Baba Rahman joined Chelsea this week, becoming just the third signing of a summer that has seen Mourinho only replace those who have departed.Petr Cech, Didier Drogba and Filipe Luis have all moved on, with Asmir Begovic, Radamel Falcao and now Rahman drafted in to make up for it.It means Chelsea's squadon paper at leastis no stronger than it was when they won the title in 2014/15.Despite being crowned championslifting the Capital One Cup in the processwe saw weaknesses appear at Stamford Bridge over the course of the season.Outside of the usual starting XI, there wasn't much by way of back-up. The replacements for Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian aren't talented enough, while they need some more strength in central midfield.The manner of the defeat to Manchester City on Sunday was a reminder of the latter, too.Chelsea have chased Everton defender John Stones for much of the summer, while Barcelona's Pedro is expected to sign this week in a 21 million deal.Those players aren't officially Chelsea's yet, however, and until they are, those holes will need to be filled.Nevin is confident that with some movement in this transfer window, Chelsea have enough throughout the team to last a campaign."There are covers in this squad," he tells us. "Now that Rahman has joined, it means Cesar Azpilcueta can play at right-back if Branislav Ivanovic is injured or needs a rest."With an extra signing in defence, it adds to that, and Chelsea will be looking stronger for it. Injuries shouldn't be as much of a concern as they are now."The problem with attacking midfieldThe main criticism of Chelsea this season and last was that they relied on Eden Hazard too often. Without the Belgian, Chelsea weren't as fluid in attack, and it caused problems.We've seen it in the first two matches of 2015/16 where, without Hazard stretching defences, goalscoring chances have come at a premium for Chelsea.Nevin agrees, highlighting the struggles on Chelsea's right as the main area of concern."It seems very specific to mention it, but attacking midfield is the concern for me at Chelsea," he says."With fit enough players, Chelsea are good enough up front. With fit enough players, they're good enough with Eden Hazard on the left, clearly. But if Chelsea are going to be pushing for championships and the Champions League, they need another world-class attacker from the right-hand side."They've tried Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Andre Schurrle, Ramires, Willian and Juan Cuadrado in that area. They've all had limited success, and Chelsea need something more."I compare it to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Look at the front three at those clubsthey're phenomenal. Chelsea are quite dependent on the left when it comes to attacking."I think Willian is a fine player, but he's a better No. 10 than he is on the right. He looks stronger, so if he plays more centrally it'll be a benefit. I'm also a big fan of Oscar in that position."Having been a right-winger myself, it strikes me that Chelsea have good players there, but not great players. They need a world-class player to take some of the heat off Hazard. If they do, it means teams can't flood their defensive unit to Chelsea's left."Chelsea have done OK, but they haven't been totally sorted on the right. If they can remedy that, it'll take away some of the problems we've been seeing in attack."Is Pedro the solution on the right'Pedro is expected to be the next player given a shot at making the right attacking position his own at Stamford Bridge.The Barcelona midfielder has shone during his career at the Nou Camp, but with the likes of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar for competition, he hasn't featured as much in more recent times.He brings goals and assists, is quick and offers a more direct approach than those Chelsea have at their disposal. In short, he offers something different.Is he the solution to Chelsea's problems, though' If they can, Nevin suggests Chelsea should aim their sights much higher."If they can afford him and it's possible, the answer would be Gareth Bale. Would Chelsea be able to pull it off' Probably not," says Nevin."It's very easy to say that a problem needs to be sorted, but then there are only a few players in the world who can sort out Chelsea's problem on the right. And they come at a premium."Chelsea have been searching for that solution [which is why Pedro has been targeted]. Also, Kenedy has shown some promise in his game in pre-season against Barcelona."Every team has a weakness, and it strikes me that the right is Chelsea's. That's not to suggest Willian isn't a good enough player, I just think he's better in a more central role."Chelsea need to be more physicalWe saw it against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last season, and Manchester City repeated it on Sunday; Chelsea were bullied into defeat.For a Mourinho team, that comes as a surprise, especially when Chelsea's physicality has been questioned for such a prolonged period.With Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic in the pivot against the big teams, Chelsea can struggle in the physical battle, and it's an area that needs to be sorted to avoid it happening again.Nevin is of the opinion that Chelsea don't need to look elsewhere to do that, either. In Kurt Zouma, they already have a player capable of mixing it up with the biggest and best."Before the City game, Mourinho must have been considering what he's done in previous games in the recent past," he explains."He played David Luiz and Nemanja Matic as a midfield duo in February 2014 when Chelsea beat City and against Manchester United last season, he used Zouma."He didn't do that on Sunday, but opted to be more open and positive. He could have actually used Zouma again, which shows Chelsea do have the manpower."The possibility to be more physical is there, but that said, the options are quite limited. If injuries occur, it means the squad can be stretched."If Chelsea can sign one more central defender, such as John Stones, then that problem goes away."How do Chelsea's opening two resultsa defeat and a drawbecome victories'Without a win to their name since June, Chelsea will take any victory right now. That's going to be easier said than done, though, so what can Mourinho do to turn the tide'According to Nevin, it's not as difficult as some would suggest, especially when the manager has Diego Costa and Eden Hazard in his team."It's not complicated. Mourinho needs to get Costa and Hazard back to their very best. Do that and everything changes."Chelsea will start to dominate games, they'll push the game further forward and the pressure will be on the opposition defence."At the moment, there aren't enough chances being created, there aren't enough goals being scored. That's not surprising when two world-class players aren't at their best."I'm not suggesting it will make Chelsea champions again, but they'll be closer to the team we recognise."Follow Pat Nevin on Twitter @PatNevinGarry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayesRead more World Football news on BleacherReport.com
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