Is Jose Mourinho Paying the Price for Chelsea's Recent Instability?

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Is Jose Mourinho Paying the Price for Chelsea's Recent Instability?
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Six games into the new Premier League season and our folly has already been laid bare. It didn't take long.

Let's be honest now, who thought the return of Jose Mourinho would result in Chelsea waltzing to the league title without so much as a crisis—if we can ever refer to a dip in form as such—let alone a challenge to the Portuguese's crown as the Special One?

Thought as much—it wasn't just this writer.

It is testament to Mourinho's reputation that many of us thought otherwise, yet that trusted ally—or enemy, in some cases—hindsight has shown us where the years of Chelsea's instability brought on by constant managerial changes has landed them.

A group of talented individuals occupy the Stamford Bridge dressing room right now, but a team this isn't.

Ian Walton/Getty Images
Chelsea surprisingly lost their openign Champions League match to Basel.

Chelsea's squad is imbalanced and in need of fine tuning. It's one that lacks the conviction of the team Mourinho inherited from Claudio Ranieri in 2004 and he knows it's going to be a long season as he attempts to replicate his success from yesteryear.

Almost a decade ago, Mourinho arrived in West London, just one year into Roman Abramovich's reign as owner. There had been a high player turnover in that time, but Ranieri had formed the nucleus of the side that would bring about a revolution following four years in charge.

John Terry was a young up-and-coming captain from the club's Academy, while Frank Lampard was entering his fourth season in blue having switched allegiances from West Ham United to Chelsea in 2001.

Claude Makelele was essential alongside Lampard in midfield, already serving a season in English football, while Damien Duff was looking more at ease with his then record £17 million transfer fee.

Chelsea had just finished second in the Premier League to Arsenal's team of invincibles and had also reached the semifinal of the Champions League. Aside from the manager being replaced, everything was perfectly positioned for success.

Ben Radford/Getty Images
Mourinho tasted Premier League success in his first Chelsea season.

Fast forward to 2013 and the landscape is somewhat different—a fact the mere mention of Mourinho's name made us look beyond.

Chelsea's success in the league alone has fluctuated in recent years, while the Premier League is a far more competitive division than the one he first acquainted himself with.

The Portuguese talks of his team now as being a young one. It's an observation that's been criticized by many observers when the average age across the 28-man squad is 26.6 years old.

In terms of playing ability, this should be a squad of players entering their peak together—a squad that should be ready to dominate English football for the next few seasons at least.

It's a valid criticism, but taken in the context of the team's life cycle, the Chelsea manager has an equally coherent argument.

Rather than inheriting a group of players with a sense of direction like he did from Ranieri, there isn't a formula at Chelsea right now. It is Mourinho's job to create it and then instill it in each and every player.

Seven managers in the six years since he departed in 2007 has made sure of that. Those individuals may have maintained the fundamentals, but they introduced their own philosophies along the way. It's resulted in the Blues becoming a team lacking in identity, regardless of the stars they have within their ranks.

Losing out in the Super Cup while suffering early defeats in the Premier League and Champions League group stages has more than raised eyebrows. It's left us asking if, indeed, Mourinho has lost of any of the panache he was celebrated so much for during that first spell.

Is Mourinho a victim of Chelsea's upheavel in recent years?

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We can't know for sure just yet though. His job this time out is about rebuilding the Blues and putting right some of the errors of the past. He'll pay the price for that in the short term, no doubt, with teething problems throwing up dramas far worse than he may have already experienced.

It's what comes next year and the seasons that follow which will ultimately decide the wisdom of Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge. And if he brings the stability the club is desperate for, these opening few weeks of 2013-14 will become a distant memory in an instant.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @garryhayes

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