Chelsea Have Lost More Than Football Matches: They've Lost Their Identity

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2015

Chelsea's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (2nd L) stands with his coaching staff (L-R) Jose Morais, Rui Faria and Steve Holland, on the pitch after during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on October 31, 2015. Liverpool won the game 3-1. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON

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STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON — Chelsea aren't playing like a Jose Mourinho team right now because they aren't a Jose Mourinho team right now.

Winning the title last season disguised it, but until Mourinho instills that dogged character his sides have always been known for, Chelsea's plight is going to continue.

How bad it gets before then is anyone's guess. Whether Mourinho will be afforded the time to actually do it is also another question few can confidently answer.

Right now, however, the mental fragility of this team is such that Mourinho's methods aren't working. When things go wrong, Chelsea collapse.

That happened against Liverpool on Saturday, as the manager himself acknowledged.

Mourinho may not have been forthcoming in his post-match TV interviews, but in his press conference, the Chelsea boss opened up a bit more.

"There are things that are out of our hands," he stated. "The players, they tried. You could feel that. Not because we scored in the first few minutes, but you could feel the attitude, the desire. ...

"Two minutes [of first-half injury time]. We concede the goal on two minutes and 25 seconds. Then in the second half everything is a consequence of some crucial moments—moments that the stadium saw. The players more than see; the players felt it. They felt it, and from then what happens is just a consequence."

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (L) vies with Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on October 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON

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Mourinho was referring to referee Mark Clattenburg's decision not to give Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva a second yellow card when he tripped Ramires, who seemed to be breaking free into the Liverpool half.

Nemanja Matic was sent off for something similar the weekend before, but in this instance, Clattenburg showed the sort of discretion referee Jonathan Moss was criticised for failing to at the Boleyn Ground.

He weighed things up, taking his time before he made a decision. He wasn't rash and made the right one for all the reasons Moss didn't a week earlier.

That it went against Chelsea is to their misfortune, but if moments such as that are really deciding games in the minds of players, then Chelsea have big problems.

Mourinho has too often referenced this after matches this term, notably when his team was beaten 3-1 by Southampton. That day, it was a penalty decision involving Radamel Falcao that haunted his players.

Watching this team crumble under pressure has been a horrible sight. From champions to mid-table fare within six months, Chelsea's superiority from last season has been shot to pieces in spectacular style.

As manager, Mourinho is culpable for much of this and must take his share of the responsibility. So too must those who make decisions behind the scenes.

When Mourinho returned in 2013, he inherited a club in far different position to one from almost a decade earlier. Chelsea were in a state of flux; they were unstable and needed the grip of a manager of his ilk to bring back the balance.

Chelsea's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho gestures during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on October 31, 2015. Liverpool won the game 3-1. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON

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His first two seasons suggested Chelsea were on the right track. Mourinho has been ruthless in clearing out the squad to readjust it, yet this summer just past, the club put on the handbrake.

When a squad is regenerating, it requires constant attention. However, this year Chelsea opted to ignore the clear deficiencies.

Regardless of the issues with depth, Chelsea have forgotten the Mourinho blueprint that gave them so much success between the manager's two spells with the club.

It was power football at its finest, as Chelsea steamrolled teams into submission. It was one built around that spine of Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.

Others were brought in to complement that, but the identity of Chelsea was very much that quartet. Just Terry remains now—an aged Terry at that—and Chelsea haven't replaced them sufficiently.

ALASTAIR GRANT/Associated Press

It's like they've grown embarrassed by how they succeeded, turning their back on the fundamentals of what this club has been about for the past decade. Chelsea's transfer policy has focused too much on attempting to be something else than what the club actually is.

We've seen No. 10s signed en masse, shifting away from the substance that has so often delivered. In so doing, Chelsea have lost their identity. The club is unrecognisable from the one we've known.

Give Pep Guardiola this group of players, and even the Bayern Munich manager would struggle to get them to play his high-intensity, possession-based football.

The personnel isn't there for it in the same way it isn't for Mourinho's brand of management. The key thing to consider, though, is that it's been Mourinho's model this club in the modern era has always known and one it can rely on.

Roman Abramovich and his power brokers should be celebrating that, not turning their back on it.

Chelsea are lacking the same sort of characters Mourinho utilised in that fabled first spell. And in times of need, such as the one the club finds itself in now, it was those players who galvanised the squad to lead the fightback.

In 2012, Terry, Lampard and particularly Drogba were the figures who carried Chelsea to the Champions League final; when managers were sacked mid-season, it was often those players who prevented an implosion.

Now that generation has all but been wiped out, that grit has gone with them. Instead, Chelsea are left with stars who are crumbling almost weekly at a perceived injustice from referees and the sporting gods no longer looking down on them.

Mourinho has tried every tactic. The manager has dropped the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, he's rotated positions and set the team up in different ways in order to get a reaction.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Liverpool players celebrate their third goal by Christian Benteke (obscured) during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on October 31, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Wal
Ian Walton/Getty Images

None of it's worked; it's not going to, either, unless Chelsea can arrest this psychological fragility that has engulfed the players.

The sense of panic that hits Chelsea the moment an opponent scores is frightening. At Stamford Bridge on Saturday, it was felt from all four corners in the second half, and to their credit, Liverpool capitalised.

Frank Lampard was there to witness the collapse. What Mourinho wouldn't give to have a man of his experience and know-how in the dressing room right now, pulling the players together to help guide them through this crisis of confidence.

Because that's what it is. There are many more problems besides, but right at the heart of it is a group of players unsure how to win matches. They're second-guessing themselves. Nobody other than Willian has shown any desire to take responsibility, and the fear is killing them.

While Lampard enjoys the MLS offseason, it would be an inspired move from Mourinho to get him involved at Chelsea in an unofficial capacity.

This may be a team of champions, but the inexperience elsewhere in football is what's failing them.

Chelsea need a reminder of how they got through problems like this in the past; they need to rekindle the spirit that defined them.

More so than football matches, right now Chelsea are losing their identity.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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