For one normally so bullish and quick to blame anyone but himself and his team, Jose Mourinho was prepared to admit that Chelsea would not only lose their Premier League crown but also every remaining game this season if they made a habit of such performances.
He refused to name individuals when he said he would no longer tolerate the contribution of certain players, but he did not have to.
Substituted in the second half of Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle were Loic Remy, Nemanja Matic and Oscar, but Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and even PFA Footballer of the Year Eden Hazard were lucky to see out the game.
Their form is clearly a major worry for a manager who wore a resigned look despite the late goals from substitutes Ramires and Willian which salvaged a barely-deserved point at a ground where he has now failed to win in six attempts in the top flight.
‘Yes, I am very concerned. I do not understand it and I do not accept it,’ he said when asked about the lacklustre effort of his players.
‘I would like to have made more changes than I did. There were six players I could have taken off. I wanted to make six substitutions – that is how bad we were.
‘I sat there trying to work out what was best for the team and had so many doubts.
‘If we play like we did in the first, we can lose every match. If we play like we did in the second half, we can win every match this season. It is that simple. I have to try to understand why this is happening.’ Defender Gary Cahill, meanwhile, says that Chelsea are running out of chances when it comes to regaining the ground lost amid their early-season malaise.
‘We have given up a lot of our lifelines now,’ he said, tellingly. ‘We have given up too many opportunities and if we’d have lost the game on Saturday then who knows? It would have been a massive blow to us. Man City lost so it was time for us to capitalise.’
Not that the Portuguese was prepared to admit he had made a mistake by leaving his captain on the bench, again.
‘I make the decisions,’ he snapped. ‘Will he play on Tuesday night? I don’t know. John has to behave like the captain he is and wait for the decision he wants.’
Chelsea were without the suspended Diego Costa at the weekend but, in the form of muscle-bound Mitrovic, the game had another fiery forward who set the tone for Newcastle’s improvement.
And Magpies boss Steve McClaren, who is still without a league win despite seeing his side lead thanks to goals from Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum, said: ‘Mitrovic gives us identity as well as physical presence. He was a talisman and certainly improved us.’ For Mourinho, meanwhile, things can only get better.