Now it really is a crisis.

Jose Mourinho has never had a start this bad at Chelsea before.

Yes, Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace were superb but, with nine goals conceded in their four league games so far, this is the Blues’ worst defensive record at this stage since 1971.

Branislav Ivanovic looks shot. Nemanja Matic has gone missing.

Cesc Fabregas is still not at it, and when Mourinho starts turning his fire on Player of the Year Eden Hazard you know all is not well.

Asked whether the Belgium winger should be given time to mature, Mourinho snapped: “The best player in the Premier League does not need to mature.

“If you are the best in the league, It should be a good responsibility to have a similar season to the previous one.”

Then, turning on Hazard’s team-mates, Mourinho warned he has no intention of fiddling while Rome burns.

He added: “If you ask me, will I accept this, cross my arms, sit in a nice chair and wait calmly for the performance level to be back, no.

“I have to work, react and analyse.

“If I feel the players are not in conditions to react and give more, I have to make changes.

“I have never had a problem with that.”

Ivanovic can forget about starting at Everton in a fortnight’s time after receiving one chance too many on Saturday.

Arguably the best right-back in the top flight last season, he has now been mugged by ­Swansea’s Jefferson Montero, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Palace’s Bakary Sako in three of the opening four games.

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Pardew admitted to ­deliberately targeting him ahead of Saturday’s match.

Matic is likely to keep his place only because there is no one else good enough to replace him and the Chelsea board need to pull off some sort of transfer miracle over the next couple of days to freshen up the squad.

But how?

It will take a monster bid – or a massive U-turn from Everton – to land John Stones.

It will take silly money for Paul Pogba to be prised away from Juventus. And Antoine Griezmann looks out of reach unless Chelsea trigger that huge release clause he has at Atletico Madrid.

Reuters / Toby MelvilleJohn Stones
No Stones: It will take a dramatic U-turn from Everton to land the defender

So while reinforced City go into the international break top of the table, eight points clear of them and without a goal conceded in four games, ­Mourinho’s men seem to be in real trouble.

With just four points, theirs is the second-lowest tally at this stage of a Premier League season for a reigning champion.

It is also coming to something when the much-maligned Radamel Falcao – who came off the bench to cancel out Sako’s 65th-minute goal with 11 minutes left – is seen as a crumb of comfort.

Joel Ward’s 83rd-minute winner sealed a devastating defeat in Mourinho’s 100th home game.

The ­Portuguese had lost just one of the previous 99. It also meant Chelsea have won just one of their opening four.

How the Portuguese must now wish he had copied City who have ­reinforced this summer in defence, midfield and attack, and look formidable.

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Reuters / Andrew YatesRaheem Sterling is fouled by Branislav Ivanovic
Fallen idol: Branislav Ivanovic has struggled this season

Mourinho, however, has defended his decision not to do so. “City reacted to the fact they had lost the title.” he said.

“They reacted buying fantastic players. They are buying more until the end of the market.

“And if they have the economic potential to do that, good.

“You see my players today on the pitch and you know what I do – that we could clearly identify two or three players that can do better.

“That is what we have to do. It is not about being loyal or not. It is whether they are ready to give an answer and fight against that bad form.”

To be fair to the Blues, their pre-season programme was designed to get them to peak during the second half of the season after they clearly ran out of steam last term.

But even Mourinho is now baffled by just how ­dramatically his men have been drained of their aura of invincibility.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You have players who have fantastic seasons and moments and the next season don’t have the same.

“But if they have lost their ­appetite, then that is very sad. If this is real, it is very sad.

“Because I feel the opposite.

“When I win, I want to win again. I feel fantastic motivation for more. If you win it once but next you are not on fire to fight for more, that is sad.”


Branislav Ivanovic: Among last season’s very best defenders but now enduring a nightmare start to the season. Opponents are queueing up to run at him, knowing they will be able to cash in. Trying to agree a new deal at Stamford Bridge. That looks a world away at the moment.

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Eden Hazard: Last season’s Footballer of the Year looked certain to continue in that vein in pre-season. Unable to step up so far, however, with so many of his team-mates out of form. Mourinho placed the Belgian alongside the likes of Messi and Ronaldo during Chelsea’s pre-season tour. Was that a leap too far?

Cesc Fabregas: Excellent during the first half of last season, average during the second. Now he isn’t even doing it at the start. Still looking for him to produce the kind of influence he had in taking Chelsea to the top last time around.

Nemanja Matic: Less a defensive shield more a welcome mat this time around. Slow, ponderous and unable to prevent Palace from pouring into the Chelsea box at will on Saturday. Needs competition – or some help.

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