"Player by player, we could not deal with the pressure of what being champions of England means."
Branislav Ivanovic has given a revealing insight into what happened at Chelsea in those first few months of the season where our title ...
Branislav Ivanovic has given a revealing insight into what happened at Chelsea in those first few months of the season where our title defence unravelled, his form, Guus Hiddink and John Terry. It's a very interesting read!
The biggest problem I have with this and the title of the blog post is how on earth it could happen? We had the best manager in the world at the time, we had players who had won trophies in England and in Fabregas World Cups and European Championships, it's going to be something that none of us will ever understand.
So to Ivanovic and he was asked about those early months. He responded by saying:
‘We didn’t know what was going wrong around us. No-one inside the club knew. We finished brilliantly last season. We won the trophy. We knew how difficult it was.
Jose told us the hardest season in football is the year after you win because everyone else has extra motivation. We were ready for that, but we didn’t start well and we lost control of our game, of our minds.
For me that period of three or four months was one of the most disappointing moments in my career. Player by player, we could not deal with the pressure of what being champions of England means.
Your opponents have big motivation and they look at you differently, they start to be scared of you.
But when we didn’t win for six or seven games, people realised we were not as strong as last season. They could use that. And then they weren’t scared of us. This was our problem as players."
It's stunning really isn't it. It sounds like Jose was mentally preparing the players as he always does so they took to the new season knowing exactly what to expect but it just went out the window.
Knowing we were playing badly and knowing that the opposition would come into games against us with a different approach, why on earth didn't we try to counteract that? Why didn't we change our system and revert to 4-3-3 which had served us so well in the past? I still believe looking at our squad that we are built for that formation and not the 4-2-3-1.
Moving on, and Ivanovic was asked about his own performances which we all agree were dire to say the least. Having received criticism from all quarters, including on here, he responded by saying:
"I took criticism from the public, but I was more critical of myself. All players are most critical of themselves.
I tried to find the reason why I was not performing as I was last season. We gave everything last season. Even more than we could. And we didn’t realise how dangerous it was to be champions. We fell down quickly. We didn’t know what was going on around us.
I had an injury and was not 100 per cent clear in my head what I was doing, what I had to do.
Jose didn’t change. He didn’t change the way he prepared the game. He didn’t change the way he treated us. He didn’t change anything. He was the same.
Football is about players. The managers are not on the pitch. It is 11 against 11. You have to be better than your opponent and, at the beginning of the season, we weren’t.
The players were more responsible for that situation than the manager. Of course it is difficult in football to change 25 players halfway through the season. But I think at this club if (Abramovich) could have, he would have changed all of us as well. It’s difficult to say it was only one guy’s responsibility."
Again, one point he makes here is astonishing in my view. How on earth was he not 100% clear in what he was doing at right back or what he had to do after winning what we had done last season? What on earth would have changed from having clarity last season to this? I don't buy it for a second and he has playing that role for us for eight years so far!
Now to Guus Hiddink and Ivanovic's take on things since he has been here:
"Guus deserves a lot of credit, He is doing an amazing job. But it was all about the players. Changing the manager woke us up and scared us.
When we had Jose, we had a shield in front of us. We had someone to protect us, to be criticised first. Now it is only us. We cannot blame someone else. We have no-one around us, and we have to start winning games, which is the aim of the club.
Chelsea did not deserve to be in the situation they were in for November and December. Now we are doing well. We are trying to do everything we can to save the season.
We don’t know what this means at the moment. We have to go step by step."
I agree that the change in Manager made all of us sit up and take notice purely because of how it all ended. Jose was back for a second spell as manager which is rare in itself and after winning two trophies the previous season, we were all set to watch another period of Chelsea dominance take shape.
People will talk of Guus Hiddink's effect on the players and rightly so but at that point in time, you have to agree, it couldn't get much worse so any form of improvement in our belief and self confidence would have a positive effect on our performances and subsequently, our results.
Finally, Ivanovic was asked of the situation with John Terry and the fact that he has just signed a new one-year contract whereas our Captain has not. He was asked if he would accept the responsibility of taking over on a full-time basis. He said:
"Difficult question. We have a captain. I do not like to think about what happens in the future.
I try to do my best and be ready if it happens. I would hope not to change what I am now. If not, I’m happy like this. I am captain of my national team so I know what the pressure is like.
A good captain must be successful. Win the trophies. Winners are always right.
On the pitch, you need to be the person all the others look to. When we concede a goal, we always look to John and see his reaction.
Always you expect a positive one. Off the pitch, you need to be professional, set a good example.
In the last couple of years we have lost some leadership. We had big players who built this team. Also, we were winning and when you are winning you make new leaders.
We have enough resources to make more leaders. But in my opinion we have lost a bit of leadership."
Spot on from Ivanovic to finish the interview. We all believe that we have a real problem now with a lack of leadership and god help us when John Terry does leave. To be a successful club, you need the perfect balance in the side as Chelsea had throughout the last decade with the likes of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba with plenty of others in addition over the years.
We need players we have to step up and develop into leaders that inspire the others around them such as Cahill, Fabregas, Matic and Costa.
It's very interesting though to read that Ivanovic admits that as soon as we concede a goal everyone looks to JT for a reaction. It's just a shame it took everyone four/five months to realise that they needed to look at themselves too!
What did you think of his interview and his explanation?