Things don't look to be getting any better any time soon for Jose Mourinho or Chelsea. The reigning champions suffered another setback this Saturday, losing 2-1 at the Boleyn Ground to London rivals West Ham, as Andy Carroll scored the winner with 12 minutes to play, whipping a header to the far post.
Chelsea, who played half the game with just ten men after Nemanja Matic was sent off just before the break for a second bookable offense, showed many of the weaknesses that have dogged them this season, notably indiscipline and a strong self-destructive streak.
That madness comes from the top. Note that Mourinho was banished to the stands after reportedly attempting to force his way into the referees' room at the break; and another member of his support staff, Silvino Luoro, was ordered off after having a go at the referee in-game. Mourinho, a repeat offender, is likely to face a heavy fine and a touchline ban. He's also likely to face questions about whether or not his antics are poisoning the team. For long spells today it certainly didn't look like his Chelsea were playing for him at all.
This ugly Chelsea side have only themselves to blame for another grim show that is likely to do the embattled Mourinho any favors. Chelsea have lurched through the season, weighed down both by Mourinho's penchant for combustion and expectations that now look foolish in the extreme.
Slaven Bilic's West Ham â who had already knocked off Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City this season and sat an unlikely fourth coming into today's game â looked fearless, and Asmir Begovic was tested early. Begovic made a fine save on Dimitri Payet's free-kick in the 15th minute, but could no nothing about Mauro Zarate's goal on the ensuing corner kick. Zarate lashed in a half-volley to the near post from the far top edge of the box that took a nick off Ramires and eluded a rooted John Terry to open the scoring.
It was no less than the Hammers had deserved, but Chelsea were unlucky not to equalize 15 minutes later when a goalmouth scramble saw Kurt Zouma seemingly nudge the ball over the line. Manuel Lanzini's clearance seemed too little to late but the goal-decision system did not buzz, and replays showed it was an incredibly tight â but correct â call. With Chelsea's players remonstrating, West Ham then barreled down the field and Lanzini was set up beautifully by Payet and Diafra Sakho only to put his attempt wildly over the bar.
That was when Matic would collect the second of his two cards, hauling down Sakho to stop a clean break. Ref Jonathan Moss consulted with the linesman, and had no choice but to go to the back pocket. And that is when Chelsea â as they have done so often this season â imploded, with Cesc and Diego Costa picking up cards for dissent, while the Blues' bench heckled the fourth official.
Chelsea threw on John Obi Mikel for Cesc at the break, and clawed their goal back, with Gary Cahill managing to slam home a corner from eight yards out in the 55th minute. Keeper Adrian was caught in two minds on the corner and both Zouma and Cahill were in position to take advantage.
Chelsea did indeed look better in the second half -- but the lack of legs and numbers started to show as the game wore on with Chelsea increasingly compressed and West Ham turning up the hat. Terry nearly gifted Chelsea a goal, playing a poor ball back to Begovic that Sakho nearly intercepted. That defensive frailty bit them in the 80th minute, when a shanked clearance allowed Aaron Cresswell to hang up a cross that Carroll beat his marker to, to head home.
Mourinho has complained too much and too often in England, and the act is now threadbare. But it must be allowed that he does have one legitimate grievance tonight after what appeared to be a perfectly good goal waved off for offside. Cesc Fabregas had the ball in the back of the net off a sweeping break sprung by Willian, but the linesman's flag went up. Replays appeared to show Cesc neck and neck with the defender â and attackers are supposed to get the benefit of the doubt in any case. Mourinho's reaction â a look back at the replay and then a disgusted eyeroll before confronting the fourth official, told you all you needed to know about what his post-game narrative would be.
That said, Chelsea now must confront an ugly fact: Chelsea now have to be considered in a relegation scrap as they have just 11 points after ten games. Mourinho is unlikely to admit it, but Chelsea now have to start thinking more about collecting forty points than a top-four finish. And how long Mourinho remains in charge of this rabble? That's another open question after another dire weekend.