Three Chelsea players who must improve for Jose Mourinho

Chelsea need more from Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa

1) Branislav Ivanovic

A quick glance at Chelsea’s goals against column in the Premier League table unearths an almost preposterous statistic. Their 13 goals conceded is more than any other team in the division. The season may only five games old but the champions’ defensive issues seem to be getting worse rather than better. Just seven months ago, Branislav Ivanovic was described by Jose Mourinho as one of the club’s best-ever signings. With 323 appearances for the Blues, the Serbian defender has been the definition of dependable since joining from Lokomotiv Moscow for £9m in 2008, but he is rapidly becoming a liability. Ivanovic was guilty of glaring errors in the 3-1 defeat by Everton on Saturday. He turned his back on Steven Naismith’s shot which crucially put his side two goals behind, a deficit from which they were unable to recover. He also made a feeble attempt to block the cross which led to Naismith’s first goal. Whether Mourinho will give the 31-year-old many more chances depends on how ready he judges new signing Baba Rahman to be. The Ghanaian could soon be drafted in at left-back, while Cesar Azpilicueta switches to the right.

2) Cesc Fabegas

Having led the league in assists last year, Chelsea supporters were hoping Cesc Fabregas would simply pick up where he left off. That has not been the case. Not only is he seeing too little of the ball to influence games, he is being bypassed in the middle of the park and his defensive frailties exposed. Although never reliant on his pace, the former Arsenal maestro is starting to look like he’s running through treacle. His failure to track runners in the 3-0 defeat by pace-setters Manchester City earlier in the season left John Terry horribly exposed time and again. Nemanja Matic can’t keep picking up the Spaniard’s slack, and with Oscar still out injured, Chelsea can ill afford to be carrying players at the moment. Fabregas is beginning to show while Barcelona were not overly concerned to let him leave. He may soon find himself benched if he doesn’t step his game up to the level Mourinho demands.

3) Diego Costa

Diego Costa seems to be suffering from second season syndrome. He exploded on to the Premier League scene last year, but this time round it’s not coming naturally. He’s still displaying the same petulant antics, he was lucky to escape a red card after grabbing Pablo Zabaleta round the throat, but with few of the instinctive finishes of last term. The Spain international has produced just a solitary shot on target in his last two games and has found the back of the net just once this term (in the 3-2 win away to West Bromwich Albion). With Radamel Falcao still not looking like rediscovering like the form he showed at Atletico Madrid, and Loic Remy struggling with injuries, Mourinho has little choice but to stick with Costa and try to get him firing again.

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