Chelsea’s Premier League title defence got off to a nightmarish start as they were beaten at home by Burnley.
After a summer of discontent, speculation about the future of manager Antonio Conte, disquiet about the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United, an ugly battle with Diego Costa, the departure of John Terry and a lack of signings, there was no sense of expectation at the new season around Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Instead there was a feeling of uncertainty and anxiousness, which turned into frustration when new captain, Gary Cahill, sent off after 13 minutes with a straight red card.
Chelsea looked shellshocked, and with no leaders in team Burnley scored three times in a ruthless first-half display with Sam Vokes netting twice either side of a lashing angled drive from Stephen Ward.
Boos rang around the Bridge as the first half came to an end, and the Blues were better after the break and pulled a goal back when summer signing Alvaro Morata headed in shortly after coming off the bench.
Chelsea’s hopes looked to have gone when a late challenge from Cesc Fabregas on Jack Cork added a second yellow to his first, received for dissent, to leave the Blues with nine men.
But David Luiz fired home from inside the box after being set up by a Morata header to set up a frantic final few minutes, during which Burnley struck the post through Robbie Brady before holding on to take the three points.
This was a performance that gave the impression was one of utter chaos and a team in disarray. On the sideline, Conte looked a man who was wishing he had had the courage of his convictions and quit in the summer. He stocked the bench with kids in what seemed like a rather obvious message to the club’s board that reinforcements are needed. It was only one game but the manner of Chelsea’s defeat spoke of a club where all is not well.
It seemed like a curious way to build on a title victory. This has happened before, of course. Chelsea have won the title five times in the Roman Abramovich era and only retained it once. The last time they won it under Jose Mourinho, they finished tenth the next season and Mourinho was sacked.
Are we seeing history repeat itself, as bookies slashed the odds on Conte being the first manager fired this season?