It's surreal – possibly the most surreal fall from grace I can remember witnessing in football – but the aim for Chelsea and their under-fire manager Jose Mourinho now has to be survival.
They have gone from champions to relegation candidates in a matter of months and their performance level is unrecognisable from last season’s Premier League title-winning form. They are being bullied and are seen by opponents as there for the taking.
Monday’s defeat at Leicester has left them 15th, just one point above the bottom three. To add to the pressure on Chelsea, teams around them in the lower reaches of the table such as Bournemouth, Sunderland and Newcastle are managing to string a few wins together. Only Aston Villa, who are dead ducks, are losing week after week.
It is beyond my comprehension how this slump has lasted so long, or how someone like Eden Hazard – crowned player of the year by his fellow professionals in May – seems unable to beat a man now.
They look a petrified group, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders when they play, and everyone – Mourinho, his team – seems to be pointing the finger at someone else.
At times it looks like Blues stars don’t want to play for the manager any more. Maybe it’s that, or maybe they just don’t have any backbone.
Either way, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Chelsea would perform better in the short term if Mourinho wasn’t there and the players were left to chat among themselves.
In the long-term, though, I’m not sure it’s the right answer. And based on his career achievements and the fact they won the title this year, Mourinho is certainly entitled to expect more from his players.
Unless he has changed personality unrecognisably over the past six months then these players also have a lot to answer for, so I wouldn’t pin all of the blame on the Portuguese.
Leaving aside the thorny issue of who to hire, there is no guarantee that a new manager would be able to reverse the unprecedented decline that this group has experienced lately.
Yet Blues owner Roman Abramovich must be aware that any kind of European qualification for next season looks a remote prospect. They have become an embarrassment.
Mourinho must be on borrowed time now and, if given the chance, I suspect he would need a run of good results during the Christmas period to keep his job into the new year.
Sunderland arrive at Stamford Bridge on Saturday looking to inflict Chelsea’s third successive league defeat. If the hosts can’t win that game, I think Abramovich would be well within his rights to act.