As one of the last members of Chelsea's "Old Guard" alongside John Terry and John Obi Mikel, Branislav Ivanovic was chosen by José Mourinho to become the team's vice-captain for the 2015-16 season. With more responsibility added to his plate, Ivanovic followed Terry's lead and decided to offer his thoughts on why the whole team -- and not only he himself -- have failed to meet the initial expectations of defending their Premier League title from last season, finding themselves at the bottom of the table instead:
"Everyone expects us to be on top but we didn't start well. There is always extra pressure when you are champions, and the whole team didn't react well after winning the trophy."
"In the Premier League every team is competitive and can win even against the top teams. It is why it is important to go step by step, and I hope we will be back in a good position."
The reasons behind Chelsea's downfall aren't very clear yet but it could be a mixture of teams finally learning how to adapt to Mourinho's tactics and the squad's performance overall, with Ivanovic's drop-off one of the most noticeable to the public eye. Still, the vice-captain believes he and his colleagues can bounce back from the initial rough patch:
"I think there was a very difficult beginning to the season. But now we are playing better and I am working very hard to get my fitness back and I hope I will be on the [right] level."
"The only way to get out of this situation is to win, win and win again. Now the game coming up [against Stoke] is the most important for us this season because we have to show we are back and how strong we are."
-Branislav Ivanovic; source: Sky via FourFourTwo
The Baba Rahman-César Azpilicueta full-back combination worked to a good extent in Chelsea's last game against Dynamo Kiev and many would argue that we should look to maintain their places in the starting eleven. It could be interesting to see if Mourinho will force Ivanovic to earn back his place at right-back or if Baba's recent performances still weren't enough to earn the manager's trust.