Denials, disputes and despair...Chelsea's season so far
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has told his players to get serious as they look to halt a slump that has left the Premier League champions pinned onto the ropes.
Three defeats in their opening five Premier League games has left the Blues a massive 11 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City, with Mourinho accepting his side's title hopes are already in the hands of his rivals.
It is an unfamiliar position for the manager who has built his legend around relentless winning over the last decade and the latest reports on Chelsea's demise do little to banish the notion that they are in the grip of a full meltdown.
Chelsea officials have been quick to dismiss reports that their captain John Terry and lead striker Diego Costa have been involved in a dressing room bust-up, with that kind of story inevitable amid a slump in fortunes that has taken all in the game by surprise.
Now the latest reports suggest that Mourinho has ordered his players to cut the fun out of their workplace and refrain from any form of banter until they start winning again.
It is a curious idea being floated in several newspapers on Tuesday morning and if true, will hardly help to improve the mood of a squad that looked bereft of ideas as they lost 3-1 to Everton last Saturday.
"We need to win a couple of consecutive matches, we need the players to smile again," declared Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho after that match, before he appears to have promoted the opposite approach with his 'banter ban'.
For the first time in his career, Mourinho looks like a coach who has run out of ideas as the fun drains away from the side he led to title glory just a few short weeks ago.
Yet has Mourinho really banned banter in his dressing room?
A more likely story must be that their disastrous start to the season has washed the smiles off the faces of everyone associated with Chelsea. They need to start winning again very soon.