Mourinho needs three signings to steady ship
Blues boss needs to fix what may not be broken, but is undoubtedly brittle
Jose Mourinho has 13 days to save his season.
Before the transfer window closes, the Chelsea manager needs three signatures.
Mourinho could use the company and three most certainly isn't a crowd.
The number promises salvation, a chance for the impatient Portuguese to correct the club's failings and go where he's never gone before.
Three signings may allow Mourinho to go beyond three years at the same club. They promise victory, rather than a valedictory campaign for a restless manager.
He's got 13 days to fix what may not be broken, but is undoubtedly brittle. Two matches without victory do not constitute a crisis, but they do hint at uncertainty and Mourinho doesn't thrive in uncertain conditions.
He bolts. He runs into the welcoming arms of a new owner waving a chequebook. He hasn't stayed at a club for more than three full seasons in his storied career.
Mourinho is a master of anticipating stormy waters and bailing out before the vessel capsizes. So Chelsea's first port of call must be John Stones.
The Blues are ready to drop £30 million ($66m) for the 21-year-old England international. Everton expect nothing less than £35m.
Mourinho's persistent whining about the imbalanced market forcing wealthier clubs to pay a premium for English players is too ironic to deserve any sympathy.
The Blues made their beds years ago, spoiling the market by paying over the odds for the likes of Jon Obi Mikel because they could and others couldn't.
They've got to lie back, hand over the blank cheque and allow Everton's giggling executives to scribble in the zeroes.
Stones is an obvious, natural replacement for John Terry, who doesn't need to cash in his pension after one inept performance against the Premier League's most accomplished striker. He remains an indomitable force for Chelsea.
But Terry blows out 35 candles in December and Sergio Aguero will come around again, standing at his shoulder, goading him, haunting him; bypassing him.
Terry still has the superior pedigree, but Stones has the pace. He's also the domino. If he falls for Mourinho's charms, others will follow.
So far, Chelsea have managed only like-for-like replacements.
Apart from Baba Rahman filling in for the departed Filipe Luis, veterans Asmir Begovic and Radamel Falcao replaced Petr Cech and Didier Drogba.
It's not so much a Champions League charge as it is a scene from one of the Expendables sequels, with Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas coming in for Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris.
So Chelsea are out of options. It's time to put up or shut up. Pay Everton the exorbitant fee for Terry's long-term replacement and entice others to join him.
According to reports last night, Stones is expected to be the first of a dramatic £83m triple swoop that will also see Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette and Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann cross the Bridge.
The speculation appears outlandish, but no crazier than anyone who'd suggested two weeks ago that Chelsea would be five points behind City after two games.
It is the Blues' worst start since 1998 and stands in stark contrast to Mourinho's traditionally quick start out of the blocks.
Of the two forwards, Griezmann makes the most tactical sense. At 24, he's a favourable age for Mourinho and the Frenchman's ability to play on the right side allows him to potentially take the slot occupied by Ramires against Manchester City.
With one signing, Chelsea solve two problems - adding pace in the final third while allowing Ramires to drop back to support Nemanja Matic.
Such a move makes Cesc Fabregas the odd man out, but he's played that role for much of the calendar year, struggling to recapture his majestic form before Christmas.
Further forward, Lacazette has scored 51 goals in 139 appearances for Lyon and the 24-year-old shares Diego Costa's muscular attributes, but not his belligerence.
When Costa is not powering past defenders, his petulance prevails. He niggled, pushed and provoked at Man City, engaging in a tiresome feud with Fernandinho that was always petty and rarely productive.
Costa can be as sore as his hamstrings when his fitness fails him. He needs urgent back-up. Even if his legs hold up, his temperament may not.
Either way, Mourinho needs a centre back, a striker and a third forward to replace either Ramires or Fabregas in key games.
There's no promise of silverware if he indulges in a sudden spending spree.
But there's little chance of success if he doesn't.
Name: John Stones
Born: May 28 in Barnsley, England
Club career: Barnsley, Everton
International debut: May 30, 2014, against Peru
Name: Antoine Griezmann
Born: March 21 in Macon, France
Club career: Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid
International debut: March 5, 2014, against Holland
Name: Alexandre Lacazette
Born: May 28 in Lyon, France
Club career: Lyon
International debut: June 5, 2013, against Uruguay
Chelsea make fresh bid for Stones
Everton remain determined to hang on to John Stones amid reports of a fresh £30-million ($66m) bid being made for the defender by Chelsea, Press Association Sport understands.
The Toffees have already rejected offers of £20m and £26m from Chelsea over the summer for the 21-year-old England international.
And while Everton would neither confirm nor deny talk yesterday that they had turned down a third bid of £30m, it is understood the Merseyside outfit's stance on the matter has not changed.
That is that Stones is not for sale - something stressed by Everton boss Roberto Martinez last week.
Speaking last Thursday, Martinez said: "I have said before the player is not for sale and that is the end of it.
"Our situation has been very clear from the beginning. We are not a selling club who will lose our best performers.
"He is very important player for us and we are looking forward to seeing the best of John over the next few seasons, not just the next few weeks."
Speculation of Chelsea returning for Stones has heightened after John Terry was substituted by Jose Mourinho for the first time in 177 Premier League games in last Sunday's 3-0 loss at Manchester City.
After the match, Mourinho said: "The point was not to take John out, but to put (Kurt) Zouma in.
"I want to have my fastest player on the pitch and not on the bench."
Mourinho has spoken of his lack of first-team defensive options, with five defenders before Baba Rahman's arrival made it six.
The 21-year-old Ghana left back signed from Bundesliga side Augsburg on Sunday evening.
FIVE NOT ENOUGH
Speaking before the start of the campaign, which begun with a Community Shield loss to Arsenal, a draw with Swansea and a loss to City, Mourinho said: "We have five defenders and we cannot go to the Premier League with five defenders.
"That's our weakness. Five is not enough. That's obvious."
Mourinho was also asked how many defenders he needed ahead of the season curtain-raiser.
"Seven plus a quality kid," he said, saying Ola Aina would be promoted to the first-team squad when needed.
It means Chelsea still have one defensive position to fill, but Mourinho has also spoken of a determination for his side to continue to show their new-found financial restraint.
It is something Everton may test. - PA Sport.