Branislav Ivanovic has admitted Chelsea reacted poorly to becoming Premier League champions but remains confident the team will improve upon their awful early form.
Chelsea have collected just 11 points from their opening 11 matches and find themselves in 15th place in the table, six months after a dominant league title success.
The Londoners have won just three league matches this season to put manager Jose Mourinho’s job under serious pressure and the defender conceded the team have not coped well as defending champions.
“Everyone expects us to be on top but we didn’t start well,” Ivanovic told Sky Sports.
“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.”
No side in Premier League history has secured a top-four finish with Chelsea’s dismal record from this stage of the season but Ivanovic is refusing to look that far ahead.
“No one in the team is thinking about that,” he added. “We are thinking only about [next opponent] Stoke. The season is so long and difficult it’s not the moment to think about the final position.”
Ivanovic was heavy criticised for his individual performances in the early weeks of the season but the Serbian feels he and Chelsea have improved.
“I think there was a very difficult beginning to the season,” he added.
“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 is the most important for us this season because we have to show we are back and how strong we are.”