Manchester - John Terry ended last season as still the best centre-back in the English Premier League.
Three games into the new campaign, the Chelsea captain's stock has fallen to such an extent that critics are questioning how much longer he can cut it at this level.
The 34-year-old Terry has endured a miserable start to Chelsea's title defense: Substituted at halftime against Manchester City. Sent off against West Bromwich Albion. Now suspended for the visit of Crystal Palace on Saturday.
It will be the first time in 17 months that Terry has missed a meaningful Premier League game, he played every minute last season, and leaves Chelsea without any of the so-called "old guard" that has been the backbone of the club's success for the past decade.
Central midfielder Frank Lampard left at the end of the 2012-13 season, center forward Didier Drogba's second spell at Chelsea ended in May, and Petr Cech was sold to Arsenal in the offseason. Terry is the last remaining link to the past in a new-look Chelsea team under Jose Mourinho, but his days could be numbered.
It's not just Terry's form that is putting his place under scrutiny. He is 35 in December so age is not on his side, and Chelsea's pursuit of Everton center back John Stones signals that Mourinho is looking to the future. Chelsea has reportedly had three offers for Stones rejected, and is weighing up a fourth potentially worth 40 million pounds ($62 million).
Terry still has much to offer Chelsea and could have two or three more years at Stamford Bridge. But his role could be changing, and good performances by Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma — the likely center-back pairing against Palace - will give Mourinho some thinking to do over the international break.
By then, Stones may be a Chelsea player, too. He has already put in a transfer request at Everton.
Chelsea has had as uncomfortable a start to the season as Terry, with four points from a possible nine leaving the team already five behind Man City. Palace has won two of its opening three games and is a dangerous team away from home with its pace on the counterattack.