Football

Should Jose Mourinho purchase a new striker?

Mourinho may decide to ring the changes at Stamford Bridge (©GettyImages)
Mourinho may decide to ring the changes at Stamford Bridge (©GettyImages).

It was always a question of 'when' rather than 'if' concerning José Mourinho's return to the Chelsea dugout, and he has finally been reinstated at an exciting time for both the club, and the Premier League as a whole.

When Mourinho took charge of Chelsea in 2004, his task was a clear one: instant success. 

After putting his own stamp on the team by bringing in some of the players he had been working with from his time at Porto, Mourinho transformed Chelsea from nearly-men to serial winners. 

It's hard to point out exactly how he did it. Many simply look back on it as the 'Mourinho magic' as if he had put a spell on the team to help them to the club's first league title in 50 years. 

However, there was a clear change in the structure of the team. The switch to his preferred 4-3-3 formation was the most notable, as he also changed the emphasis of the team by doing this. 

Chelsea were used to relying on their strikers for goals in the days of the Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink and Eidur Gudjohnson combination, but with Mourinho's Chelsea, goals were coming from all over the pitch. 

The lone striker in Mourinho's 4-3-3 wasn't relied on as much as for goals, but more for keeping two centre-backs busy while only occupying one place on the teamsheet, opening up new space for the surrounding players to exploit. 

Players like Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Joe Cole were as vital to the goal tally as Didier Drogba or Gudjohnsen. 

This was until the 2006/07 season when Andriy Shevchenko formed a front two with Didier Drogba, leading to the latter finding remarkable goalscoring form and hitting 33 goals in all competitions, including a winner in the FA Cup final.

Fast forward to 2013, and Chelsea seem to be on a quest to find a world renowned striker to bring to the Bridge. 

Has the Premier League changed that much? Well, the last two titles have been won by teams possessing a 30-goal output from their main striker (Sergio Agüero and Robin Van Persie respectively). 

Chelsea don't have a frontman who fits that category, with Fernando Torres coming closest but still falling far short of expectations considering his goals-to-game ratio of 0.34 in all competitions, and lack of quality in general open play. 

However, if Mourinho were to follow the blueprint of his previous success, Torres, along with support from Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku, may be good enough.

The problem is that Mourinho may not follow that blueprint. The league may well have changed that much. One reason for this could be the rise of the 4-2-3-1 formation over the 4-3-3. 

On paper, this change could be interpreted as swapping a box-to-box midfielder for another deep-lying midfielder, which means losing a significant goal output from that spot on the teamsheet. 

However, Frank Lampard still managed to rampage forward enough from that position to bag himself 17 goals in 50 appearances (the same 0.34 goals-per-game ratio as Torres) last season. 

Chelsea as a team in fact managed a total of 75 Premier League goals last season, nine more than second-placed Manchester City, and significantly; three more than they scored the first season that they won the title under Mourinho. 

So is a talismanic goalscorer really needed? Or is it the defence that Chelsea should be looking to improve? 

Gone are the days of Chelsea's defensive solidarity and strength, there are now spaces to exploit, mistakes being made, and most significantly, Chelsea don't have a stable, regular centre-back pairing. 

There is no clue regarding the pecking order for Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz and John Terry. Ivanovic and Luiz are playing other roles as much as they are playing at centre-half anyway.

If Eden Hazard and Oscar improve by the lengths Juan Mata did after his first season, Chelsea's goalscoring form should be nothing to worry about compared to their defensive frailties. 

With Radamel Falcao joining Monaco, Robert Lewandowski set on a move to Bayern Munich, and Edinson Cavani apparently favouring a move to Real Madrid, there doesn't seem to be much choice left for Chelsea anyway. 

Maybe they would be better off keeping their purse strings tied and putting faith in the forwards they already possess, as well as maybe even promoting some youth players to help them considering Mourinho has stated he is looking to build for the long-term this time around. 

As for the defence it is hard to find a standout name that Chelsea could realistically bring in. 

On paper, whichever back four one envisions, looks pretty good already. Maybe some coaching from Mourinho and his staff as well as some stability among the ranks, could be enough to fix the issues at the back for Chelsea, but he certainly does have a point to prove in this area.

Previously considered one of the great defensive, organisational and tactical coaches, Mourinho's prowess in these areas has come into question after his spell at Real Madrid, which was accompanied by a leaky defence, one that never really seemed to improve over his three years at the club. As recently as April, Real Madrid conceded three goals away to Galatasaray in the Champions League, and then four goals away to Borussia Dortmund. Again however, this could be attributed to the use of the 4-2-3-1 formation. 

Mourinho's Madrid side relied heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo for their goals, with his supporting cast never really fulfilling their goalscoring potential alongside him, but arguably not needing to. 

This phenomenal one-man goalscoring machine meant that the two deep-lying midfielders could both hold rather than acting as a traditional double pivot with one going forward. 

Still this wasn't enough protection for Real's shaky defence. So is it possible for Chelsea to play in this system while simultaneously restoring their strong defensive reputation? 

Only time will tell. It's easy to suggest that Mourinho should revert to the 4-3-3, however that would mean shifting Chelsea's most influential player, Juan Mata, into a position where he will not be as effective, which surely eliminates it as an option.

Maybe Chelsea do need a striker to make up the goal difference, maybe contrary to the previous Mourinho incarnation, this Chelsea will have to have to involve themselves in goal fests to win games? 

Or maybe a new star for the 'Makélélé role' would be money better spent, if Mourinho does intend to follow his previous structure at Chelsea? 

Was Real Madrid's poor defence irrelevant, and down to other variables? Maybe Mourinho can make Chelsea's defence what they once were. On paper, there's no reason why he shouldn't with those players, no matter what formation he plays. What do you think is the solution to make Chelsea a title-winning side again?

 

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Topics:
Chelsea
Football
Premier League

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