Jose Mourinho suffered yet another setback in a less than happy second coming on Saturday as his side were beaten. A 3-2 reverse at Stoke left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Portuguese, as Chelsea suffered saw the blues instead of dishing them.
Chelsea strikers failed to fire yet again and despite all diplomacy on his part, Mourinho must be have realised that what he has on his hands is now a class A chronic problem. A third league defeat already isn’t a palatable statistic considering this is a manager who prides himself in not losing. ‘The happy one’ hasn’t been so happy so far this
season and a lot needs to be done.
Jose inherited a squad that had just won the Champions League, the Europa League and the FA Cup in the past two seasons. This is by no means a poor side. In fact, Chelsea has arguably one of the two strongest squads in the division, with strength in depth and an experienced manager at the helm. Things should be different, at least a little bit. They are still
third in the league, five points behind leaders Arsenal and are yet to play them in the league so Chelsea fans have no reason to panic, just yet.
The defeat at Stoke highlighted two problems that have blighted Chelsea so far this campaign. One- the defensive solidity is gone. The Blues conceded three goals for the second time in a week and have now let in 17 goals, two more than they did in the entirety of Mourinho’s first season. Not ‘so special’ defending. Chelsea’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season is showing no signs of
Mourinho is partly to blame for his side’s defensive woes. There has been considerable chopping and changing as the Portuguese tries to find a suitable back-line. Lately however, Jose looks to have settled on an Ivanovic-Terry-Cahill-Azpilicueta back-four and therein lies the problem. At the start of the season, Chelsea's back line looked compact and robust. Ashley Cole at left-back, Branislav Ivanovic at right-back and John Terry paired with
Gary Cahill in central defence. Unfortunately, things started going awry for Mourinho, firstly when David Luiz was brought into the side at the expense of Cahill, and subsequently when Cole was deemed to be out of form and then picked up an injury. In spite of Cole's return to fitness, the Blues manager has persisted playing Cesar Azpilicueta out of position at left-back when perhaps he might have played him on the right in place of Ivanovic, who has turned in
some pedestrian performances of late.
A stable back four that play together week in and week out in their right positions has always formed the basis for teams to be successful and Mourinho knows this. It's been a part of his blueprint in the past, yet now there is a Claudio Ranieri-esque tinkering element to his team selection that continues to beg more questions than it provides answers. The defensive/holding midfield position has also been experiencing lots of changes and this translates to a porous defensive unit. Mikel, Lampard and Ramires have been preferred, the
combinations differing from match to match, with the Brazilian featuring the most. The sooner Mourinho sorts these four positions out, the faster his team’s defending improves.
Problem number two and the main one at that, his strikeforce. Football is a simple game and Jose’s supporters know the team that scores the most goals wins. At Sunderland on Wednesday night, the Black Cats netted three goals, but the Blues scored four. At Stoke on Saturday the Potters netted three times, but Chelsea only twice.
At present, Mourinho and the wider world seem preoccupied with Chelsea's three goal-shy strikers: Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o. Against Stoke, Mourinho played all three at various stages of the game with no end product. Yes he has a bunch of midfielders capable of dazzling and scoring from midfield but, against teams like Stoke, Newcastle and Everton, the likes that press hard and crowd out the center of the pitch, you need strikers to make the desired runs into the pockets of space in behind to score. Alternatively, strikers of the ilk of their gone legend Didier Drogba who, with their backs to goal, can receive the ball, bring the attacking midfielders into play or turn and power through the middle to score. At the moment, none of Chelsea’s three forwards can offer any of that and if they can, they sure as hell aren’t doing it. Ironically, and painfully for that matter, one Romelu Lukaku has been banging in the goals for an enterprising but certainly, with all due respect, less talented Everton side. He has scored more goals then all Chelsea’s forwards combined and in less games to boot. Yes, it’s that bad.
The fact that Mourinho has repeatedly denied that he may look to bolster his squad in January makes for grim reading among Chelsea faithful. It also means that the Blues will have to go the whole season with the same personnel that have been so inept and un-inspiring at the front. Chelsea’s midfield will have to come up with the goods on a constant basis if they are to
stand any chance of lifting silverware this campaign. Right now, Jose Mourinho seems to be very adept at diagnosing the problems with his team, but browbeaten when it comes to remedying them. His nonchalant, shoulder-shrugging "we are in trouble" comment made to the media on Saturday will not breed confidence with those Chelsea supporters who welcomed him back to Stamford Bridge as the returning messiah. Chelsea fans will begin to question whether their prodigal son is ‘so special’ anymore.
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