If Manchester City, or indeed Liverpool, pip Chelsea to the Premier League title this year, there’s been but one flaw on Jose Mourinho’s weekly team-sheet which has allowed them to do as such; the lack of a clinical striker.
With regards to the men charged with scoring goals the Blues have been at a constant disadvantage this term - the ones they have on their books just can’t do the job. Between the obvious front three that Mourinho has to pick from, only 15 Premier League strikes have found the back of the net. It would seem the trio of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba aren’t capable of scoring frequently. For the record Torres has four league goals to his name, Ba has a meagre three and Eto’o has managed eight, three of which came in the same game against Manchester United.
In stark contrast City’s front three have 34 between them; Sergio Aguero (15), Alvaro Negredo (9) and Edin Dzeko (10). Then of course there’s Liverpool's high-flying partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Suarez has 19 in 22 matches, Suarez 28 in 25.
If anything can be taken from those statistics it’s that Chelsea’s midfield have been over-achieving in terms of their goal ratio. The fact that the Stamford Bridge faithful can look at the league table and see their side sitting top of the pile (and having scored 62 goals) is testament to the productivity in terms of goal getting, from the guys who should be primarily assisting.
However Mourinho is no fool. He will most certainly know that the only visible missing jigsaw piece to his immaculately constructed Chelsea puzzle is up top. Reports that the Special One has already identified the likes of Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa as potential summer acquisitions are unlikely to be far off the mark, and Roman Abramovich would be happy to fund a big-money move if it meant that his team moved up a rung in terms of their quality-to-finished-product ratio.
In my mind though it doesn’t necessarily have to be blockbuster deal which improves the attacking prospects in west London, just simply the right one. A player who is an efficient goalscorer, has European pedigree and is likely to want out of their current club at the end of this season. Broaden your radar as far as the Bundesliga and you’ll end up with Mario Mandzukic.
The 27-year-old has looked mightily impressive since his switch from Wolfsburg to Bayern Munich in 2012, and his 15 goals domestically last term, coupled with the 17 he has already this year, make for impressive reading. The Croatian international is everything Mourinho could want in a striker, and it just so happens that he’s lurching closer to the Munich exit door.
Far from being down to deficiencies in his own performances, Mandzukic’s likely departure from the Allianz Arena has only become an issue due to the impending arrival of Robert Lewandowski - a man many consider to be one of the most complete forwards in the world. In Pep Guardiola’s masterfully crafted system there’s only room for a single striker and so something will have to give. You can bet your bottom dollar that that something won’t be named Lewandowski.
As such the evidence would suggest that prospective clubs could tap into Mandzukic’s availability in the next transfer market, as he’s unlikely to be content with a place on the bench. Both Manchester United and Arsenal are amongst the clubs said to be in the frame for his signature, but it’s Chelsea who would benefit most from his arrival.
He’s not an obvious choice, nor one so dipped in praise as either Costa or Falcao. However if the Blues could beat their rivals and land Mandzukic, they would most certainly be favourites to claim the Premier League next season.