This week’s column will discuss the impact Juan Mata has had on recent performances, Jose Mourinho’s preferred starting line-up and Fernando Torres’ misfortune.
In my previous column I spoke about the importance of Juan Mata and his influence on the team and how pivotal it is for Jose Mourinho to include him in the starting eleven, where ever it is that he is deemed fit. Mourinho opted to start Mata in the last three matches, after he “earned” his place through his performance against Swindon Town and is yet to give his manager a reason to drop him to the bench. Mata who was criticised for his poor defensive work has proved his eagerness to play through a wiliness to improve the defensive aspect of his game and by continuing to provide in attack. Mata’s vision and precision enhances Chelsea’s team performances and creates more pace in attack as the Spaniard often picks out the early pass. Mata was involved in Fernando Torres goal at Swindon Town and it was also his perfectly weighted free-kick that John Terry headed home, that saw Chelsea claim a vital draw at White Hart Lane.
Mata is earning his position in the managers’ starting eleven however it is yet to see where he is most influential, with Mata and Oscar rotating between right-wing and the central role behind the striker. Mata and Oscar play exceptionally well together, their quick, clever passing easily creating gaps in the oppositions defence. Add Eden Hazard to the equation and Chelsea’s attacking midfield is unquestionably one of the best, if not the best, in the league. Is it a coincidence that Chelsea are yet to lose a game in which Mata has started? Perhaps. Maybe it is too soon to tell, but Mata the magician is only getting started and we can expect our two time Player of the Year to only improve from here on out.
There had been much talk earlier in the season, concern from pundits and supporters, with the media outrageously suggesting that Chelsea were in a state of crisis. The concern was raised that Mourinho was failing to play Chelsea’s strongest eleven and results weren’t going our way as a result of that. However the “crisis” seems to have been adverted with Mourinho having found some consistency in his starting eleven. With another demanding season ahead, matches often twice a week, rotation will be necessary to maintain the team, however it is important for a manager to establish who his preferred starting eleven are. Mourinho seems to be comfortable with a defence of Branislav Ivanovic at right-back, John Terry and David Luiz at the centre of defence, and Ashley Cole at left-back, with the unwavering figure of Petr Cech in goals. Mourinho has preferred to go with a pivot of Frank Lampard and Ramires behind our three attacking midfielders, entrusted with a holding role despite both having the ability and willingness to go forward and score. It is yet to be determined which three attacking midfielders are first choice, but it is likely to be Oscar, Hazard and Mata, getting the nod ahead of Andre Schurrle. The most uncertainty over a position exists in the number nine role, where Chelsea have three forwards; Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba, all of whom are yet to score a Premier League goal this season. In fact Torres is the only Chelsea striker with any goals this season, with two in all competitions thus far. Torres however initially having been overlooked, had earned his starting position through a fantastic match against Swindon Town and an even better performance against Tottenham, despite having been dismissed early by the officials. His status as first choice number nine was however short-lived as the striker was injured early on in the Champions League clash against Steaua Bucharest.
Fernando Torres has to be one of the most unfortunate Chelsea players. After a very poor start to his career with the Blues, every time the Spaniard seems to be finding form, something stands in his way. Two fantastic, hungry and aggressive performances left the Spaniard as clear favourite to lead the line for his Portuguese manager, despite earning a one match suspension in the process. The Spaniard was then subjected to further turmoil when the media demanded that the Football Association suspend him after his tussle with Jan Vertongen in the match against Spurs. After escaping the extended suspension, the Spaniard was injured within the first minute of the Champions League clash against Steaua Bucharest, in what seemed to be a benign challenge. After attempting to run it off Torres was withdrawn and so what seemed to be “his night” was once again hampered. The minor knee injury will see Torres out for three weeks, during which he will serve his suspension and the international break will take place. Torres will need to work hard to regain his fitness levels and maintain the determination and desire which earned him the starting position to lead the line for Mourinho’s men. After a rollercoaster Chelsea career thus far, Torres will be hoping to improve on his form from last season which saw him score 22 goals in all competitions but disappointingly only eight in the Premier League. Can Torres reach the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League? Will he regain his form at Chelsea? And most importantly, will he be able to score goals consistently? If ever there was a time for the Spanish international, it is now. He looks fit, determined, willing and hungry, vamos Torres!
With results improving, having won four and drawn one of our last five matches played, Mourinho’s side look more comfortable and confident. The consistency in the team, tireless work-rate and a growing desire of each player, the Blues performances are set to keep improving and impressing. Was there ever a reason to doubt the Special One? KEEP THE BLUE FLAG FLYING HIGH!