Over another intense weekend of football, Chelsea lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 against Fulham, with Gary Cahill replacing David Luiz at centre half following the Blues 1-0 defeat to Everton. Juan Mata was replaced by Oscar, with Mourinho clarifying after the match that unless Mata adapts to the way Mourinho wants him to play, and produces a clearer level of consistency, the Spaniard will continue not to feature. Samuel Eto’o retained his place in the starting XI despite not scoring in his 3 successive appearances.
Fulham also lined up in the 4-2-3-1 formation with Dimitar Berbatov missing out due to a hamstring injury, with on loan Darren Bent leading the line in his absence. Bryan Ruiz also missed out with a recurrent ankle injury. New singing Fernando Amorabeita made his first start for the Cottagers, after singing from Athletic Bilbao.
The resurgence of Terry
For all of the attacking plaudits that Oscar has (rightly) gained one character who hasn’t received the same credit is John Terry. After struggling with injury and lack of selection under Rafa Benitez, it seems as though John Terry is Jose Mourinho’s first choice centre half in the Premier League. With a heroic display away at Manchester United and consistency in his form thus far, Terry could yet have his final swansong before his contract ends at the end of this season. Although he didn’t have the hardest of games against an isolated Darren Bent, Terry did his job well against a striker all Chelsea fans know needs only a half chance to score, completing 7 out of his 7 clearances, 3 out of 3 of his headed clearances and winning 60% of his aerial duels as well as recovering the ball 7 times. Terry also contributed an assist to the most unlikely of scorers, John Obi Mikel from Oscar’s corner, as well as completing an impressive 93% of his passes.
Oscar and the free role
Although he has been keeping Juan Mata out of the side, it would be hard to argue that Oscar was doing so without merit. His performances of late have been sparkling, and the Brazilian is equally capable of creating moments of magic as much as his Spanish counterpart. This is not the only trait he shares with Mata, throughout the game against Fulham, Oscar dropped further and further back into the midfield to both gain the ball and to allow himself time to play the ball accurately, as Fulham’s line was so deep, with so many men behind the ball, it allowed him no space or time. As we can see from the picture below, Oscar drifted around the pitch and no fixed role as such, but rather sought to bring Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle into play, allowing them to attack Fulham’s flank with direct runs, as Schurrle did, which lead to the first goal, which Oscar himself finished off. Another underrated aspect of Oscar’s game, and one of the reasons he is keeping Juan Mata out of the side, is his defensive capabilities and willingness to track back and do the dirty work, as emphasised by his refusal to allow Andrea Pirlo to pull the strings during Chelsea and Juventus’ clash at Stamford Bridge last year, fitting in two wonderful goals into his dogged display. Not only did he create several chances, but Oscar also contributed a goal, and swung in the corner that John Terry nodded down for Chelsea’s second.
Despite strengthening in the summer, Chelsea seemingly haven’t bought an out and out striker who can score goals, the area they are weakest in. Saturday night’s game only served to highlight not only Chelsea’s impotence from new boy Samuel Eto’o but the lack of clinical goalscoring prowess anywhere on the field. Eto’o himself managed 3 shots in the whole match, with just a single shot on target which 4 yards out, which was parried away by Stockdale. Generally Chelsea were woeful going forward in the first half, with only 10 shots on target in a half they dominated, even more embarrassingly, only 2 on target. However, in the second half things improved on the shots front, with 13 shots being attempted, 6 on target, and 2 of those shots resulting in goals. However, the question must be asked, can Chelsea’s midfield regularly bail them out of sticky situations if Eto’o, Torres and Ba fail to find the net regularly, something which Wayne Rooney would unquestionably have done? Do Chelsea need another striker or will Samuel Eto’o come good, if not, will Jose Mourinho spend in the new year for a consistently reliable forward?