This column will discuss the current form of the Blues, their strikers being on the score sheet and Jose Mourinho’s risk-taking tactics.
Chelsea experienced a poor start to the season with their worst ever start to a Premier League campaign in the Abramovic-era and a home defeat in their first UEFA Champions League match for 2013/2014. Chelsea have, however, seemed to overcome their poor start and are undefeated in their last seven matches, scoring 19 and conceding only three while keeping four clean sheets. Chelsea’s draw against Tottenham was the only match in the last seven that the Blues did not secure maximum points. This change in form may be attributed to many things; Mourinho may have found the right balance with his squad, Juan Mata is back on the pitch, the strikers are scoring, Fernando Torres is looking sharp, or could it all be due to Mourinho’s willingness to take a risk?
There has been some consistency in the starting eleven for Chelsea with Juan Mata, Willian and Andre Schurrle rotating matches to play alongside Eden Hazard and Oscar who has secured the number ten role for himself. The number of matches Chelsea play requires options for rotation, however, consistency is key for performance, but Mourinho has managed to find the right balance, so that whoever finds themselves on the pitch, their job and the game plan stays the same. The wingers have increased their workload, even operating as wing-backs when a change in tactic is introduced. The players seem to be comfortable and confident under the Portuguese manager and who wouldn’t be with results going their way.
The improved results could also be attributed to the fact that the Chelsea strikers are contributing with goals, with Samuel Eto’o scoring his first in a Chelsea shirt against Cardiff last weekend. Fernando Torres’ midweek brace in the Champions League clash took his seasons tally to four goals, however, the Spaniard is yet to score in the Premier League this season. Demba Ba is yet to score this season, but has received fewer opportunities to shine. Goals will come from the midfield with the quality that Chelsea have, nevertheless, it is paramount that goals are also netted from the men leading the line. Mourinho will be pleased with his strikers, knowing that the goals will bode well for their confidence, which in turn will ignite the desire to score more. Torres in particular has shown great form with the Spaniard having produced a few good performances, only to be hampered by injury. However, he has returned in style scoring a brace on his 100th start for the Blues and seems confident, full of pace and hungry to score.
The change in form could also be a result of Mourinho’s willingness to take risks. The Portuguese manager is not hesitant to drop big name players if he feels they are not contributing 100 percent, his philosophy behind this is to make them avoid complacency, work harder to earn their place and return to the pitch determined to keep their coveted spot. Mourinho has also implemented bold tactical changes to swing a result that’s unsatisfying to him. This has been displayed when the Blues have been behind or on level terms and Mourinho opts to withdraw his left-back and go with three at the back in John Terry, David Luiz (or Gary Cahill) and Branislav Ivanovic. This allows Mourinho to bring on a second striker or additional attacking midfielder, adding an extra position in attack. This does, however, make the defence more vulnerable and the wingers are required to operate as wing-backs. A strategy not deployed by many former Chelsea managers, who would generally have been content with a draw and would not want to open up the defence and potentially throw away a point. However, Mourinho’s willingness to sacrifice a point for a potential three has proved successful thus far, with the change in tactics having helped Chelsea move from level position to securing maximum points against Norwich City and Cardiff.
Chelsea look like they are playing comfortably with a consistent tempo. This form will be paramount as they enter a tough string of fixtures with Manchester City at home on Sunday, followed by back-to-back away matches at Arsenal and Newcastle, before hosting Schalke over an 11 day period. Currently second in the Premier League and first in their Champions League group, things are looking positive for the Blues, so whatever the reason for the turn in results, Chelsea are set for a good season if they keep playing “their football”. KEEP THE BLUE FLAG FLYING HIGH!
Chelsea last seven matches in all competitions: