“I made 11 mistakes,” a visibly frustrated Jose Mourinho told the assembled press
Mourinho’s quote was less an admission of his own responsibility for the loss and more geared towards providing his star-studded squad with the proverbial kick up the backside. With the Premier League campaign now nearly three months old, teething problems under new management are no longer an excuse. Saturday’s post-Halloween scare fest was the result of an obvious lack of innovation going forward.
The Chelsea manager has always been known to have his favourites in the squads he manages. In his first spell at Stamford Bridge, Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard were all inspirational, dominant figures in his team. There are less rousing, indispensable characters nowadays, but Mourinho’s unwavering loyalty is threatening to hold the club back.
Yes, recent form has been good, but there’s an over reliance on certain players. Upon his return to west London, Mourinho stressed the need for an aging Lampard’s playing time to be managed appropriately. But the 35-year-old has taken part in every Premier League match this season, and his steadily decaying game is becoming more apparent – none more so than in the Newcastle defeat, where he was hauled off with 20 minutes to play.
Brazilian maestro Oscar is enjoying a brilliant season but he’s also been used in almost every match, and it’s fair to question whether his direct, dynamic style is appropriate against teams who defend deep, like Newcastle. The likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Willian – perhaps better suited to breaking down backlines who have dug their heels into the turf – remain on the fringes. With such a bloated squad, Chelsea shouldn’t be afraid to use it, rather than keeping faith in the usual suspects. One size doesn’t fit all.
But having said that, the outcome could have been different at the weekend had lady luck sided with the visitors. In the first half, John Terry struck the bar with one header and saw another one cleared off the line. The hosts defended well and rode their luck. There is no need for an overreaction – what is important, though, is a Chelsea reaction.
After the back-to-back disappointments against Everton and Basel in mid-September, Chelsea embarked on a fantastic run which saw them win eight of the next nine matches. With the next six Premier League matches looking particularly winnable, a similar resilient response this time around would see the Blues firmly in the title race by the end of the calendar year,
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