Following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, Jose Mourinho refused to say where his team need to improve. Quite frankly he doesn’t have to.
The first half of last season aside, Mourinho’s Chelsea sides have rarely been lauded for their attacking brilliance. Throughout many of their title wins, it can be argued they finished ahead of teams who played ‘better’ football. Football which set the heart racing a bit faster. Football which had fans on the edge of their seats. But ultimately, football which didn’t get the required results.
However, one thing they have always had going was a defensive stubbornness and an ability to suffocate the opposition which no other team could come close to.
And yet all of a sudden this seems to have disappeared. Towards the back end of last season, the Blues were relying on Eden Hazard’s brilliance going forward to secure the victories, but they rarely looked vulnerable enough to be beaten. Especially at Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho had only been beaten once in the Premier League before the start of the current campaign.
As things stand they have lost three out of six league games at the Bridge this season.
Veteran John Terry, who had been written off by Rafa Benitez three years ago, enjoyed a resurgence which led to calls that he should be reintroduced to the England side – suddenly he seems to have aged a decade over pre-season.
Perhaps most tellingly, in a fixture – which according to many Mourinho could not afford to lose – he opted for a midfield pairing of Ramires and John Obi Mikel. Liverpool had yet to click going forward, and yet ‘the Special One’ still clearly felt concerned about the damage they could cause the Chelsea back four.
As things turned out, he was right to feel that way.
Twice Philipe Coutinho managed to find space on the edge of the area – surely the one thing Mikel was picked to make sure didn’t happen – and twisted and turned to leave the Chelsea defence looking hopeless.
For the final nail in the coffin Gary Cahill and Terry afforded Christian Benteke all the time in the world to bring the ball under control, turn, and finally pick his spot past the helpless Asmir Begovic in the home goal.
Come the end of last season the Blues had conceded 32 goals in their 38 Premier League fixtures – the fewest in the division. After 11 games this term, the reigning champions have leaked 22 goals – the joint-highest of all 20 sides.
Centre-back Kurt Zouma – who admitted in midweek he feels uncomfortable at full-back – is playing at right-back. It is hardly a surprise he is not looking assured.
Of course a strong defence relies on the work of the whole team, and there is one obvious candidate who is not pulling his weight. While Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa continued to harry their opposite numbers, Eden Hazard remained largely anonymous. The substitution of the reigning Player of the Year before the hour mark was hardly surprising, and speculation the Belgian is angling for a move abroad appears increasingly believable by the week.
Quite frankly football matches at Stamford Bridge have been too exciting to watch this season. If Mourinho is to turn things round, he is going to need to make things boring again. Whether he is going to be afforded the chance to do so is another matter entirely.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) October 31, 2015
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