Jose Mourinho has always stated that soccer is a game that revolves around transition and change of possession. After his 2-1 victory over Manchester City, it’s evident that Mourinho is crafting a deadly counter-attacking Chelsea side with Fernando Torres as his star-striker. It’s the Chelsea manager’s age-old formula of a hard-working side that exploits the phases of the game in which possession changes hands.
Jose Mourinho has always had a special relationship with his chosen starting center forward. From his first shift at Chelsea with Drogba, his Inter Milan days with Eto’o, and Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, it is now Fernando Torres’s turn to be the chosen one’s chosen forward. It all came to fruition at Stamford Bridge against Manchester City when Fernando Torres assisted Schurrle for the opener and put away the winner at the end of a fantastic match.
Torres is now beginning to show all of the key qualities Mourinho’s system needs in its main striker. His quick change of pace, deadly shooting, and his energetic runs behind the defense at every opportunity are what make him instrumental in the system. Torres is now showing Mourinho that he’s the an indispensable part to Chelsea’s attacking system, something which the Chelsea manager probably couldn’t have been too sure about at the start of the season. Many wondered why Mourinho brought in Samuel Eto’o over the summer, it was a pre-emptive move in the case of Torres not playing to his best or suffering an injury. The Cameroon striker has many of the same qualities as Torres, and for now remains as a second option while the Spaniard continues scoring.
Torres’s supporting cast is also being meticulously groomed and selected by Mourinho. Schurrle is another speedy threat with his runs while also being very flexible positionally thanks to his technical proficiency and high work-rate. Against Manchester City, the German was always slipping behind the defense, and he ultimately earned his tap-in with his vivacious performance. When the City back four were keeping an eye on Torres for his runs when Chelsea gained possession, Schurrle always made sure to work in harmony with the Spaniard, making himself another threat for defenders with his supporting runs.
Hazard and Oscar are just as crucial to Chelsea’s counter-attacking system. Both tend to start further back than Torres or Schurrle (who tend to make those initial penetrating runs to set the opponent’s defense on the back foot), and drive forward, either dancing past defenders to attempt a solo effort on goal or crafting one of their teammates an assist. However this quick-attacking quartet requires the support of Chelsea’s holding midfield duo of Lampard and Ramires.
Frank Lampard is an old Mourinho favorite due to the way his innate qualities, which fit the vigorous transitional style of play. His surging runs forward towards the box from further back force a defense already preoccupied with Torres, Schurrle, Oscar, and Hazard, to deal with yet another dangerous player. Ramires can provide the same burst forward when regaining possession for his side, and has a far-reaching presence in the midfield as his stamina and work-rate rarely falter. In these instances, it can become very easy for Chelsea to become unbalanced. The box to box midfield duo of Lampard and Ramires must always be sure to restrain themselves in certain situations, especially if Ashley Cole and Ivanovic are advancing up the flanks. Yet if there’s a man who can impart tactical rigidity onto a set of players. It’s undoubtedly Jose Mourinho.
Perhaps the one weakness Mourinho’s Chelsea has is when possession is forced upon them. When teams defend and allow Chelsea what could be considered the burden of possession (a definite burden for a side that shines most when possession changes), the speedy fluidity associated with their counter-attack is stifled. We saw this towards the end of the match, when Manuel Pellegrini’s team was giving Chelsea possession and were content to hold onto the away draw. While Mourinho came away with the victory thanks to some miscommunication between Joe Hart and Nastasic, Torres has now earned his place as Mourinho’s top striker.
Editor’s note: Read more articles by Niccolo on his blog at www.soccerwrapup.blogspot.com.