Against Different Opposition, Chelsea’s Tactic of Playing Without a Striker Will Work
In Chelsea’s 3-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, Jose Mourinho set up his Blues side without a recognizable striker in the starting XI. This tactic, while unconventional, worked for 55 minutes to maintain some possession and create occasional scoring opportunities on the counter-attack.
With Chelsea facing a critical set of fixtures upcoming culminating with an April 27th trip to Anfield to face high-flying Liverpool, setting up this way might not be a bad idea going forward.
The Blues strike force has been woeful this season. Thus in a critical Champions League tie, Mourinho turned to André Schürrle to try and stimulate the attack. It was obvious from early in the match the German International was not making the types of forward runs strikers make but yet was getting his feet on the ball often and tucking in nicely when Chelsea were playing defensively.
Postmatch, Mourinho described Schürrle’s performance:
“With Andre, at least I know we have one more player to have the ball, we have one more player to associate with the other players. Even not being dangerous because he is not a striker, he can associate and the team can have control of the ball possession like we had.”
In minute 55, Mourinho made the decision to play with a striker, Fernando Torres who replaced Schürrle. In the postmatch interview the Chelsea Manager’s body language made it clear Torres had failed and that the substitution was an error. His quote was diplomatic but his body language was not:
“I change with 1-1 because I thought Fernando could give us more depth than Andre. With Andre, the team had good control and possession — he was dropping deep. I thought Fernando could give us a bit more.”
Going forward it is entirely possible when Samuel Eto’o is worn down or unavailable that Mourinho will simply play without a striker. Chelsea was holding its own away from home against arguably one of the top 3 teams on the planet before Torres came on. Schürrle’s performance and link-up play with the rest of the team could provide a template for how the Blues seek to play at Anfield in a match that could very well decide the Premier League title.