I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Jose Mourinho’s post-match despair following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland was not born out of the fact the result had just about handed the ascendency in the title race to Liverpool but rather the fact that Jose Mourinho’s outstanding record of seventy seven Premier League matches unbeaten at Stamford Bridge spanning across two spells at the club had been broken without the Chelsea team truly being his own.
Mourinho has said all season long that the current Chelsea team cannot win the title as well as pointing out the team doesn’t have the scoring capabilities of a team who can claim English football’s top domestic crown. This rather odd premonition was dismissed as mind-games since first being ushered out of the self proclaimed ‘Happy One’s’ mouth. However looking back, it seems as if Mourinho was merely speaking what he believed was common sense.
It has been a statement repeated over and over again since the start of the campaign, “Chelsea aren’t strong enough in terms of forwards.” Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba have all been rather hit and miss throughout the campaign. Yes, Eto’o has scored an adequate tally of Premier League goals with nine but that is only adequate for a player who should be a rotational option, not a first choice center-forward.
For all Jose Mourinho’s efforts to prise Wayne Rooney away from Old Trafford last summer, you have to say Chelsea’s recruitment policy that summer was not perfect. Just as Manchester City had done the year before by placing all their hopes of signing Daniele de Rossi only to be let down at the final hurdle, Chelsea had done the very same with Wayne Rooney. The signing of Samuel Eto’o was a rushed process born out of circumstance due to Anzhi Makhachkala owner Suleyman Kerimov’s apparent meltdown and Chelsea’s need for support in attack once it became apparent David Moyes and co would not budge.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Chelsea to challenge the might of Manchester City when you compare the forward lines of the two teams. Aguero, Dzeko, Negredo and Jovetic against Eto’o, Torres and Ba is an absolute no contest. When you look at how Liverpool have burst into the title race thanks to the goals of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, things were certain to become yet more difficult for Mourinho’s Chelsea.
It is easy to harp on about this particular point and ignore Chelsea’s other mistakes over the course of the season but it is interesting that not one winner of the Premier League has had a leading scorer with less than fifteen League goals since the 2004-2005 campaign when Frank Lampard contributed just thirteen to Chelsea’s title winning effort. Chelsea’s current top scorer is Eden Hazard with fourteen League goals.
This is a fantastic return from an attacking midfielder but it is an effort that has not been supplemented enough by players around him. If we look back to the 2006-2007 season, Cristiano Ronaldo scored seventeen goals from a wide position, Wayne Rooney scored fourteen as a center forward. That is an eight goal swing between Chelsea’s two top scorers this campaign which in the Premier League can be the difference between not one but two places in the standings.
The 2013-2014 campaign should really be considered a great success by Chelsea supporters and Jose Mourinho. A likely second place finish in the Premier League, ahead of the team whom many tipped as one of the best in Premier League history in Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City and at the very least an appearance in the Champions League semi-finals. That is far and away a huge improvement on last season despite having a pretty similar striking unit.
The climate of top level football in 2014 is completely different to the one Jose Mourinho walked into way back in 2004. There simply cannot be huge spending in one summer to totally reshape a squad without fear of consequence. We are in the age of financial fair play and as such Jose Mourinho will have to take his time to construct a squad that we can truly look upon as a ‘Mourinho team’. We will see far more players leave the club this summer than we would have in days gone by.
David Luiz is an example. He wasn’t bought by Mourinho. He was given a chance by Mourinho and it has been made clear that the manager doesn’t fancy the Brazilian as a center-half or a holding midfielder. He will in all probability be on his way this summer with Mourinho likely to bring in a cheaper, more reliable defender.
The next player you look towards is Cesar Azpilicueta. I don’t think anybody could see this upturn in performance coming at the start of the season. Mourinho was always going to favor Ivanovic at right-back due to his reliable nature and physical strength. When Ashley Cole picked up injuries and lost his form, Azpilicueta was picked at left-back by Mourinho who didn’t have any other option or perhaps Mourinho saw something none of us did.
Azpilicueta has since gone on to totally buy into the Mourinho system and become one of the most reliable full-backs in the Premier League which is going to save Chelsea a lot of money this summer in not having to run the risk of breaching financial fair play rulings to sign Luke Shaw on top of a new strike force.
These are the types of player Mourinho builds his team around. We have seen at it every single club he has been successful at with the exception perhaps being Real Madrid, the one place where club politics is more important than the manager. Jose Mourinho would have loved to bring far more of these players to the club last summer and really put forth a title challenge he was confident of. However the changing face of the game’s finance has made that impossible and as such Mourinho has lost ‘his’ record with a team he probably doesn’t trust as much as previous Chelsea teams. That is what will irk Mourinho, not losing the record itself.
Chelsea have a real chance of winning a second UEFA Champions League trophy. Jose Mourinho knows how to win that competition. However it is difficult to see Chelsea being able to compete against semi-final opponents Atletico Madrid since the even the Spanish club hold an advantage over Chelsea in the striker department.
Chelsea are in a very strong position to build upon a strong run in the Premier League and an impressive showing in Europe’s premier club competition will no doubt further the reputation of the club. Jose Mourinho will not go into another season without a forward line he trusts. A top drawer striker will be brought in, most likely to be Diego Costa if recent reports are to be believed, and that added to a very Mourinho-esque defense next season could be one of real success for Chelsea and Mourinho rather than the near miss of the 2013-2014 campaign.