Chelsea: Criticism Of Jose Is Way Off, We're Only A Striker Away From Greatness
After an extremely underwhelming performance against West Ham at Stamford Bridge the reality of this season has finally begun to emerge. Chelsea are, at best, the second strongest team in the league and should look to finish runners up behind a rampant Manchester City team. The arrival of Mourinho has seen the gap between Chelsea and the summit shrink considerably. Nevertheless, a failure to address to biggest flaw in the side while still spending circa £100m is baffling. City are at the peak of their powers with a squad of players in their prime. If they fail to win the league title it will be an absolute miracle.
The reality of playing for Chelsea (or another top class side) is starkly different to 90% of the sides who play in the Premier League. Teams invariably sit deeper and therefore the skillset required from your centre-forward needs to be otherworldly to make a noteworthy impact. In my opinion Agüero is the best striker in the league: he works majestically with his creative supply and has world class ability to conjure a finish from the tiniest of space. He is truly an exceptional footballer but an even more remarkable finisher. What irks me about Agüero is that Chelsea baulked at the quoted transfer fee only to decide that spending £50m on Fernando Torres was a great idea. Suárez is much the same at Liverpool, possessing the ability to score and create against sides who rigidly pile men behind the ball. This is the type of forward Chelsea need – not someone who runs in behind – someone who can operate in tight spaces and a lethal finisher.
This quality is a unique world class trait and largely explains why the “LUKAKU ON LOAN!?!?!??! OH THE HUMANITY!!!” brigade are a little off the mark. Yes, he’s better than Ba (but who, at this point, is not? I have seen a randomly scattered assortment of training cones cause a back four more problems) but does he possess the quality of an Agüero or Suárez? For a physical centre-forward does he compare to having a peak Didier Drogba? The thing that the Chelsea football board continue to connive at has once again halted a possible title charge in its tracks. City will win the Premier League due to their firepower alone. Liverpool will claim a Champions League berth purely down to the brilliance of Luis Suárez. Arsenal will fall away from first place, again, because Olivier Giroud is not in Robin Van Persie’s class.
Chelsea sit content in the knowledge that they are entirely hamstrung by the mediocre Fernando Torres, utterly hopeless Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian, to his credit, looks sharper than Torres and Ba combined and would fill the role of the experienced striker perfectly. Eto’o’s goal last night was ruled out purely because the referee had bottled it: Matt Taylor stated clearly that West Ham could have had no complaints if it was given. It was evidence that Eto’o’s football brain is still as sharp as ever and is one of several pieces of quick play this season that put both Ba and Torres to shame.
This Chelsea side are only a couple of players away from being a real force, but the elephant in the room remains. A paltry return on his £50m investment and exorbitant wages, Chelsea can look forward to another two-and-a-half years of Fernando Torres’ own brand of playing 1 game in 5. On his day he looks capable of being the striker that Chelsea need but they are too few and far between. Couple that with Demba Ba’s clumsy touch and donkey-esque ability and it is a miracle that Chelsea are only three points off the top of the league. Ba’s cameo last night included more chatting with the defender marking him than running or any attempt to win the game. Why we are persisting with someone so decidedly below average and devoid of effort is beyond my comprehension. One of our Under 10 strikers would put more of a shift in and actually look more fluid than Ba.
I do credit Mourinho’s ability with Chelsea’s turnaround. By this point in the season last year we were well and truly out of the title race despite sitting in third. We may find out a lot more about this side after Monday, but there is a tangible improvement across the board. This is not to say that Mourinho is without his flaws and there have been a few times this season where some decisions have been questionable. There is a perception from opposition fans that Chelsea supporters deem Mourinho infallible. His record undoubtedly speaks for itself, but the change from last season has been superb and we are heading in the right direction. José has got and will continue to get the majority of things right at the club. If Chelsea give him the final pieces of the jigsaw then next year will be incredibly interesting.
My major concern currently has to be the continued unwavering faith placed in both Ramires and Ivanović. I love both players for their level of effort and commitment. There is absolutely no questioning that they will give their all for every second of a match. The issue with both is that against certain opposition, those who typically deploy two banks of 4/5 players, they are essentially next to useless in providing an attacking threat. Ramires is at his best when counterattacking and where he can use his exceptional pace to burst forward with the ball. Ivanović is typically well suited when defensive solidity is required. The amount of wasted possession or lack of technical quality from either yesterday was made all the more apparent when Chelsea were camped on the edge of the West Ham penalty area for an entire half. Misplaced crosses, failing to spot incisive passing opportunities and dithering to the point of no return was not a pretty sight.
What could we have done differently? West Ham offered such little threat going forward using Cahill and Terry with Mikel dropping back to form a back three and also pushing forward to screen would have been enough. We could realistically have started with Cole and Azpilicueta, pushing both exceptionally high up the pitch: a 4141 or sorts that quickly becomes a 2161 in possession. We simply left it too late to overload the attacking areas. If we pushed the tempo as we did in the second half from the beginning I am certain that we would have scored. I realise Mourinho stated that he wanted to do away with being gung-ho in the pursuit of winning matches. However, against someone like West Ham we genuinely could have managed with two centre-backs and one holding player such was their limited ambition. It is up to us to breakdown teams, not for them to play and get battered.
Finally, the salacious frothing of opposition fans at Mourinho’s comments concerning bus parking was beyond peculiar. “BUT WHAT ABOUT DA SPURS JOE! WHAT ABOUT DA UNITED! WHAT ABOUT DA ARSENAL!!!!”. These are genuine tweets that I have seen from a host of opposition fans. Frankly, playing a defensive counterattacking style of football and creating the better scoring chances is not parking the bus.
If Chelsea could finish we would have won at Old Trafford, the Emirates and at White Hart Lane. We have parked the bus in the Nou Camp and in the Allianz Arena, doing so against two of the best teams on the planet. I know exactly what that looks and feels like. However, anyone who deems playing a counterattacking style that yields better chances than their opponent as 'parking the bus' really needs to get out more.