Monday, September 16, 2013

Much work ahead for Mourinho.

Whilst the loss at Everton was far from a disaster as Chelsea didn't play particularly badly - they were just extremely profligate in front of goal - Mourinho's comments after the game sought to put some perspective on the expectation surrounding the club. This is not yet a team in his image.

There is much about this Chelsea squad to admire given the size and depth and the more youthful appearance that it now has. It is however at odds with Mourinho's style to a large degree.

Whilst at Chelsea the first time, Mourinho played a 4-3-3 compromising of a solid midfield 3 of the likes of Makelele, Lampard and Ballack, speedy wingers and a powerful centre forward.

In Madrid where he had far more attacking expectations, Mourinho's tactics morphed more in to a 4-2-3-1 given that he had too exceptional deep lying midfielders in Khedira and Xavi Alonso which afforded the likes of Ronaldo and Ozil the freedom they craved. He could also play Pepe in a destructive deep lying midfield role.

Mourinho has adopted a similar style at Chelsea but the problem is he does not really possess the players required in the deeper roles. Mikel is lacking at the very top and whilst an ageing Lampard and the tireless Ramires are both excellent players, neither is a natural holding player and their talents are stifled in such a system. Both are far more suited to playing in a 4-3-3.

To switch to a 4-3-3 however would be to give less credence to Chelsea's obvious strength of the '3' in the 4-2-3-1. Of the players that operate in those positions, only Oscar could reasonably be expected to play in a deeper role given his largely unnoticed tackling and tracking back.

Leaving the likes of Hazard and Mata purely on the wing again seems a waste, the interchanging in the current system suits them wonderfully. He also has to find game time for Schurrle, De Bruyne and Willian.

Time and time again in his previous Chelsea guise, Mourinho waxed lyrical of the benefits of having an extra man in midfield, namely Claude Makelele. To facilitate that you need to play 4-3-3.

The 4-2-3-1 feels in a way like a compromise that Mourinho has made to satisfy the attacking cravings of his paymasters at Madrid and Chelsea. Neither also are necessarily teams where he had complete charge of the transfer policy. Adding Schurrle, De Bruyne and Willian this Summer gives him little option in terms of the system he can employ.

Given this array of attacking options, Mourinho will be forced to be bold but he clearly needs to marry this to the pragmatism he always feels is required and which has made his teams so successful.

Whilst Madrid performed on the whole very well under him, it never really appeared as if it was his team in the same way it did at Chelsea first time around or at Internazionale where his identity, tactics and character were stamped all over the park.

If Mourinho is to repeat his previous glories at Chelsea and turn them into Champions League contenders again then the balance of the squad needs to be addressed and Abramovich must indulge some of Mourinho's caution to proceedings.

It may well be that it is next season before we see a Chelsea team truly again in Mourinho's image, if indeed that is what the owner is prepared to sanction - No Nonsense.