At some point, defeats and disappointments can’t be laughed and shrugged off arrogantly. Chelsea have a strong team, but a manager who continues to be infatuated with rotating his most important players, leaving Eden Hazard with two different sidekicks every match, and left with a lineup that struggles to create chances.
There were too many firsts for Chelsea in their 1-2 loss against Basel in the Champions League, which no only opened up the group, but also showed Chelsea’s previous failures to score or win weren’t just a case of being unlucky in front of goal, but mostly something inherently wrong with the squad assembled at Stamford Bridge.
It was the first time Chelsea lost a Champions League match at home in a decade, and the first time they’ve lost the opening match of the continental campaign, ever. Jose Mourinho should have brought along things that were missing from last year’s team, which were mostly toughness in the midfield, but even a great manager can’t change the way players perform if they’re just not up for certain challenges.
While against Everton to excuse was the chances his team created, this time there was no getting around the failure. Basel defended wisely, allowing Chelsea only 12 shots on goal (five on target) the entire match, with Oscar’s shot from the edge of the box being the only one that actually got in. Oscar might be the best finisher of the group, but he lacks certain creative abilities, especially vision and clever passing skills, that Juan Mata would bring instead of him.
But it’s more than just not Mata being on the pitch – it’s the players Mourinho chooses to use. A soft midfield with Frank Lampard and Marco van Ginkel, getting his Chelsea debut, is a recipe for disaster, as Chelsea struggled to contain the match after scoring or push back Basel who realized there’s no need to fear the hosts and opened up their formation in order to score the winning goals.
The Gary Cahill and David Luiz centre back duo didn’t add confidence to their weak defensive midfield in the first place, acting a bit too adventurous and reckless when it shouldn’t have been. Chelsea not being able to get any width from their full backs was also an issue, even if it meant they were a bit more defensive to being with.
But problems usually originate in the midfield, and spread out to the rest of the team. Samuel Eto’o being preferred up front once more doesn’t make any sense, even if Mourinho is trying to bring the Cameroonian back to speed as quickly as possible. The same plan seems to be in progress with Willian, but the Brazilian is clearly lacking match fitness at the level Chelsea need from him.
Hazard has been the one constant in Chelsea’s attacking branch, but faces and players around him change all the time. Mourinho is opting to play without wingers all the time, which was a mistake back when it happened last season. Chelsea need width, while Hazard and Juan Mata shouldn’t move from the lineup. The Mata that’s been showing up for cameos this season isn’t the same player from the previous two years, and it’s affecting the entire team to a point where even Mourinho needs to admit there is a problem.