It’s hard to say if it was arrogance that was leading Jose Mourinho when he picked the lineup for his team’s defeat at Basel, or simply the rest and betterment of players. Chelseas struggled for long minutes on both ends of the pitch, and the introduction of Eden Hazard to the match came way too late to turn things around.
Basel actually scored their goal in the 87th minute when Hazard was already on the pitch. Branislav Ivanovic made a big mistake of focus or judgement, and Salah scored his third goal against the Blues, making things quite complicated between Basel and Schalke heading into the final match. Chelsea, despite their second loss, are safe, although their first place isn’t.
A lineup that included Samuel Eto’o, Willian, Oscar and Frank Lampard managed to get only two shots at goal, none of them on target. After the introduction of Fernando Torres (forced) and Eden Hazard (coming on for Oscar), things did look slightly better, but the midfield unit, with Frank Lampard doing a terrible job as the attacking midfield, just looked lethargic, slow and inferior.
Lampard did score against West Ham, but there hasn’t been a single match this season when you could have said he looked good after the match. He can’t be the influential attacking midfielder he used to be three years ago, and putting him in a role next to Mikel or Ramires means tactical suicide, because Lampard brings nothing in terms of discipline and defending ability.
Mourinho didn’t blame the players after the match, but it’s hard to find anyone exempt from sharing some of it. This is the third time in a month that Chelsea have looked like the weaker side, going back to their home draw against West Brom and their loss in Newcastle. Something about the constant changes in the lineup and the certain approach from these players isn’t working, even if Samuel Eto’o is looking better, Willian is finding himself and Oscar is being the most consistent player Chelsea have.
Eden Hazard is someone Chelsea must have on the pitch, no matter if Mourinho dabbles or not with his tactics and moves the Belgian around. There’s not enough creativity in his lineups, especially with Juan Mata being the forgotten man on the bench (not used for a single second, even though he could have been of much use in Chelsea’s weak display). Mourinho makes weird choices sometimes,that are even harder to rationalize when they don’t work out.
Playing against Steaua to end the group stage means Chelsea will finish first, but performances like this against Basel, and not for the first time, suggest that Mourinho is far from finding the right formula to this team’s success, and his constant tinkering with lineups and rotations is hurting this team, especially when it comes at the cost of his best and most creative players having to sit just so Frank Lampard can stay, for some reason, on the pitch.