No one fires managers or makes big changes based on the League Cup. Chelsea are only two points away from the top of the Premier League, but you can tell something’s not right. Losing twice in the Champions League; already six matches out of 16 without a win in the league. Jose Mourinho isn’t happy, feeling slight pressure and knows some change is going to come.
The 2-1 loss to Sunderland in the League cup was unfortunate, but taught Mourinho one thing for the final time. This team lacks a killer instinct, playing in way he despises. Possession football that might be pretty on the eye sometime, but is very inefficient. It has to do with an awful striking force, no matter who Mourinho is playing (and he started with Samuel Eto’o last match), and a midfield that doesn’t do its job in supporting the attacking midfield and the strikers. It carries on with a very bad defensive game, which makes Chelsea very exposed to counter attacking and set pieces.
So what shall Mourinho do? There’s the idea of playing with two strikers and making his team less about possession and more about bringing the ball quickly towards the goal and generating more pressure on opponents’ defenses, something that really isn’t happening now. There’s also the approach that says buckle down on defense and turn this side into a counter attacking one, only without the talent he had for that stuff at Real Madrid.
The result? People may remember how successful Chelsea were during their reign from 2004-2006 during Mourinho’s first tenure. Record breaking point achievements. Unbeatable teams, almost. A defense that was impregnable on most 90 minutes. But there was a lot of depressing, boring, suffocating football. Closing out matches early and then letting time pass until the final whistle.
Chelsea won the Champions League that way with Roberto Di Matteo. One can hardly call it counter attacking style. Chelsea didn’t press, but simply waited with 9 or 10 players in its box sometimes, and soaked in the pressure and heat. It worked out quite fine against much better teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but that kind of approach only works out once in a very long time, like the 2004 Greek team.
Mourinho doesn’t have the kind of players he needs for the Di Matteo approach, but he can play a lot more cautiously than what we’ve seen from his so far. There have been other problems with this team that might also originate from coaching – not enough passing combinations, too many players out of position and too many relying on their individual talent. In the weird 2013-2014 season of the Premier League, that’s good enough to challenge for the title almost half a season in, but it’s not enough to please someone like Mourinho.