Is making a switch into a 4-4-2 formation, playing that way for an entire half, that much of a stroke of genius? Yes, or at least it seems like it when you win. Chelsea took advantage of conceding a goal after only 14 seconds to fire back in an unexpected way during the second half, as Jose Mourinho made a change that his usually quite resourceful opponents couldn’t handle. Demba Ba being the spark of change might have been even more surprising.
How did Ba become the hero of the day? Southampton scored too soon for their own good, as Jay Rodriguez made the most of a silly mistake by Michael Essien in an awful performance to give the Saints a stunning 1-0 lead. It changed the gameplan for Southampton more than it did for Chelsea, who were planning to put early pressure on their rivals to finish the match anyhow. Southampton simply avoided using the kind of pressure they put on opponents early in matches, and fell backwards.
Despite Chelsea dominating and Artur Boruc being kept quite busy, it was only when Mourinho switched to a 4-4-2 that things opened up. Suddenly, Southampton couldn’t slowly build from the back and were forced to use long balls, which brought the ball right back into Chelsea’s feet.
Eden Hazard and Juan Mata provided some fantastic moments of football, but the heroes of the day were the centre backs – John Terry and Gary Cahill put Chelsea in front, while Demba Ba, with a 90th minute goal, secured the win and put on the deserved scoreline for a club that was the busier and better for most of the evening at Stamford Bridge.
Whatever problem Basel pose to Chelsea and Mourinho, it didn’t linger, nor it should have. Chelsea are a good enough team, deep enough and creative enough to not allow such losses or issues get to them. Mourinho knows he made a mistake with the lineup he chose in the Champions League, and one of the things about Mourinho is that he rarely makes the same mistake twice. If that’s true, Arsenal are still far away from getting too comfortable about where they are.