Falling further down the title race wasn’t an option for Chelsea, so Jose Mourinho admitted to his own mistakes by actions (never by words) and changed his formation into a 4-3-3, that gave Oscar more freedom than before in his best match of the season while Frank Lampard, one of the team’s worst players this season, was finally left with enough freedom and no central midfield responsibilities in order to look like a player worth keeping.
The 3-0 win over West Ham brings back Chelsea into second place, but more importantly shows Mourinho realizing how big of a problem he had in the midfield. He decided to scrap the 4-2-3-1 which always meant someone was playing a bit out of position in a crowded area. He brought in John Obi Mikel into the lineup, helping stabilize and shut down things in midfield next to Ramires, while also giving Frank Lampard the chance to play in a manner that fits him.
Lampard has been struggling playing as one of the double pivot in the central midfield over the last couple of seasons. Goals have been coming, mostly from penalty kicks, but his ability at times has been costly to a Chelsea side that needed someone who actually knows what he’s doing on the defensive end to play in that position. So Lampard is enjoying Juan Mata slowly being pushed out of the team by the Portuguese manager, getting back the role he lost when the Spaniard arrived.
Lampard can’t do much but score when he’s left completely open, but quick thinking and an accurate/lucky foot is always an asset worth keeping. For the rest, there are players with real talent, like Eden Hazard and Oscar, enjoying their slightly adjusted roles behind Samuel Eto’o, somewhere between wide attacking midfielders and inside-cutting wingers. Oscar was especially active and deadly, making West Ham defenders dread any moment he was with the ball or making movement towards the box.
After two weeks of only hearing about Mourinho – complaining, talking, thinking and mostly just letting himself be heard, it’s good to see that Chelsea have plenty of football left as well, not letting another slip up in the Premier League get to them. It’s not going to be a season with a close-to-perfect team, rather a much closer race with some unexpected twists and turns. Having Mourinho clear minded and not busy blaming everyone in sight for losses and failures might be the most important thing Chelsea have to rely on as December approaches.
As for the man at the striker position – it really doesn’t matter at this point. Samuel Eto’o has taken hold of the position, but him or Fernando Torres being the target man doesn’t really make much of a difference. It’s all about the midfield, Oscar and Hazard. Maybe by finally releasing Lampard from duties that don’t fit him or the team, he’s solved something that was off about Chelsea since the start of the season.