The best thing Jose Mourinho could have hoped for after explaining to everyone why Juan Mata isn’t as important to him as he was for other Chelsea managers over the last couple of years was having Oscar start, play well and score, making the ‘Special One’ seem like the man with an answer to everything.
On the surface, there’s no arguing with him over this point. Chelsea ended the talks of a crisis, beating Fulham 2-0 at home with Oscar scoring the opening goal, scoring his third goal of the season in all competitions. It was followed by John Obi Mikel scoring his first every Premier League goal after 184 goalless appearances for the club. In between? Not a whole lot.
There’s a very good chance that if Rafa Benitez was doing the same thing as Mourinho, which is seemingly trying to change the style of a team so drastically (according to him, at least) that it means leaving Juan Mata and David Luiz out of the squad, he would have gotten hate mail from Chelsea fans instead of adoration. Mourinho talks about the past being the past when it comes to Mata being yo-yoed in and out of the lineup, but the only reason he’s getting away with it his past, not the present or the ability of his team.
Just like Chelsea from last season, one huge problem seems to be their lack of creativity in the deep midfield, where Mikel and Ramires (or Frank Lampard on other days) might be hard workers and very hard to beat by dribbling, but also can’t really build up play through passing and smart decisions.
A playmaker like Mata or Oscar (who spends most of his time on the wing, despite his initial positioning) is required, with these kind of players on board, to drop deeper in order to get things going. But Oscar doesn’t do that, because he isn’t the playmaker Mata is. He might be the better finisher and a more mobile player off the ball, but he doesn’t fill the same need, and Chelsea lacking ingenuity for most of the match is plain to see.
Eden Hazard gets the ball in his feet quite a lot at the moment, but not much happens of it. It’s usually very far from goal or not in places where his talent can create something immediate. Maybe it’s just a bad start to the season or actually some tactical decisions by Mourinho, but like others on the team, it seems like the Belgian star isn’t being utilized the right way.
The final wrong brick in this construction site is the striker issue, as Mourinho insists on letting Samuel Eto’o be the man who heads his attack, but giving him a chance to regain confidence and match fitness might cost the team some points (it probably already has), with Chelsea looking better when Fernando Torres is on the pitch, coming on for the final 25 minutes.
There are more changes that are sometimes hard to understand – Cesar Azpilicueta has been forgotten, even though he brings a lot more offense to a team that doesn’t seem to have too much happening on the wing, and Luiz being completely forgotten. It might be a trial set by Mourinho for the left-out players to show him they can change their ways and style, but it’s hard not to think that this is a bit more than just a professional decision. Chelsea are back on the winning track, but their stutters and stumbles are hopefully part of a building process and not simply a manager doing the wrong thing with the team.