One of the interesting things about the makeup of this Chelsea team in comparison to the one Jose Mourinho had during his first tenure at the club is physicality. There’s plenty of talent in the modern version – Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard, Juan Manuel Mata and others. However, too many of those he had a few years ago have grown weaker and slower during that time, while other new faces are simply too soft for his own vision of how this team should look like.
Everything looked to be going great early on. Chelsea created a multitude of chances and got themselves a deserved lead through Andre Schurrle scoring a tricky and clever goal. Chelsea should have been up by three or four by the time the half time whistle was blown. Instead, it was a 1-1 draw, as Peter Crouch enjoyed the blunder in the Chelsea box created by awful defending from John Terry and Gary Cahill, while Petr Cech was too slow to react to the set piece.
Something happened to Chelsea from that moment. Stoke started having their way on the pitch, with a lot of help from the referee, Jonathan Moss, who set another example of how officials allow Stoke City too much during their home matches, bordering on the violent, crossing that aggressive threshold that divides between the legal and the playing dirty and cheating. Almost every physical battle was won by the home side. Stephen Ireland put them in the lead, Schurrle stung back. But Chelsea lost momentum, form and control.
Jose Mourinho was once heralded by us as the king of substitutions. It didn’t work out that well for him at the Britannia Stadium, his first visit to the ground as a manager in the Premier League. Demba Ba did handle the Stoke defenders better than Fernando Torres managed to, slowly slipping into the same form that has brought on so may criticisms and jokes about his price and ability, but that was it.
Samuel Eto’o coming on for Schurrle was a surprise. Jose Mourinho later said that he isn’t stupid, and that Schurrle was tired and asked to be replaced. Eto’o was awful with every decision he made, looking too slow for the match that was developing, and making a bad pass or holding up play whenever he touched the ball. Frank Lampard coming on for John Obi Mikel made things worse: His attacking abilities weren’t needed – Chelsea needed strength and order, which is something Lampard no longer brings to the table. Assaidi’s winner was something that was simply bound to happen with Chelsea finding it so difficult to somehow get back into the match.
Despite conceding six goals in two consecutive matches, Chelsea are not that far away from the top. However, the string of bad results that has been plucking away at Mourinho’s charm and arrogance since the beginning of the season can’t go unnoticed – still an unbalanced squad despite the millions spent, and quite a few bad decisions regarding lineups and replacements made by the manager who doesn’t like to be questioned. If it was a three-named manager or the “Spanish Waiter” on the sidelines, reporters and fans would have been calling for his head.