This isn’t the Chelsea team Jose Mourinho had during his first Premier League tenure, so he has to play to the current strengths. Not the defense, which is a mess right now no matter who is playing in it, but the attacking midfield and especially Eden Hazard, the team’s best player that should have more nights of dominant football like his most recent performance, finishing with two goals and an assist.
Chelsea came out of a tough fixture at Sunderland with a 4-3 win despite conceding first. Unlike many other wins this season, Mourinho didn’t need to make any key substitutions in order to get the win. His defense made enough of a mess of things on a couple of occasions, but Eden Hazard with some individual brilliant and Frank Lampard in one of his better matches in a position he hardly fits in were enough to keep the team at a safe four point distance from Arsenal.
What will be with the defense? Mourinho was never a big fan of high scoring matches, even if they go in his favor. A 1-0, 2-0, is much closer to his point of view on the sport, but when you play a right back out of position and put on a comical duo of Gary Cahill and John Terry in the middle defense, it’s hard not to expect some matches with plenty of goals ending up in your net. Petr Cech might be keeping Thibaut Courtois from returning, but he’s not the goalkeeper he used to be.
It doesn’t come down to an incredible tactical performance or team play. Chelsea did have possession but they didn’t really shut down Sunderland, who weren’t planning on moving the ball patiently and in an organized fashion anyway. It was quite a chaotic match, in which talent prevailed. Luckily for Chelsea, that is something they have in quantities, which makes them quite the anti thesis to what Mourinho football stands for. He might love his teams organized and disciplined, but the best chance for Chelsea to do well this season comes when there’s a lot of mayhem on the pitch.
Eden Hazard has been talked about as the most talented young European player for quite some time, but there’s often this feeling that he gets sucked into tactical roles a bit too much instead of being positioned in a way that allows his creativity, dribbling skills and scoring to come out. Mourinho didn’t really change his spot on the pitch against Sunderland, so it’s safer to say inspiration landed on the young Belgian player, finishing with two goals and an assist.
What’s next? No striker Mourinho can trust, he keeps putting his faith in Hazard, Oscar (who didn’t play) and Willian. Juan Mata and Andre Schurrle? Only if he has no choice, even though the German winger has played very well every time Mourinho has given him the chance to play more than a cameo role. However, not fully committing to a more adventurous type of play will only be going against the nature of this team, and probably result in a disappointing ending to the season.