There’s nothing new about Jose Mourinho loving to use massive rotations in his lineup. There is a hierarchy in his attacking midfield unit that gives preference to Eden Hazard and Oscar, but the rest keeps changing according to his mood and opponent. Despite probably being the best manager in the league, he makes mistakes as well, and maybe too many of them so far, when making his choices for the first XI.
Success at Newcastle never really came to Mourinho, but Chelsea were riding high on waves of league, European and Cup wins as they headed into St. James’ Park. Newcastle might not get to battle against relegation this season, but Alan Pardew has a limited, narrow squad with plenty of problems above them coming from Mike Ashley’s weird way of running things.
But instead of using wide and brave players, Mourinho almost forfeited his midfield presence by using Frank Lampard, who becomes more of a liability by the day, and using no wingers in the trio playing behind Fernando Torres in order to force Newcastle and shape out of their tactical beginnings.
It’s not that Chelsea didn’t create chances in the first half, but like their manager later said, the team wasn’t adamant enough about playing forward, instead going side to side and not using the space given to them by Newcastle players. In the second half, the entrance of Vurnon Anita to play alongside Moussa Sissoko created a lot of problems for Chelsea, who lost the midfield, and decided to skip over it by long balls from David Luiz. The moment that started to happen, Chelsea lost their chances of winning back domination and possession.
There’s a deep squad for Mourinho to mess around with, but this isn’t the first time in this season he’s made these mistakes. Andre Schurrle has proved more than once he deserves a place in the starting lineup, especially in a match where a true winger could have made a lot more of a difference. Juan Mata and Oscar both failed to push the team forward, not to mention Frank Lampard, lost between a sea of Newcastle defenders in yet another weak match for the overrated England international.
The introduction of Willian and Schurrle gave Eden Hazard more reliable partners who attacked their defenders constantly. It didn’t produce goals, but it did give Chelsea chances in the second half, both of them coming far too late to change the turn of the tide, which was keeping the points with the home side.
It was a match that showed Jose Mourinho can’t always fix it with his substitutions and tactical-read of what’s happening on the pitch, especially when he makes too many prejudice mistakes when he picks his lineup. Fans might call for Juan Mata to be in the lineup, but even he isn’t immune to bad days, which seem to be happening more and more under the guidance of a manager who clearly prefers other players in his spot.
For now, this keeps Chelsea more than just a touching distance from the league leaders, and calms down all the excited talk about the best team in the Premier League, which apparently got a bit lucky in some of their wins, especially against Manchester City instead of reaching that dominant level everyone expects from them.