Handling a deep squad shouldn’t be something Jose Mourinho struggles to do, but it seems that either the November curse that always strikes Chelsea or simply the Portuguese manager still not having a full grasp of what’s going on right under his nose is costing his team points both in Europe and in the Premier League, plenty of times due to his own mistakes and sometimes prejudice against certain players.
Mourinho liked the way his team played against West Ham so much he decided to use almost the same lineup, making one change. He brought on Willian for Eden Hazard, switching to a three-man midfield, and gave the reigns to Frank Lampard. As the end result of 1-0 and the entire ability throughout the match, taking only two shots at goal showed, Mourinho made quite a few mistakes with his selection.
Cesar Azpilicueta on the left wing? It might be working once in a while as some sort of gimmick, but this isn’t a solution to attacking problems down that wing or in attempting to find playing time for the Spaniard. He struggled moving forward, barely making an impact on Chelsea’s non-existing attacking game in the loss to Basel. Branislav Ivanovic was much better on the right wing, which is also Azpilicueta’s natural habitat.
But back to Hazard, a 22-year old who has played 90 minutes just twice in the past month. Surely, he wasn’t the one needing rest, right? Frank Lampard, 35 and slipping fast, has played the sixth-most league minutes for Chelsea this season. Samuel Eto’o is 32 with plenty of mileage on his body, but he got the consecutive starts and pulled a hamstring before half time. Oscar and Ramires aren’t old, but both started against West Ham and played friendlies in Honduras and Brazil the week before. John Terry, also in his 30’s, has played every minute of every game in the Premier League while starting four of five Champions League games without ever being substituted.
Why wasn’t Demba Ba used? What about the fantastic Andre Schurrle? What about Juan Mata? Ashley Cole? Ryan Bertrand? Mourinho has complained to the press this season that he’s always asked about the players that aren’t playing, not those who are. Fair objection, but all this resentment wouldn’t be coming if Chelsea wouldn’t have shown so few dominant displays. November was a month with only 7 points from 5 matches, and even in the wins, except for the one over West Ham, the team hasn’t looked very dominant. The Schalke drubbing was more a case of luck and chance than a cracking display of brilliance.
Mourinho admitted he made mistakes in his selections, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do this again. His disdain for David Luiz and Juan Mata were not made up – the summer talk of him trying to sell the players (just not to Barcelona) weren’t made up as we see from his attempt to use them as little as possible. It still gives him quite a wide variety of players to choose from, only he’s making the wrong selections time after time.