With such a deep squad, especially at the attacking midfielder position, the League Cup isn’t an opportunity only to get minutes, but also to prove you deserve a spot in more important competitions as well. Juan Mata has become the scapegoat for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho this season when things aren’t working well, but when he does get 90 minutes to play, regardless of the rival, he usually proves he deserves more than he’s getting so far.
Chelsea got a 2-0 win over Arsenal that probably serves more as a morale victory considering the gunners used five first-team players in their attempt to break the dominance Jose Mourinho has over Arsene Wenger, but obviously, moving one step forward in the competition doesn’t hurt. Actually playing better than a top rival is also something we haven’t seen from Chelsea this season, even in their win over Manchester City, while someone like Cesar Azpilicueta made a case for more time in the starting lineup.
In the end, the lineup Chelsea could use on the pitch and consider it a second-string one would have probably finished in the top 4 of any other league in Europe. Not just Mata and Azpilicueta, but also Samuel Eto’o up front with Willian and Kevin de Bruyne next to Mata in the midfield. David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel might not be first choice at the moment, but it’s hard to find teams with such a quality selection of replacement anywhere in Europe.
The psychological factor is still in play, even if it wasn’t the strongest teams used. Wenger played more cards he usually does during league matches and still managed the weaker side for all of the 90 minutes. Except for a few dazzling moments from Santi Cazorla, the Arsenal midfield wasn’t up to par with the pace and quality Chelsea displayed on the pitch, showing further proof that Jose Mourinho is on the right path when it comes to bringing back Chelsea to the top of the Premier League this season.
If there’s anything this match proves to Chelsea is that Mourinho has now 22 players he can trust when it comes to matches that matter more, and just his favorite 11, which he has more and more narrowed done over the last two months, finding it less and less necessary to make changes in. The annoying decisions that seemed weird and petty early on seem to make more and more sense as the season moves along.
There’s still a wide gulf for Chelsea before they reach the level of dominance Mourinho expects from them. But they haven’t lost a match to a big club yet, even if they haven’t looked their best in the draw with Manchester United or the win over Manchester City. It might not be the most beautiful of football used by Mourinho in order to take Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League, but it’s improving in its efficiency, and it also signaled to Arsenal that even though they are the league leaders, it won’t be that way for long after their tough stretch of matches.