Midfielders to the rescue as Chelsea’s strikers fail to inspire
Mourinho still has much to address despite victory over Fulham
Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel scores the winner.
Chelsea 2 Fulham 0: José Mourinho described it as “fair doping”, that satisfied glow after a victory that apparently makes players more receptive to new ideas or strategies.
The performance in a derby success over Fulham may not have taken the breath away, but the after effects should be beneficial as the management seek to shape this squad’s style. After the handball and volleyball sessions enjoyed last Friday, a breather after successive defeats and a depressing few days, now the hard work resumes.
The Portuguese saw his team top the table on Saturday night but still has much to address. The peripheral role afforded Juan Mata has drawn the focus, the Spaniard to start at Swindon tomorrow night in the League One Cup to demonstrate he can play as much of a part regaining lost possession as picking apart opponents with the ball.
Mourinho will hope the player’s performance demands greater future involvement, the onus on Mata to adapt, yet the 25-year-old is not alone in needing to convince. Even against League One opposition, Chelsea’s forwards must make a mark.
Lukaku loan mysterious
While Romelu Lukaku, loaned to Everton, was buffeting and ultimately deflating West Ham at the other end of the District Line on Saturday, his parent club were still awaiting evidence that the strikers that remain at Mourinho’s disposal can thrive.
Fernando Torres’s opener in the Uefa Super Cup against Bayern Munich represents their only goal to date this term, the slack having been taken up by those in midfield with the frontline so gummy.
Oscar and Mikel John Obi, the latter for the first time in 12,862 minutes at club level, were Chelsea’s scorers here with Demba Ba not involved, Torres summoning one flicked header in his own cameo, and Samuel Eto’o prodding his only sight of goal high and wide.
At some stage the trio will have to provide some bite if Chelsea, even bolstered by their talent in midfield, are to maintain a title challenge.
“The only way is to work,” said Mourinho. “With Samuel it is, for me, understandable. When you are on the top of the world for almost 10 years and then you go to a different reality – we know he went [to Anzhi Makhachkala] for economic reasons – footballistically it is not a challenge for a player who has played all his life for Barcelona, Inter Milan and in the Champions League. I knew his level would go down but, for me, he is a very good player. When he has the ball at his feet it is easy to see the player he is. He is lacking sharpness but that is normal.”
He added: “Fernando is the opposite situation. Physically he is in a very good moment . . . He had a fantastic header that would make a wonderful goal and the goalkeeper made a great save.
“So also a little bit of luck plays a role. I don’t think he’s short on confidence. I’m happy with Fernando. In the last game (against Basel)I left him out of selection and his reaction was positive: to come on for the last 30 minutes and play hard and seriously. I’m happy with him and he has my trust . . . I believe in Fernando.”
Torres may join his compatriots Mata and Cesar Azpilicueta in starting at the County Ground and would do well to find his touch in front of goal before Eto’o, at 32, adjusts to a more upbeat rhythm.