Chelseaa s loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League Round of 16 would have raised doubts in the minds of football pundits and fans alike over Mourinho’s ability to win the Champions League with Chelsea. While his Porto and Inter stints both fetched a Champions League medal each, his 3 years at Real Madrid and hitherto 5 years at Chelsea have been a dead ringer when it comes to European glory. Mourinho’s character will not let him mull over the losses and it is a given that the Portuguese manager would already be working on the reasons behind that failure. Mourinho has been a successful manager for Chelsea with 3 premier league titles, 3 League Cups, 1 FA Cup and a Community Shield in 2005 but has only reached the semi final stage of the Champions League, albeit thrice. Given Chelsea’s relative success with and without Mourinho at the helm, it is doubtful there could be a better combination to bring Europea s most prized trophy back to Stamford Bridge.
Chelseaa s 2014-15 Premier League season has been clearly demarcated into two halves – the first where Chelsea were playing attacking football overwhelming opponents, and the second, where Chelsea were defensive, conservative and often called ‘boring’ by critics. Jose Mourinho may try to spin it as masterstroke strategy but it was evidently clear that Mourinho gives precedence to the ‘ends’ over the ‘means’ used to achieve those ends. After deliberately playing down Chelseaa s chances by labeling them as ‘little horses’ in his first year back at the Club, Mourinho achieved his goal and won Chelseaa s first Premier League crown in 5 years. In Champions League as well Chelsea topped its group comfortably and bagged strong away wins like 5-0 against Schalke but then lost steam in the knock out stage. To do better in Champions League and to have any chance of winning it against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus, Mourinho would need to make changes all around in terms of transfers and squad rotation in addition to strategic changes.
Muorinho may have retained Hazard and his other stars but it is not enough
Mourinho declared he has achieved his primary target from this season’s transfer window by retaining Hazard, Costa, Fabregas and Matic but things are not as hunky dory as the Portuguese would have everyone believe.
Long standing goalkeeper Peter Cech has completed a high profile cross city move to Premier League rivals Arsenal. This has not only depleted the ranks at Chelsea but also boosted the Gunners’ title challenge. Didier Drogba is the other high profile departure from Chelsea this year bringing the count to three veterans (including Lampard) who have left the club in the space of a season. Between them, the three players have put in close to 1000 appearances for the club. Losing such key talent and so much experience can prove to be precarious but Mourinho has some great options to look forward to this transfer season.
Drogba’s departure from the club leaves the frontline depleted
Mourinho can eye Christian Benteke or Falcao (if entirely fit) as a strong replacement for Drogba. Assuming Falcao joins Chelsea, then Mourinho may have to tinker with his 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate two strikers but that looks difficult and Falcao may have to wait for his chance.
In midfield, Chelsea needs a winger and an attacking midfielder to complement Hazarda s potential down the left flank. Cuadrado has failed to live up to Mourinhoa s expectations and Oscar is finding it hard to shine and his less than spectacular performances last season have given rise to speculation that The Blues manager might sell him in the upcoming summer transfer window. The gap left by Oscara s exit may be plugged by signing Napoli’s Marek Hamsik and bringing back Bertrand Traore.
Terry and Ivanovic lead an ageing defense
In defense, Chelsea has arguably the worlda s best four but the problem is the lack of alternatives Mourinho has in case any of them gets injured. Kurt Zuoma has acquitted himself well this season but his inexperience makes him a poor choice to start regularly and could cost Chelsea dearly. Filipe Luis on the other hand doesn’t seem to have Mourinho’s confidence. So Chelseaa s strong defence may get a little shaken in case any of them gets injured. Chelsea needs an additional signing of one or two defenders and Mourinhoa s pursuit of Joao Miranda of Atletico Madrid may be the key signing this season.
Chelsea had two of the worlda s best goalkeepers, Courtois and Cech. Mourinho was reluctant to sell Cech especially to London rivals, Arsenal but the player wanted to move on. Understandably so as the goalkeeper is still far too good a player to be relegated to the bench without first team football for extended periods. Arsenal gives him the opportunity of regular first team football and the move has left Chelsea a bit short handed in the goalkeeping department. Therefore an equally good replacement will be needed and Mourinho may find a decent replacement in Asmir Begovic of Stoke City or Robert Green of QPR.
Going forward, next season, Mourinho must rotate his squad more and give rest to his key players especially before crucial European fixtures. Eden Hazard started all Premier League games of the campaign this season under Mourinho and was visibly tired by the end of the season. John Terry played every single minute of all the matches. This stress and pressure upon the players and non-rotation of the squad meant that Mourinho had to go with 5 unfit players against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and it cost him the tie. Running players ragged to the ground should not be a norm at the English champions and Mourinho will need to remedy the situation quickly.
Without adding more squad members, the quickest way to effect this change would be via team formation. Mourinho’s choice of team formation has been 4-2-3-1 in most Chelsea games. Mourinho was very successful with the 4-3-3 formation during his first tenure, as it can be used as a stable defense against strong teams that play 4-4-2, before he moved to a more attractive attacking, free flowing 4-2-3-1 formation with Inter Milan and Real Madrid, a formation that is more successful against the weaker teams. Chelsea leaked far too many goals last season with 4-2-3-1 whereas with 4-3-3 they conceded just 15 goals in the 2004-05 season. Mourinho knows and should continue to make sure that Chelsea defends well and at the same time attacks fast and efficiently on the counter.
Looking at Chelseaa s Premier League rivals, Manchester United would definitely improve with the induction of Depay and LvG would have funds to pursue other stars to plug the gaps that cost the Old Trafford outfit two seasons. Manchester City would again be the number one contender for Chelsea’s title and would be hungrier for Champions League as well having themselves failed in multiple attempts over the last few years. Arsenal may race up some challenges as well especially looking at how well they improved by the end of the last season. Sanchez is an ever increasing threat and with Cech guarding their goal and giving them an added measure of confidence, it is not unimaginable that Sanchez, Cazorla, Ozil, Wilshere and Ramsey could have a field day. Chelseaa s success would largely depend upon the induction of new talent, fitness of its key players, better squad rotation and most important a very strong desire to take on and defeat the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to win the Champions League next season.
This is a guest post written by Dr. Sanya Singh exclusively for TheHardTackle