Chelsea Tactics Guide: What to Expect from Jose Mourinho This Season?

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Chelsea Tactics Guide: What to Expect from Jose Mourinho This Season?
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Chelsea won their first match of the new Jose Mourinho era on Wednesday, taking down Singha XI 1-0 in Asia.

With a mixed starting XI and a host of mid-game changes, it remains difficult to put your finger on what the Blues' new coach has in mind from a tactical perspective.

Here, we ask the most pertinent questions ahead of the 2013-14 season, pondering how the team will line up and who the key players will be.

 

Transfer Unknowns

Chelsea haven't exactly set the world alight with their transfer business so far, bringing in only one big-name player alongside a backup and a prospect.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Andre Schuerrle has joined for a cool £20 million fee and is expected to feature heavily, but Marco van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer will play less significant roles.

According to The Manchester Evening News, Mourinho has only a single striking target in mind: Wayne Rooney. Fernando Torres may be asked to move on should Rooney join, but The Daily Mail believe the Spaniard will sit tight.

The Metro are running quotes from Bruma's agent, suggesting Chelsea are close to sealing a £17 million deal for the winger. If true, how does yet another advanced midfielder fit in at the club?

Kevin De Bruyne has returned from a successful loan spell, and fans want to see him given a chance.

 

What's the Formation?

Mourinho ran a 4-2-3-1 formation at both Internazionale and Real Madrid.

He's widely expected to run the same system at Stamford Bridge the second time around, and the 1-0 victory over Singha XI lent weight to that suggestion.

Michael Essien lined up alongside Ramires in the pivot, Schuerrle played from the left, De Bruyne the right and Lucas Piazon as a No. 10 behind Romelu Lukaku.

It's a remarkably similar outlook to the type of side he crafted with los Blancos, utilising an all-round striker, an inside forward from the left and a shuttler (Ramires) from midfield.

For now, suggestions of a 4-3-3 formation akin to the one used in 2004 can be put to one side.

 

Pairings, Pairings

It's rare to see so many question marks over the starting XI of a side of Chelsea's calibre.

In the 4-2-3-1 formation, there are three different first-choice pairings that Mourinho must decide on, and we're unlikely to learn who's been picked until the opening day of the season against Hull City.

In midfield, even Frank Lampard is no longer assured a start: Will he line up alongside the dynamic Ramires, will John Obi Mikel be around to fight for a place or will Mou restore his beloved Essien to a starting berth?

In defence, who starts? According to the BBC's Phil McNulty, John Terry will retain the captain's armband so long as he's on the field, but no assurances were given as to whether he'd be a regular selection.

David Luiz's impressive 2013 Confederations Cup showings surely see him into starting consideration, while Branislav Ivanovic has always been a safe, reliable bet. Gary Cahill could be fourth choice, while the returning Tomas Kalas' first-team chances seem bleak.

The "Mazacar" trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar looks certain to broken up—at least on occasion. The trio racked up a combined 126 starts last season alone, and that workload is certain to be reduced given the introduction of Schuerrle.

You don't sign a German international for £20 million to sit him on the bench, and many expect Oscar's playing time to be the one reduced to accommodate the new man.

Mata's link to Barcelona can be dismissed—it conveniently comes at the time of a presidential re-election—and he will be expected to fulfill the No. 10 role as often as possible. Either side of him, Hazard and Schuerrle flying forward at pace would be some sight.

 

A Workhorse Striker

As per The Manchester Evening NewsMourinho is going "Rooney or bust"—either he lands the Manchester United striker, or he signs no one else for the forward role.

It would take a special player to usurp Lukaku given his exponential growth and impressive form, and Rooney certainly fits the bill.

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Mourinho loves a workhorse striker, someone who can put the team on his back and carry them up the field. Diego Milito and Didier Drogba have flourished in this role, while Karim Benzema became a well-rounded player under the Portuguese's tutelage.

Lukaku looks the perfect foil to continue this work, but Torres could struggle; If you don't fit the striker bill you tend to regress under Mou, as evidenced by Gonzalo Higuain's decline.

It's a sign of faith in Lukaku that, should an absolutely world-class, top-notch player not be acquired, he looks set to lead the Blues' line.

 

Looking Forward

Preseason will teach us very little, unless Mou strays away from the 4-2-3-1 formation for the rest of the warm-up games.

But the early signs are positive, with immense squad depth and competition for places ensuring Chelsea go into the 2013-14 season as EPL title favourites.

Lukaku will start, it seems, unless the blockbuster Rooney transfer comes off. A wealth of midfield options and centre-back competition can only lead to high-calibre performances, while Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta remain reliable, assured options in their respective positions.

 

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