Chelsea have officially slumped to their worst start to a season in the Roman Abramovich era. Currently sixth in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho will be looking to turn the team’s fortunes around when they welcome West London rivals Fulham to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail has reported that a meeting at Chelsea’s Cobham training complex this week made it very clear that several players’ futures are under threat as The Happy One tries to find his winning XI.
Having begun the game against FC Basel with four midfielders under the age of 22, it is clear that there is still plenty of room for development within the squad. Marco van Ginkel partnered Frank Lampard in the holding role and impressed with a 96 percent passing accuracy and two interceptions.
Van Ginkel’s positioning would make him an effective partner for Ramires, giving the Brazilian the freedom to bomb forward that Lampard enjoyed against Basel. Bringing Ramires back would also give the attack an impetus that was missing midweek, leaving Samuel Eto’o to focus on scoring.
Eto’o has not been his consistent goalscoring self in the two games he has played so far, and there are a few fans calling for him to be benched already. Mourinho however has made it very clear that all that the veteran needs is game time and sharpness, and he will likely continue with him as his leading man against Fulham.
The three players behind Eto’o will continue to pose the biggest selection problem. Oscar continued his excellent Champions League form from last season and has almost certainly cemented his place in the starting 11, while Willian’s confident debut certainly threw him into a contender spot.
Eden Hazard has continued to work hard with little reward in terms of goals and assists, and Mourinho will have learnt on Wednesday that Juan Mata is not an effective substitute. The Spanish playmaker is much better deployed from the start of the game to be withdrawn if needed, with Andre Schuerrle offering a more than adequate option from the bench.
Although Mourinho has lamented his side’s inability to score goals, the back line has exacerbated this problem by conceding too often. John Terry will almost certainly be recalled to the starting lineup at David Luiz’s expense.
Luiz is a fan favourite, and when he is having a good game is among the best players on the pitch. However, his decision-making is questionable at times, and his forward forays leave the defence needlessly exposed.
Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic have both been in good form recently, but their inability to put in an accurate cross from the wings has also caused defensive problems. If they can restrict their runs to the middle third of the pitch before releasing the wingers to continue the attack, the Blues will be more defensively secure.
Whatever 11 Mourinho starts with on Saturday, it is clear that a change in mentality is needed. It is far too early in the season to fret about Chelsea’s trophy ambitions, but a failure to win five matches on the bounce would certainly dent The Happy One’s mood.