Swindon 0-2 Chelsea: 6 Things We Learned
With recent results and performances lacking the "special" touch that he claims to provide his teams with, Jose Mourinho could have been forgiven for fielding a strong team against Swindon in the League Cup third-round clash.
However, the Portuguese tactician kept faith in his "young eggs" and sent out a youthful team as a result, with Marco van Ginkel and Kevin De Bruyne both starting and academy product Lewis Baker's inclusion on the bench.
But the limelight was firmly placed on key duo David Luiz and Juan Mata, who were left out of the squad completely for the 2-0 win over Fulham after poor displays against Basel. Mourinho opted to start the pair, and consequently, they were the centre of attention as the Blues headed into what could have been a major upset.
In the end, it was a comfortable victory for Mourinho's men. It did come at a price, with both Van Ginkel and Ramires needing to be substituted after suffering injuries in the first half, but the victory will give the West London club a massive boost ahead of the crunch clash with Tottenham.
Here, we evaluate some aspects that we can take from the game after Chelsea's routine win.
Fernando Torres should be first-choice striker
Even with the attention firmly placed on Mata's selection, it was almost a blessing in disguise as Fernando Torres was, for once, out of the spotlight. With Samuel Eto'o picked in the last three games as the lone striker, Torres required a big performance to show Mourinho he has another option in attack.
And the Spaniard did not disappoint, stealing the headlines with arguably one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt since his arrival from Liverpool two-and-a-half years ago.
The 29-year-old really stepped up to the mark on Tuesday night, scoring one and setting up the other as well as putting in a great all-round performance. Mentality is a key part of a striker's game, and after missing a glorious chance to open the scoring, Torres recovered magnificently.
Mata was sent through on goal but saw his effort saved by Wes Foderingham, but Torres chased the ball before it went out of play and tapped home, highlighting the hunger and determination to get on the scoresheet. His assist, though, was simply stunning, performing a superb turn and beating three men before threading through to Ramires, who showed great composure to prod home from close range.
He continued to cause problems for the Swindon back four, and almost scored a brilliant second after breaking through, twisting and turning before rounding Foderingham, but he couldn't find the finish. Nevertheless, Mourinho will have been ecstatic with his display and will have something to ponder before Saturday's London derby.
Mourinho's "row" with Mata has paid dividends
It's unlikely that Mourinho ever meant for Mata to become frustrated with the lack of first-team action at Chelsea, but unlike his row with Iker Casillas, his plan has been successful.
By starving the playmaker of regular football, Mourinho has essentially made the 25-year-old work harder on the training ground and, when given the chance, on the pitch. It certainly showed against Swindon, with Mata showing glimpses of his old, happier self.
Additionally, his link-up with Torres looked to be a dangerous option for Mourinho to explore. On several occasions, the pair were exchanging passes and appeared to understand the manner in which each other play; a stark contrast to Mata and the other strikers.
The Spaniard may have lacked the same level of fitness that the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard have shown in previous games, but there's no need to worry. Match fitness comes with more games, and there's no doubt that Mata will play regularly this season.
David Luiz and Gary Cahill do not work well together
One would have thought Mourinho may have learned his lesson after the disastrous defending that was on show when David Luiz and Gary Cahill lined up alongside each other at centre-half against Basel.
Apparently not, as the Portuguese coach placed his faith in the duo to keep out the likes of Danny N'Guessan and Nile Ranger. That they did, but there were some worrying signs.
Both like to attempt to win the ball in areas high up the pitch, thus leaving space in behind them for the opposition to exploit. This may have gone unnoticed tonight because Swindon failed to make the runs in behind the defence, but against stronger opposition, this would be an issue for Mourinho.
A worrying factor about this partnership is that while they are confident on the ball, there is a sense of arrogance, with both Cahill and Luiz guilty of losing possession in dangerous areas as a result of attempting tricks in compromising areas. They got away with it this time around, but Mourinho may be wary of risking it happening again.
Swindon played to win, not to defend
Credit must go to Mark Cooper, who encouraged his men to play some excellent football and pose a few problems to Chelsea before conceding two quick-fire goals.
The intensity was perhaps too high for the League One outfit to deal with, but they gave the likes of Michael Essien and Ramires some things to think about as Massimo Luongo and Co. pressed forward in midfield.
Alex Pritchard, on loan from Spurs, was operating in a free role and was certainly enjoying it, playing some neat, intricate passes. He was unfortunate to see his free-kick saved by Mark Schwarzer.
They may have lost 2-0 and, as a consequence, witnessed their cup run end in disappointing fashion, but Swindon should not be disheartened and must be proud of their performance Tuesday night.
Willian needs to adapt
Perhaps after playing in leagues of the standard of Russia and Ukraine, Willian is used to playing against teams who aren't quite as gifted as some English or European sides.
Certainly, while he flourished at both Anzhi Makhachkala and Shakhtar Donetsk, the 24-year-old needs time to settle into his new surroundings. Learning the language is a must, because when Torres was free in the box against Swindon, Willian decided to shoot. Whether that was a lack of understanding or general confidence in his ability, he should have passed.
The English game resides more around team spirit and togetherness as opposed to individual ability. Needless to say, the Brazilian is an extremely gifted footballer, but perhaps Mourinho needs to ease him into the way Chelsea like to play.
That said, there were glimpses of what he could do, and he was perhaps unlucky not to have got on the scoresheet. The quality is there for everybody to see, but it may take a while for the Blues to start reaping the rewards from their £30 million signing.
Chelsea can cope without the "spine"
No Petr Cech. No John Terry. No Frank Lampard. Yet, Chelsea strolled to a 2-0 victory over Swindon on Tuesday evening. To say it was comfortable would be disrespectful to the League One side, as they did cause problems at times.
But without the key trio, the Blues looked at home. Of course, Terry did come on, but only when required after injuries to Van Ginkel and Ramires. Even at that point, Chelsea had the elusive two-goal cushion.
Mark Schwarzer was solid enough in goal and showed how having a backup goalkeeper with his level of quality is reassuring for the manager should Cech ever get injured. Terry's absence was more than made up for by Luiz and Cahill, while Lampard's absence was hardly missed after Essien's solid performance.
What was once called the "spine" of Chelsea was taken apart and rebuilt by an exuberant young side who were determined to progress to the next round. They will be back for the Tottenham game, but Mourinho will be quietly impressed with the way his side coped without them.
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