5 Areas Jose Mourinho Needs to Target at Chelsea During the International Break
For some it's an arduous time—the international break is here and club football is shelved for the next two weeks while countries across the globe look to negotiate safe passage to Brazil 2014 or, for those already qualified, kick-start their preparations.
Club training pitches can resemble a barren landscape, with many stars off jet-setting with their countries. Jose Mourinho, for one, is a manger who is not overly fond of the midseason break given over half his squad are now unavailable.
"I didn't like the period," he said last month, referring to the October international break, as per the Daily Mail. "Four players to train. For the kids it is nice. But from the team perspective it is bad.
"You are playing well, you win some matches consecutively, you want to win again but the players disappear. They go to China, they go to Africa, they play important matches for qualification."
Mourinho makes a valid point from his perspective. Although Chelsea defeated Cardiff City after the previous break, in September they lost out to Everton and Basel in the aftermath of the international window.
The Portuguese will be relieved he has until February before the next round of matches comes around. Although, while his players are away, there is much to work on at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea currently sit four points behind league leaders Arsenal and their form of late hasn't been convincing.
After winning every game in October, they are without a Premier League victory in November and need a return to winning ways to get them back on track when they travel to Upton Park to face West Ham United on Nov. 23.
Bleacher Report looks at some key areas Mourinho can target over the next fortnight.
1. Decide on His Preferred Centre-Backs
What is Chelsea's preferred defensive partnership this season? Is it a John Terry-Gary Cahill combination? A Terry-David Luiz double act or Cahill and the Brazilian?
We simply don't know, but more importantly, does Jose Mourinho?
Chelsea's defensive performances haven't raised enough concerns just yet to suggest they will prove the Blues' downfall, but the rotation of his defenders isn't helping the Blues' cause right now.
There is too much indecision across the pitch with players coming in and out every week, unable to create a feeling of continuity.
A centre-back partnership forms the basis of any team's spine and Chelsea need theirs in place.
By the time the Blues get back to action against West Ham United, December will almost be upon us. The Premier League season is already a quarter of the way through and it's about time the Chelsea manager makes a decision and sticks with it.
2. Get Fernando Torres Fit Again
Before he suffered a leg injury in training last week—expected to rule him out for two weeks, as per BBC Sport—Fernando Torres was beginning to hit his best form in the three years he has been at Chelsea.
The Spaniard was looking sharp, he was proving a menace for defences once more and, above all else, was back scoring.
His injury would have been a blow to Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, especially given how light Chelsea are in the striker department.
Samuel Eto'o has scored three goals in his last two games, which is encouraging, but a fit-again Torres will make Chelsea even stronger.
Mourinho may loathe the international break (refer to my intro slide), but the next fortnight will be helpful in getting Torres fit and ready for action once again.
The Blues are hitting a vital part of the campaign and they will need every one of their players to get through it successfully.
3. Find a Solution to the Ongoing Problems with Juan Mata
He may be away with the Spanish national team right now, but it doesn't mean Jose Mourinho cannot assess the ongoing situation with Juan Mata and how he will fit into his Chelsea team.
Mata has been named Chelsea's Player of the Year twice in succession for good reason. Put simply, he's their best player.
Without him playing consistently, Chelsea lack the threat and dynamism he brings. The Spaniard is too good not to feature on a regular basis, and Mourinho should use his midseason down time to reflect on what can be changed.
Mata has much to do himself, of course, adapting to the manager's ideals and philosophy. But if Mourinho can speed things up in the coming fortnight with a few amendments to his method, it could mean both he and Mata are better off.
4. Eradicate Chelsea's Tendency to Let Teams Back into Matches After 60 Minutes
There's a worrying trend forming at present. Including Chelsea's victory over Norwich City on the first weekend of October, the Blues have conceded seven goals in five matches.
For a manager who prides himself on defensive solidity and keeping clean sheets, that will be a concern for Jose Mourinho. Of bigger concern will be that five of those seven goals have come in the final 30 minutes of matches.
Against Norwich, Chelsea were leading only for the Canaries to equalize on 68 minutes before breakaway goals from Eden Hazard and Willian saved the Blues their blushes.
At St. James' Park, having dominated possession, Chelsea conceded to Yoan Gouffran, again on 68 minutes, before Loic Remy finished them off in the 89th, while this weekend saw Chelsea concede goals against West Bromwich Albion in the 60th and 68th minute.
It suggests the Blues are struggling to close out games, whether it be to secure a draw or victory.
They got out of jail with a last-ditch penalty against the Baggies on Saturday, but the referee's whistle isn't always going to come to their rescue.
Chelsea need to be more controlled and reduce their opponent's opportunities. Instead, the final third of matches seems to be when they are most vulnerable. Teams will sense they can start getting more from the Blues whenever they face them if the problem isn't sorted soon.
5. Enjoy Being Away from the Media Spotlight
It can be a hard life being a football manager, even if you are Jose Mourinho and earn millions of pounds a year.
If the international break serves for anything, giving Mourinho a break from his duties with the media will be one major positive.
Just as much as he enjoys playing his games with the press pack, it's clear it can equally frustrate the Portuguese.
In recent weeks, with his team's performances dipping, Mourinho has had the look of a man frustrated with fielding constant questions as to why certain players are not in his line-up, or why things may not have gone his way on the pitch.
The focus for the next fortnight will not be on him. It will be on the success and failures of the managers trying to reach the World Cup in Brazil, which means the Chelsea boss can get back to focusing on what he does best—being manager at Stamford Bridge.
He'll be at Chelsea's Cobham training ground every day, no doubt, but this period will feel like a holiday, and he should relish it.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes.
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