Jose Mourinho Is Right to Back Chelsea Strikers, but It's Time to Justify Faith

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2013

COBHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Manager Jose Mourinho talks to the media during the Chelsea FC Training press conference ahead of tomorrow's UEFA Champions League match against FC Steaua Bucuresti on December 10, 2013 in Cobham, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Jose Mourinho was quizzed on many things during his pre-Steaua Bucharest press conference on Tuesday.

Who does he think are favourites to win the Champions League? Now Chelsea are through the group stages, can they repeat their 2012 success? Is his team really in trouble?

He responded to the latter in typical fashion, quipping: "If we are in trouble, there are 17 teams in more trouble than us [in the Premier League]."

Above all else, though, it was the Chelsea manager's apparent criticism of his strikers at the weekend that was top of the agenda.

After the Blues crashed to a 3-2 defeat against Stoke City, Mourinho lamented the lack of goals Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba have scored this season, with four being their combined return in the Premier League.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Wes Brown of Sunderland challenges for the ball with Fernando Torres of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Chelsea at Stadium of Light on December 4, 2013 in Sunderland, England.  (Ph
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

He was singing a somewhat different tune ahead of Chelsea's final group stage match in the Champions League, however.

"Three strikers is the perfect number," explained the Portuguese, again reaffirming his belief that Chelsea do not need to add a frontman in the January transfer window.

"All of them are getting minutes and matches […] They are working very well for the team, but the goals they have [scored] are not what I want or what they want.

"Their goals are not enough to make me happy. We have to want for better days to score more goals and then we can be happy."

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06:  Samuel Eto'o of Chelsea celebrates with Jose Mourinho the Chelsea manager after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Chelsea and FC Schalke 04 at Stamford Bridge on November 6, 201
Clive Rose/Getty Images

It was a rather pragmatic approach from Mourinho and demonstrates a side of his character not overly seen in public.

We often hear tales of his man-management skills, how his personality is so effective in encouraging his players to buy into the team ethic that has helped him to so much success this past decade.

We’ve seen the cocksure coach who rules the press room; the bold coach who makes double substitutions before the half-time whistle has even been blown; the coach who shows little fear in keeping stars such as Juan Mata on the sideline.

What we haven’t seen from Mourinho is this arm-around-the-shoulder style that is beginning to rear its head.

His trio of frontmen do not need to be publicly lambasted right now. They’re already receiving a good dose of criticism from the media, so the last thing they need is for their manager to be adding fuel to the fire.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01:  Despair for Paulo Gazzaniga of Southampton as Demba Ba of Chelsea (L) celebrates with Juan Mata (R) as he scores their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge o
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Playing as a striker for Chelsea—especially in a post-Didier Drogba era—comes with a heightened sense of pressure these days. Torres, Eto’o and Ba have dealt with it all before—at bigger clubs in some cases—but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant to be constantly under a microscope.

Mourinho must protect his players and create an environment that allows them to flourish. Highlighting their failures will only act on the contrary yet praising the contribution they have very clearly given this term will bring about a somewhat more positive reaction.

He hopes.

Mourinho isn't looking for excuses right now. He has the demeanour of a man searching for answers, so why look elsewhere? After all, these are players who, in the past, have shown they can cut it at the highest level.

Chelsea's predicament can only go on for so long, though. Mourinho knows that and, before long, one of his strikers at least needs to repay the faith he is showing in them. It’s a fact that is not lost on the Blues' manager, either.

"We have to kill opponents," he said, signing off on the subject. "We have to score goals."

That needs to start now.

*Quotes obtained first-hand from Jose Mourinho's press conference unless otherwise stated.

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