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Is Jose Mourinho's Rotation Policy Damaging Chelsea's Prospects This Season?

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
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

It's no secret Chelsea have problems right now.

Jose Mourinho has acknowledged that much, publicly lamenting a lack of goals and killer instinct in his attackers, while the Blues are leaking them at the other end of the pitch.

There are clearly areas that require improvement, but what should be a concern for Chelsea fans is the manager's failure to settle on his preferred starting line-up.

Mourinho seems to have found his first-choice defensive combination of Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta, yet outside of that, things are far from definite.

He is rotating Chelsea's defensive and attacking midfielders regularly, not starting the same trio behind the striker in successive matches since mid-October when the Blues defeated Schalke and Manchester City.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Dejected Chelsea players Demba Ba, Samuel Eto'o and John Terry react after conceding a third goal  during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on December 7, 2013 in
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Back then, it was Andre Schurrle, Oscar and Eden Hazard who were given the nod, however, Mourinho still appears undecided as to who he will choose regularly in such a vital position.

Further forward, it really is anyone's guess as to who the main striker is at Stamford Bridge. When it seems to be Fernando Torres, the Spaniard is dropped for Samuel Eto'o, who in turn has his position taken from him seemingly on a whim.

Admittedly, injuries and suspensions have forced Mourinho's hand at times when it comes to his front men, although when they have all have been fit and ready for selection, he has maintained his rotation policy.

It's an approach in stark contrast to when he first arrived in England in 2004.

Back then, his starting line-up was all but guaranteed, based around a spine of Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, with Arjen Robben and Damien Duff in the wider attacking positions of a 4-3-3.

LONDON - MAY 7:  (L-R) Arjen Robben and Damien Duff celebrate in front of the ecstatic fans after receiving the Barclays Premiership Trophy at Stamford Bridge on May 7, 2005 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chelsea were irresistible.

Regardless of the number of games they played, or their frequency, it was a given those players would all feature. But now, the Blues are missing the spine in which to build the team around.

Approaching the half-way mark of the Premier League campaign, Mourinho's team should have been taking shape, with players making themselves indispensable. It's rather the opposite, with Mourinho appearing unable to make a decision and stick with it.

Is it any wonder the Blues are so inconsistent? From dazzling one week, they are suffering defeat to the league's bottom team Sunderland, who dumped them out of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.

Sure, cup football will always throw up an upset or two along the way, but Chelsea dominated the Black Cats and still couldn't do enough to win.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17:  Lee Cattermole of Sunderland tackles Willian of Chelsea during the Capital One Cup Quarter-Final match between Sunderland and Chelsea  at Stadium of Light on December 17, 2013 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Jan Krug
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

They looked disjointed going forward, lacking the cohesion expected from a well-drilled outfit.

There is a lack of understanding among the players that will only be put right by Mourinho settling on his preferred XI.

Chelsea's season has been a frustrating, stop-start affair up to now. When it seems things are clicking into place and they are going to hit devastating form, a surprise defeat takes the wind from their sails.

All around them, their rivals are beginning to look stronger and settled.

Manuel Pellegrini is getting the best out of his Manchester City team, while Arsene Wenger's Arsenal are putting together their strongest title challenge in years.

Both those clubs have benefited from varying levels of managerial stability—Wenger being Arsenal's boss since 1996, while Pellegrini inherited a City team built by Roberto Mancini's four years in charge at the Etihad.

Chelsea's managerial merry-go-round hasn't helped Mourinho's cause, but neither has his insistence on chopping and changing his team this term.

If Chelsea are to achieve anything in 2013-14, they need to be settled, and right now they are anything but.

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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