Fulham vs. Chelsea: 6 Things We Learned
Chelsea went four points clear at the top of the Premier League thanks to a second-half hat trick by Andre Schurrle.
After looking off the ball in the first half, Blues coasted to three points against the side propping up the table.
But what did we learn from The Blues' return to Premier League action?
Andre Schurrle Could Be the Best No. 9 Chelsea Have
After a shocker of a first half, Jose Mourinho switched the German from provider to receiver.
Three goals in 16 second-half minutes saw him walk away with the most lethal record of any Blues striker this season.
But Schurrle took each goal perfectly.
It won't work against every opponent, but we may be about to see a bit more of one of Stamford Bridge's forgotten men.
Chelsea Are the Best Counter-Attacking Side in England
A few weeks back we saw it against Newcastle: from Peter Cech, via David Luiz and Eden Hazard, to the back of the next in mere seconds.
Today it was a Branislav Ivanovic throw-in that started it. To Andre Schurrle, via a fast-moving one-two with Eden Hazard, the German raced through before turning and shooting.
End to end in the blink of an eye—ruthless and efficient.
The purists may call it unattractive. But, as we have seen time and again from Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, it wins matches.
Nobody Is Better at Changing a Game Than Jose Mourinho
Most Blues probably knew it anyway, but Jose Mourinho is a tactical genius.
Today the move was to switch his front man for a winger who had been having a nightmare. But he has done it in so many different ways since his return to Chelsea.
The complaints about predecessors were legion: Rafael Benitez, Roberto Di Matteo, Andre Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti even—they made like-for-like switches that changed little.
The confidence Mourinho has to change personnel and positioning is one of the key things that sets him apart from other managers—as we saw today.
Chelsea Looked Very Leggy in the First Half
It wasn't all plain sailing for Chelsea.
It could have been the mid-week trip to Istanbul—3,000 miles for a Wednesday night game is always a shock to the system.
Though the game against Galatasaray brought more challenges than just distance: a torrid atmosphere, and a trip to one of the world's most bustling 24-hour cities.
But, if truth be told, Chelsea have looked this way for a while.
It was the case much of the match in Turkey, and certainly in the preceding league game against Everton.
With Blues out of both domestic cups, it is tricky to blame fixture congestion. So what gives?
Could it be that Jose Mourinho is right, and that his squad just doesn't have the depth it needs right now?
Chelsea Struggled When Taking Set Pieces
Before his second-half blossoming, Andre Schurrle had a set-piece nightmare in the first half at The Cottage.
A free-kick ballooned out so high and wide of the goal, it may have hit Fulham Palace Road. A corner slipped off his boot before grazing the turf short of the man on the near post.
In a side without Frank Lampard, David Luiz or Willian, Blues were mostly impotent from the dead-ball advantage.
And, against a Fulham side that was in the first half more defensively organised than for much of the season, that was a big deficit.
Fulham Are Doomed
Felix Magath has got them looking more organised and professionally set up than either of their two previous managers this season.
But it still isn't enough.
The ease with which Chelsea slotted simple yet perfect passes through their back line for Andre Schurrle will concern many Whites.
And the complete lack of an end product at the opposite extremity of the pitch seems to suggest they simply can't access the thing they need most to stay up—goals.
Felix Magath said his side needed to win six of their last 12 wins to stay up. He is rapidly running out of games.