Chelsea: Which Striker Should Be Made 1st Choice for the EPL Title Run-In?
In spite of Jose Mourinho's regular attempts to write off his side's chances of claiming the Premier League crown, Chelsea are very much in with a chance to win the title. To put things into perspective, the Blues will come out on top should they win all four of their remaining games.
One of those is at Anfield against current league leaders Liverpool. For Chelsea to realize their potential this term, they're going to need their first-choice performers available for selection.
Mourinho, the self-proclaimed Special One, has his preferred back line figured out. To an extent, the same is true for his midfield.
While he is probably sweating over the fitness of star winger Eden Hazard, who Martin Lipton of the Mirror reports will miss the game against Sunderland, his real challenge lies in picking a first-choice centre-forward for what's left of the campaign.
It's no secret Jose isn't happy with his options up front, but for now Chelsea's Portuguese gaffer has to make do with available resources.
The key question is, who is worthy of being the lone front man for the four games that will determine the destination of the league title?
Shot statistics courtesy of FourFourTwo Stats Zone.
While the Cameroon international has battled fitness issues recently, Eto'o had very much been the preferred lone frontman for Jose Mourinho prior to his hamstring injury.
Having been anything but consistent this term, Eto'o nonetheless has upped his game for matches against opposition of high caliber. The veteran striker delivered a hat-trick against Manchester United, along with important goals against Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.
With 11 strikes for the season in all competitions, the 33-year-old remains the most prolific centre-forward at the club. It's a tally he could have added to against Swansea, firing wide from close range with his first presentable opportunity while badly mistiming his run and being caught offside on another occasion.
If it hadn't been for Demba Ba's recent displays and output, Eto'o would have surely been in pole position to lead the line for the Blues' title run-in.
Even so, he's in with a strong shout for a start against Sunderland on Saturday and then a potential title-decider against Liverpool.
Taking recent developments into consideration, it would appear Demba Ba has sneaked ahead of Fernando Torres in the pecking order—with good reason, too, if I may add.
With two decisive goals in the space of a week, Ba has catapulted himself back into contention for a starting role. Having spent most of the season on the bench, he still has a tally of seven goals in all competitions, not trailing the totals recorded by Eto'o and Fernando Torres by much.
Crucially, he brings something different to the plate. Between the three strikers on Chelsea's books, only the Senegalese international can play as an out-and-out target man—an approach Mourinho has shown a liking for in the past.
Given his physical prowess, the 6'2'' Ba can be quite a handful for defenders.
His confidence is probably sky-high right now. Surely, there couldn't have been a better time for Ba to come into his element. If given the nod to start on Saturday, he will rest in the knowledge that he's very much earned it.
The present-day Fernando Torres isn't the man to fire Chelsea to a fourth Premier League title in 10 years. It's as simple as that.
Jose Mourinho seems to have recognized this at last.
With a paltry return of nine goals this term, just four of which have been scored in the league, Torres can't have any complaints about being condemned to third choice behind Eto'o and Ba. He's drawn blanks in important matches.
By contrast, both of his chief rivals have managed critical strikes in big games.
A major conundrum when it comes to Torres is his reluctance to shoot. Take, for instance, the game against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago. While the midfield shone bright, Torres failed to get in on the act. He recorded just two shots over the whole game, with one on target.
By contrast, Ba attempted five at the Liberty Stadium last weekend, two of which were on target.
It appears the battle for the starting spot is between Eto'o and Ba, given Torres' continued profligacy.