5 Issues Jose Mourinho Must Resolve at Chelsea

Jonathan Wilson@@jonawilsFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

5 Issues Jose Mourinho Must Resolve at Chelsea

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    The return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea last year was greeted with acclaim by Stamford Bridge supporters across the land.

    But Mourinho's first season back in charge of the Stamford Bridge club looks set to end without silverware, unless both Liverpool and Manchester City stage dramatic collapses in the Premier League.

    Chelsea saw their hopes of the title undermined by the recent home defeat to Sunderland, while the 0-0 draw with Norwich City on Sunday further dented any lingering championship dreams.

    The Blues also crashed out of the Champions League to Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals last week.

    So how does Mourinho rectify his team for next season?

    Here are five issues the Chelsea manager must resolve ahead of the new campaign.

The Centre-Forward

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    Mourinho has made little secret of his frustration at his centre-forwards this season, as BBC Sport reported.

    And, while Samuel Eto’o has contributed some notable goals, and Demba Ba has proved a useful, physical presence in the last month, it would be no great surprise if all three of Chelsea’s strikers leave the club.

    It’s surely significant that the only teams to take points off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this season have been Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United and Norwich City: The lesson has been sit deep against Chelsea and defend diligently.

    Chelsea don’t have the sort of firepower to overwhelm teams, and they lack the sort of centre-forward who, with a moment of skill or strength, can conjure up and then take a half-chance.


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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    When Juan Mata was sold to Manchester United, the feeling was that Mourinho had let him go because he saw Oscar as the club’s No. 10. 

    Given that Mourinho’s sides tend not to operate with a true 10, it was a slightly misleading statement, but the sense was clear: It was Oscar he envisaged operating as the central player behind the striker.

    Yet in recent weeks, Oscar has featured less and less frequently; he hasn’t actually completed a match since the 3-0 win over Newcastle on Feb. 8.

    Mourinho has hinted that Oscar’s mind has been on the World Cup with Brazil, as Sky Sports reported, which, if true, and if the Chelsea boss is angered by that, could mean a transfer.

    Then again, Oscar has appeared in 63 matches for club and country in the last 12 months, and fatigue is understandable.

The Focus on Counterattack

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    Chelsea are one of the finest counterattacking teams not only in the Premier League but also in Europe.

    When the opposition takes the game to them, they are highly adept at absorbing pressure and springing
    forward, using the pace and drive of their line of three creators (permed from Eden Hazard, Willian, Andre Schurrle and Oscar) for extremely rapid transitions.

    They have been so effective at that facet of the game that Chelsea have won their last seven matches against fellow members of the top seven.

    Against massed defences, though, such as Norwich on Sunday, there can be a lack of guile, and it’s not clear that the addition of a top-class centre-forward alone will change that.

Petr Cech or Thibaut Courtois?

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    Petr Cech was named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2014, but Thibaut Courtois has been in excellent form for two years at Atletico Madrid and made a key save from John Terry in the Champions League semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge.

    Chelsea have three options here. They could stick with Cech and send the 21-year-old Courtois on loan again—to Atletico or another club—or they could bring back Courtois and sell Cech, reasoning that, at 31, he is of an age at which decline could soon begin to set in but still has significant market value.

    Or, thirdly, they could bring back Courtois and let him fight it out with Cech to be No. 1.

    But there is a risk to all three decisions. Would Courtois accept being loaned again? What if he lost form in the more physical world of the Premier League? What if the competition between them undermined confidence and morale?

    There is no clear right answer.

Eden Hazard

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    Hazard’s performance in the 4-3 win over Sunderland in December was exceptional; he was influential against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge later that month and scored a hat-trick against Newcastle in February.

    There have been some clear highs, and for a time, it seemed like the Belgium international might be player of the year.

    Like many of the forwards, though, he seems to have lost his way of late, and Mourinho was clearly
    angered by the way he lost Juanfran for Atletico’s equaliser in the Champions League semi-final last week.

    Hazard came off the bench and improved a drab performance against Norwich on Sunday, but with Mourinho brooding and Paris Saint-Germain sniffing, as Charles Perrin of The Express reported, his future at Stamford Bridge isn’t as clear as it appeared three months ago.