Toiling Samuel Eto'o Highlights Chelsea's Desperate Need for a New Striker

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2014

DERBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  Jake Buxton of Derby and Samuel Eto'o of Chelsea battle for the ball during the Budweiser FA Cup Third Round match between Derby County and Chelsea at iPro Stadium on January 5, 2014 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Come the final whistle, Chelsea fans were in a celebratory mood.

"He scores when he wants, he scores when he wants, John Obi Mikel, he scores when he wants," was the song of choice echoing around Derby County's iPro Stadium after the Blues secured a 2-0 victory in the third round of the FA Cup.

It happens so rarely, it's a huge source of humor for supporters whenever Mikel scores for the Blues, although as comic as the midfielder's form in front of goal may be, the struggles of Samuel Eto'o are anything but.

Selected ahead of Fernando Torres for Chelsea's trip north against championship opposition, Sunday's outing should have been about the Cameroon striker adding to his tally for the club, taking advantage of a seemingly less able defence.

Instead it proved a case of different competition, same old problems in attack for Jose Mourinho's side, with Eto'o at the heart of the issue.

DERBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea replaces Samuel Eto'o of Chelsea during the Budweiser FA Cup Third Round match between Derby County and Chelsea at iPro Stadium on January 5, 2014 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty I
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Throughout 2013-14, his form has endured its highs and lows—looking bright and dangerous one week, spectacularly disappointing the following.

Indeed, the highs haven't exactly been the breathtaking Eto'o of old, either. And after his showing against Derby, he hit an all-time low in a Chelsea shirt.

What made Eto'o's FA Cup debut so disappointing was that it came exactly a week after he had won the Blues a vital three points against Liverpool in the Premier League, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory.

Against Derby, however, he showed little threat and looked out of his depth. Even when put through on goal in the first half he couldn't register an effort on target, instead fluffing his lines and allowing Andre Wisdom to recover, preventing him from even testing the goalkeeper.

Chelsea had been dominant up to that point, yet given the season they have had, alarm bells would have been ringing for some sections of their traveling support.

So many times we have seen it—Chelsea dominate, not taking their chances before the underdog snatches a goal to earn a draw, or better still for them, an unexpected victory.

It was the FA Cup after all—a competition made famous by its giant killings—so the same happening for Derby wasn't beyond the realms of possibility, either.

Not long after the hour, though, Mikel came up with the goods, nodding home Willian Borges da Silva's driving free-kick to settle Chelsea nerves before Oscar finished off the job on 71 minutes.

DERBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  John Obi Mikel of Chelsea heads the ball to score their first goal during the Budweiser FA Cup Third Round match between Derby County and Chelsea at iPro Stadium on January 5, 2014 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Chelsea fans were celebrating, but when the dust settles, the reality their club finds itself in will be all too clear.

He has said on the contrary, yet Mourinho must know he needs to bolster his striker ranks. Of the three he has at his disposal, Eto'o and Demba Ba have not convinced, while Torres needs to consistently add goals to the bright form he is showing.

It's either that or Chelsea run the very real risk of missing out on major honors this term.

How many more times are midfielders going to rescue the Blues a result? It wasn't that dramatic against Derby. Although, when a goal was needed to assert their authority, Chelsea had to look to Mikel—a defensive midfielder, no less.

That's got to be a concern, especially when the latter stages of this season will involve Mourinho's men getting results against far more difficult opponents than Steve McClaren's Rams. If they're still battling for honors, that is.

On a more positive note, 18-year-old Lewis Baker became the latest Chelsea youngster to emerge from the club's academy and make his debut in the FA Cup.

Replacing Oscar with just five minutes remaining, the midfielder didn't have much opportunity to show what he is capable of. He has a growing reputation at Stamford Bridge, though, so it will be interesting to see his development over the coming months and whether he is afforded more opportunities bu Mourinho.

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 @garryhayes


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