As Chelsea’s season winds to a close, it’s always important to take stock, and evaluate the necessary changes that are needed to improve on the season that’s passed. One thing is clear, the Blues struggled for depth last season. Mourinho often selected the same players for most games, regardless of the competition at hand. Sure there was rotation, but most of this was due to injuries. When push came to shove, Mourinho couldn’t trust his bench, and ultimately this cost the Blues in managing all of their competitions.
In order to see the effect of Chelsea’s shallow bench, one can take a look at Chelsea’s failures to find the problem. The Champions League campaign, Chelsea’s ultimate failure, came at a time when Chelsea were playing the same team over and over again. Chelsea lost to 10-man PSG, and it was because they couldn’t find their strength in numbers.
What cost Mourinho ultimately was that when he turned around, he wasn’t at all pleased with who he had sitting behind him. He had no one to come on and change the game. He had this with Schurrle, one of the reasons I believe Chelsea should have kept him. Whenever the German entered the game, it gave the Blues a different look and feel to the match. Namely his biggest performance was when he came on and spearheaded the attack against PSG a year sooner. He helped claw the Blues back into contention and ultimately he was a focal point for the victory. Now, with him at Wolfsburg, take a look at the bench and find me a player that will do that, cause I can’t see any.
This ultimately stems from Mourinho’s second poor decision in signing Cuadrado. Chelsea were severely weaker by his entry to the team following Schurrle’s exit. Whenever Mourinho put in the Colombian, he added nothing, didn’t change the game, and ultimately was a dropoff in talent out wide. It’s crazy to believe that the man dubbed to replace Willian, isn’t even a dot on the Brazilian’s radar. In turn, Mourinho was forced to over play his starters and eventually tired them out.
With Mikel the best backup for Matic, Mourinho wisely chose to stick with the Serbian, for reasons obvious to many. The Nigerian would come onto the field and completely stall Chelsea’s attack, while not adding too much to the defense either. Mikel being at Chelsea did wonders for Matic’s job security.
Furthermore, up top, the only the forward Mourinho could bring on was Remy, if he was healthy. While Drogba was certainly a legend, he didn’t add too much this season, excluding the big time goals he scored. However, if you asked Jose at the beginning of the season, he would tell you that he was forced to use Drogba much more than he had originally planned. With Remy’s health problems coinciding with Costa’s, Mourinho was out of luck up top. He even decided to play one game even without a recognized striker.
To me the most glaring gap however, is no replacement for Oscar at CAM. And boy did Jose need one. The entire second half of the season, the Brazilian was a lot to be desired, showing a drop off and almost a general lack of interest in changing the game. This was during the second half of the season, when the Blues already had given up Schurrle. This left Mourinho with putting Ramires on the wing and pushing Willian inside. This was not enough for the Portuguese manager, as Ramires was shaky at times this season, and Willian is more natural on the wing anyway.
Chelsea need to upgrade their options on the bench this offseason. They need a team of players itching to get into the game, and a manager who trusts them being there. Taking a page out of the book of Europe’s elite teams, all of these clubs have deep benches. Especially treble winners Barcelona. They had players like Rakitic, Xavi, and Pedro in reserve. If that’s not quality, I’m not too sure what is. The same applies for the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. If Chelsea want to be considered among the elite in the world, they must make the changes on the bench, and it will translate on the pitch.
Mourinho should have 18 guys each game that he would trust in a Champions League final. Until he has those players, Chelsea won’t be ready to compete on all fronts. More important than numbers, Mourinho needs different styles of players, guys that will come into a game and change the way it’s being played. He needs catalysts for change, and that should be his target during the summer. If Chelsea make these changes and add quality replacements, similar to the likes of Filipe Luis and Petr Cech, it would be hard to see Chelsea not going the distance in all competitions.
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