The fickle nature of football was never more on display for me than this Saturday morning when Chelsea played a West London derby with Fulham. Both teams have struggled out of the gate during this young season, and are working desperately to try and get back on the winning track. For Chelsea the main problem has been that of scoring goals, a particular ongoing theme for the Blues no matter who they sign.
Chelsea’s lack of scoring punch perfectly illustrates the fickleness of fans and managers alike – literally week to week you never seem to know who is hot and who is not. The questions around Chelsea strikers have been a saga, punctuated by massive transfer signings who can seemingly never live up to expectations (Fernando Torres), in season transfers never really given a fair shot (Demba Ba) and astonishing reaches pulled from the depths of football despondency (Samuel E’Eto).
This week with both teams struggling, the story quickly became about the rise of youthful Chelsea midfielder Oscar, at the expense of one of the best players in the world, Juan Mata. If MVP awards were given for each team last season there is no doubt that Mata would have handily won Chelsea’s. He was easily the most dangerous and hard working player on the pitch for them, and he was a pivotal part of their Champions League winning squad. Now, today, he was languishing on the bench behind the bench! Mata was not even included in the eighteen players dressed for the match and it quickly became apparent from Jose Mourinho’s comments that Oscar was now his chosen “number ten” and that Mata would have readjust his game to play on the wings. Interesting, very interesting. I know that a team like Chelsea has a ridiculous depth of talent, an obvious by product of bringing in a large number of transfers each and every year many of whom play similar positions. It does beg the question though about playing your best eleven. Surely there has to be a way of keeping both Oscar and Mata on the field at the same time does there not?
After many long years of playing striker roulette, it now appears Chelsea is content to do the same with their star midfielders. Part of it may be explained away as Mourinho wanting to make his mark on a squad that has failed to live up to lofty expectations, and it is clear the coach wants to make his mark. More surprising than the benching of Mata though was the lack of inclusion of one of Chelsea’s best defenders, David Luis.
Yes, David Luis, remember him? The player Chelsea had to work frantically to keep away from Barca during the transfer period because he was a major building block for the club going forwards? Same guy who was not included in the eighteen players dressed. Sometimes there is a need to rotate the squad, and with a midweek game (a dispirited loss) that is always a good idea – except Luis and Mata did not play in the disappointing loss.
Again the fickle wheel of football turns, and how much longer before the squad begins to fracture and star players begin to ask for transfers? When new players are brought in year in and year out, it is vital the squad gels quickly to have a shot at the Premier League crown and Champions League glory (remember again this is a Chelsea squad that barely lost in shootout to Champs Bayern Munich). Would it not make sense to keep established player in the loop and on the field?
Hopefully Jose has a plan, because as we all know, Abramovich is not always a patient man.