Mourinho wrong to be so cautious, but his Chelsea tactics look in line with the European norm

Mourinho wrong to be so cautious, but his Chelsea tactics look in line with the European norm

A new central midfielder is needed before Chelsea will play more expansively

On commentary, Gary Neville questioned why the majority of Chelsea's players were walking in the second half of their Champions League clash with PSG.

The Blues had an extra man, but were content to drop off at 0-0, whereas the French champions were pressing higher up the pitch, not allowing time in possession and committing players forward.

Laurent Blanc was rightly rewarded for especially bold tactics, while Chelsea paid the price for being too cautious, alongside potentially being too tired.

Even though they was already on course to qualify on away goals when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off, should Chelsea have gone in for the kill?

It was the PSG left side that was vacated when Blanc's men went down to 10, but Chelsea failed to attack this zone sufficiently.

Juan Cuadrado could have replaced Willian and been a more direct option to run at Maxwell; he arguably would have been an even better introduction at right-back so that he and the quick-footed Brazilian could have double-teamed the full-back.

If nothing else, this may have brought a change in the PSG shape and opened up more space for Eden Hazard, who was largely kept quiet as Marquinhos effectively man-marked him.

There is certainly a recent trend developing that Chelsea are negating their attacking instincts in the biggest games, with goals from attack-minded players at a premium.

In their last six games against what we will call 'elite' opposition, these are Chelsea's goalscorers:

 

Liverpool January 20th - Eden Hazard (penalty)

Liverpool January 27th - Branislav Ivanovic

Man City January 31st - Loic Remy

PSG February 17th - Branislav Ivanovic

Tottenham March 1st - John Terry, Kyle Walker (own goal)

PSG March 11 - Gary Cahill

 

So, if we don't include penalties, Loic Remy is the only non-defender to have scored for Chelsea in a big match since New Year's Day. Meanwhile, central striker Diego Costa hasn't netted once for Mourinho in the Champions League.

Looking at their Premier League form against their main rivals for a Champions League qualification spot, Chelsea's results don't initially look that impressive.

They have only won three matches against their fellow top-six foes, but the 12 points they have collected isn't bettered by anyone else.

Quite surprisingly, this record stacks up favourably with the other top clubs around Europe, which suggests that many domestic managers of title favourites are adopting a strategy of avoiding defeat ahead of chasing victories.

Juventus have won half of their six matches against Serie A's top six, Bayern have taken maximum points from only three of seven, PSG have landed the spoils in four of eight and Real Madrid in three of seven.

The only real exception is Barcelona, who have secured three points in five of their six.

It is the Cesc Fabregas conundrum that is making things most difficult for Mourinho.

Against weaker opposition, Fabregas can be fielded alongside Nemanja Matic in the double pivot and still play Oscar behind the striker.

The problem with Fabregas is that despite all of his creative genius, he often gets out of position harassing the ball. The better teams use this to their advantage and so Mourinho pushes the Spaniard into the Oscar role and brings in either John Obi Mikel or Ramires alongside Matic.

With Matic and Mikel together, Chelsea play sideways too much and lack penetration into the forward players. Meanwhile, Ramires is not as good in possession and is selected more for his work-rate and energy.

What Chelsea need is a capable ball-playing midfielder, who is far more reliable in a positional sense than Fabregas.

A Luka Modric would be ideal, but would be tough to prise from Real Madrid, Marco Verratti has run the game against the Blues for PSG, while a less glamorous option could be Ki Sung-Yeung.

Mourinho may have difficulty changing his cautious tactics until this player is signed.

 

12/03/2015

  • TAGS
  • Chelsea
  • Jose Mourinho
  • UEFA Champions League