Why Chelsea's enviable attacking force has often flatlined

In spite of possessing a platinum collection of attacking midfielders that no team in Europe can boast of, Chelsea have shown a curious case of lacking fluidity in the final third.


Juan Mata, Andre Schurrle, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Willian...

This is not a montage of the best young attacking talent currently plying their trade in Europe, well not even a pick of the Premier League's best but merely the wealth of attacking talent that Chelsea possess. This is doesn't even consider Marko Marin, Lucas Piazon, Victor Moses and Christian Atsu who are currently out on loan. 

When Jose Mourinho was re-appointed as Chelsea manager this summer, the bookies along with several pundits believed the Blues to be title favourites while there was plenty of confidence and optimism from their fans over winning the league this season.

'The Special One' or 'The Happy One' as he calls himself now, was expected to stroll to the league title especially with the wholesale managerial changes this summer which only left Arsene Wenger among his old rivals. 

However, with only 21 points from a possible 33, and having already lost twice, things certainly did not go as planned. Chelsea find themselves in fourth spot but what is more important is that their on field performances have not been befitting the talent they have at their beck and call.

Forget the away loss at Newcastle United the other week, the recent draw at home to West Bromwich Albion where a controversial penalty at the death saved Mourinho from another loss and what would have been his first at the Bridge. 

With the Portuguese having the reputation of doing things his own way, changes in the squad were expected on his arrival. Chelsea Player of the Season for the past two years, Juan Mata was the casualty this time around with Mourinho clearly outlining Oscar to be his number 10 and the focal point of attack.

Although Mata had in fact often played on the wings in the past season as well, to devastating effect as well as he cut inside to create havoc frequently, Mourinho's system requires a certain type of wide player. A believer in compact teams, Mourinho always wants his players to track back and make themselves a solid unit as soon as they lose the ball, something which Mata wasn't adept at. The directness of play that Mourinho required would be better met by his compatriots, Schurrle or Willian.

What is primarily responsible for the lack of creative output upfront is also the rampant rotation enforced by Mourinho with only Oscar assured a starting berth. Around him Hazard, Mata, Schurrle and Willian have all been rotated with the manager still trying to figure out the combination. While Mata is the most creative of the lot, his form has blown hot and cold courtesy of his extended role on the bench.

Especially in the last game when he came on, Chelsea did manage to add fluidity to their play but the intricate passing between the three attacking midfielders did not yield many chances up front. The Chelsea attackers wasted too much time trying to build-up play leaving the striker upfront frustrated with the lack of service or the final ball coming in too late. 

While Hazard has been fairly consistent down the left and is Chelsea's top scorer this season, he too hasn't been as effective. Forget the lack of goals from the strikers, it is the lack of service that is lack of penetration that is hurting the side most.

While the answer to their worries should be Schurrle who is a true winger and also loves getting goals besides having a terrific work rate, he isn't as gifted with creatvity or flair. Meanwhile, it will certainly take Willian time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League especially with limited playing time and a torrid previous spell in Russia.

With the attacking talent at their disposal, one would expect Chelsea to top the charts when it comes to dribbles completed every game. Strangely, Chelsea have only made 8 per game, compared to Tottenham's 14.5 per game, putting them 11th in the table, as according to whoscored.com

Instead of taking on their markers and beating them, the Chelsea attackers have tried to be too neat playing passes in little triangles without the final ball. When it comes to through balls per game too, Chelsea are disappointingly in the lower half of the table with only an average of 1 per game.

Clearly this once again highlights the lack penetration with Chelsea having played an average of 473 passes per game which puts them 4th in the table. This means that most of those passes are either played square or backwards.

Mourinho needs to get his first eleven sorted out as soon as possible and then stick to it if he wishes to see his team shift into top gear. They may only be four points behind Arsenal but this is far from the well-drilled and uncompromising Mourinho side we're used to seeing.


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