Chelsea need strikers, not sarcasm to win titles

By Jayanta Oinam | Last Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 15:59
 
Jayanta Oinam
For the Game
 

All good things must end. Or, all good things come to an end, as Nelly Furtado crooned asking – Why? More often than not, the answer lies within. One such good thing was Chelsea`s undefeated home run of 77 games.

However, for Jose Mourinho, it`s somebody, someone else’s fault that this particular goodness has come to an end. He launched a tirade against the referee and officials. If Saturday`s more than contentious penalty decision, put an abrupt end to the Blues` unrivalled home turf domination, and also compromised their league campaign, it was also more to do with the Special One`s inability to bring in a quality front-man, who can poach goals at will.

Goals! They win titles and trophies. For reference, Barcelona? After spending a season in Madrid, in the close proximity of Barcelona`s tika-taka, Mourinho has apparently started to show respect to the possession game by imbibing the tactics. His current line up, and more than the curricula vitae of the players, the recent domination in possession has reflected the trend, clearly shifting the Barca way. But again, it’s the goal that matters. Probably, the hallowed ground of Stamford Bridge can invoke Roberto Di Matteo, if anyone cares to remember the name.

Chelsea`s advance-midfield has Eden Hazard, Oscar, Mohamed Salah, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Kevin de Bruyne. But who are the strikers to score the goals? Despite all the brilliant tactics, and occasional harangue – targeting rival managers and officials, the lack of goals is killing their chances. That`s where either Liverpool or Manchester City will wrest the title away from London.

Consider this simple fact – Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have scored a combined 50 goals to spur Anfield to their first title since the 1989-90 season. Manchester City have also been riding on their strike force as Manuel Pallegrini uses the available strikers wisely, as Sergio Aguero continues to battle with his nagging injuries. It`s a matter of chance that the indomitable Yaya Toure is their leading scorer, despite playing his usual adventurous role of a midfielder.

But for Chelsea, their campaign is relying on the brilliance of midfield players only. With three games left in the season, their leading scorer is Eden Hazard with 14 goals, five more than their top striker Samuel Eto`o. Besides the Belgian, Oscar and Andre Schurrle have also contributed with 15 goals between them.

There is no sight of Fernando Torres and Demba Ba. In fact, the duo has a combined total of eight goals. Thankfully, their excuse is limited games. That`s another fact that they have struggled to score and thus the limited opportunities. Credit here to the boss, for keeping the title fight on with limited options. But many will challenge the club`s purported paucity of fund or resources.

Strangely, one of their own strikers is creating waves elsewhere. Romelu Lukaku, out on loan at Goodison Park, has scored an impressive 13 goals for Everton, giving the Toffees, a rare chance to qualify in the top four, and thus for a Champions League spot. So, the obvious question is why Lukaku was allowed to leave Stamford Bridge.

The rambling after the last minute loan transfer to Everton during the transfer window was that the 20-year-old Belgian insisted for a transfer away from Stamford Bridge. Mourinho, for his part, later criticised the player for the move, but he failed to explain why the club didn`t do enough to stop such a deal. Because, without his approval, Chelsea would not have allowed the striker to go in a season-long loan to another club.

Such a scenario was also unfolding at Anfield. But the ending was different, with the Reds seemingly bearing the fruits of their persistence and the will to keep a player like Suarez.

For Lukaku, the reason was – he needed playing time in a World Cup year, and he was not too sure of his place in the team, under a manager publicly pursuing established players like Wayne Rooney. Besides the Manchester United star, Chelsea were linked to Porto`s Jackson Martinez, and even with a possibility of the then Real Madrid boss bringing along with him Cristiano Ronaldo to London. And not to forget, Mourinho`s expressed liking of Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.

In such a scenario, any ambitious striker would have resorted to similar tactics adopted by Lukaku.

If Chelsea have found themselves under the weather after loaning out players, then Liverpool certainly gained by sending their players to different teams. It may well read a pure coincidence that Chelsea have received killer blows from two Liverpool players playing for two different teams, resulting in two of their six defeats this season. Or, it can be read this way: Liverpool have sent out players in disguise in their pursuit of first league title since 1990.

After Chelsea`s defeat to relegation fighting Sunderland, many started to ask – Has Fabio Borini won the league title for Liverpool. The 23-year-old Italian was on a loan spell with the Black Cats. And he converted from the spot at Stamford Bridge in the dying minutes of the game, to give the visitors their first win over the hosts in 10 attempts. Other important facets in this intriguing drama were – it ended Mourinho`s home run in London after 77 games, and that a young Borini was once groomed to become a Chelsea future star.

Another Liverpool player in disguise is Oussama Assaidi. The Morrocan winger scored an injury-time goal against Chelsea, way back in December to give Stoke City an improbable 3-2 win. It was Chelsea`s second league defeat of the season, following Goodison Park slip-up in September.

Irrespective of these blips, Mourinho has indeed been the Special One for Chelsea. He is revered at Chelsea and he knew it too well and never hesitated to put blame on others for defeats like these. On Saturday, it was the turn of Mike Dean. The referee was sarcastically congratulated for a `fantastic` job done.

Mourinho was brought back from Real Madrid last June, with great things expected from him. He so far did an excellent job in his second stint for the London club by producing commendable results with a predominantly settling team. However, as the season entered its decisive phase, the squad, which until recently seemed to be faring rather well with the numbers in its side, have stagnated. If the season ended without a title, then the blame will solely be his. Because, unlike his character, Mourinho relented in his pursuit for a title winning striker.

As things stand, Chelsea are two points behind the leaders Liverpool with one extra game played, with Manchester City hot on their heels, on 71 points with two games in hand. This Sunday, they will play Liverpool in a do-or-die league battle, which could well become their final frontier.

And not to forget how they escaped with an insipid 0-0 draw at Vicente Calderon in their Champions League first leg-leg semi-final tie. The stats said: Chelsea had five attempts on goal against Atletico Madrid` 26. Now, the Special One has threatened to field a second string team against Liverpool because, they are being made to play on Sunday. He said, his focus is on the Champions League, and switching the match to Friday or Saturday will help their cause, ahead of the Wednesday`s Atletico Madrid second-leg tie at home.

Certainly, he is not the happiest one around. But all can change with the arrival of a striker or two.



First Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 15:56

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