The Chelsea FC was finally able to put the pieces together on Sunday in their match against Liverpool FC and make the most of the Jose Mourinho method of Premier League play. The slow climb of the Chelsea FC up the Premier League standings has been characterized by the defensive-minded philosophy of Mourinho this season. Though armed with scoring talent like Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o up front, the Chelsea manager has put preventing goals at the forefront of his approach. Mourinho has required his forwards to be more self-sufficient, something that had Torres frustrated toward the beginning of the season. It was even rumored that he might be seeking another club. With Sunday’s match, however, it is beginning to look like the squad is putting the pieces together.
Liverpool, with Premier League scoring leader Luis Suarez, seemed to have found a way past the vaunted Chelsea defense as they scored early in the match on Sunday. Things changed quickly at that point, like turning on a switch. All of a sudden, the Chelsea FC offense seemed to grasp what Mourinho had been trying to convey and took off on the attack. By the half, Chelsea had taken a 2-1 lead, which they never relinquished. Ironically, it is most likely a shift in the lineup that Mourinho was forced to make because of the suspension of midfielder, Ramires, that got the Chelsea squad to a point where they were able to execute the method they have been working on to the best advantage. Defender David Luiz moved into the midfield to fill the spot, and turned into the versatile connection between defense and attack. Where his tendency to get drawn forward was a liability in the system before, this move allowed him to facilitate the offense without leaving holes in the back. It might be that Mourinho will choose to keep him in the middle now that he has shown such an affinity for the position.
In an interview given after Chelsea ended its match with Arsenal in a draw, Mourinho said that he felt disappointed that the squad had been failing to score more. His game plan involves gaining an early lead and defending it, and the matches to date have not been following that pattern. It has been a topic of much discussion in the media whether the defensive scheme was stifling the offense or whether it was necessary to create counter-attack opportunities. When they went down a goal, however, Chelsea was able to find another gear. After erasing the deficit and taking a lead, they were able to follow the Mourinho blueprint and hold it. For the first time this season, it looked like the squad was firing on all cylinders. They appear to be peaking at the right time, getting themselves into third place going into the New Year’s Day matches.
Chelsea will face Southampton on Wednesday in their bid for first place in the standings. It would take a loss by Arsenal and a loss or draw for Manchester City to achieve the coup, but it is within realistic reach just as the team is coming into its own. Although the Mourinho method has been most criticized as playing not to lose rather than to win, Chelsea FC continuing to win might just make the distinction moot.
By Jim Malone