Playing the solid, defensive style of Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC could be the rock that will break the momentum of the Liverpool FC. Despite having a stable of goal scorers that would make most managers’ mouths water, Mourinho has seen success this year with a conservative approach that depends upon an unflinching defensive structure. Looking at Fernando Torres, Oscar, Eden Hazard, and Juan Mata all on the same team, most people would assume that the club intended to showcase a relentless attack. Jose Mourinho, however, has not gone that route. He laments the lack of offensive production in his comments after matches often, but continues to put the emphasis on defense with his in-game strategy.
Liverpool has won in three of the last six matches played between the two clubs, with Chelsea only taking the three points once. Mourinho’s personal record with Chelsea against Liverpool is much better than that. Between his current and former stint at the helm, he has won five of six matches between the two clubs. Mourinho downplays this record in much the same way he did when asked about his nine straight wins against Arsene Wenger before the Arsenal match last week. He insists on pointing attention to the players in the match rather than himself. The characteristic defensive style of Jose Mourinho is stamped all over the Chelsea FC team, however, and it has become difficult to separate the two. Given the success that they have seen, it is difficult to present an argument suggesting that it would be a good thing to do so.
While not as flashy as the other teams in the top four, Mourinho’s playing not to lose may yet prove to be the best approach. It certainly may be the only defense against a scoring machine like Luis Suarez. Manchester City demonstrated on Boxing Day the benefits of a dedicated defense against Suarez. While Mourinho doesn’t have a player like Pablo Zabaleta to smother Suarez, Brazilian David Luiz might be able to handle the job in tandem with Branislav Ivanovic. Luiz has demonstrated similar offensive capabilities to Zabaleta to compliment his defending, but does not demonstrate the same judgement when it comes to deciding when to stay back. Ivanovic, however, is always happy to put himself between Suarez and the net. Crowds around the world will be watching that match-up closely.
As midfielder John Obi Mikel continues to grow in confidence, his presence in the middle might well be a game changer for Chelsea. If he can choke off the options for Suarez, it could prove a significant hindrance to his trademark offensive ingenuity. Mikel, with his solid defense, may also be the key to allowing Oscar to press the attack with Mata and Hazard without sacrificing Mourinho’s defensive paradigm. If they are able to find the balance that has been just eluding them, the Chelsea forwards might just get to be forwards again soon. Once they add the scoring piece to the defensive foundation that characterizes the defensive style of Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC might just have the complete package necessary to carry them to the top of the table.
By Jim Malone