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Jack: Fluid Chelsea finally have desperately needed striker

Kristian Jack
8/18/2014 6:15:27 PM
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In August of 2013 new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was in a cautious mood.

"This is not a team to win tomorrow," said Mourinho. "We are a team of kids, this is a team where the best years are to come."

A year later and those years have started.

Last season, of course, Chelsea got much closer than Mourinho ever imagined.

"We were not feeling like a title contender but in fact we finished very close, so we did well," admitted the boss on Friday.

Four points. That was all that separated Chelsea from title winners Manchester City, a side that scored 31 more goals than the Blues.

In the end that was the difference. Mourinho had started the season thinking inexperience would be the reason for their failure, but by February he knew it was a lack of goals.

During a sponsorship launch with watch manufacturers Hublot, Mourinho, privately, said to senior representatives of the Swiss company: "I have a team but no striker. It is not possible for us to win the Premier League."

In the 38 Premier League games last season, Fernando Torres started 17, Samuel Eto'o started 16 and Demba Ba five. How Chelsea managed to get so close with three ineffective strikers spoke to the strengths of the squad and, of course, the manager himself.

Eto'o ended the campaign with nine goals, Ba five and the abysmal Torres with five, despite playing 1592 Premier League minutes.

Mourinho had grand plans when he retook the job of how to reinvigorate the Spaniard, saying: "Fernando is not a player with balls into his feet. Fernando is a man of depth, of movement who likes to get to the back of defenders. If we can give him what he needs, I think he will get success again."

Nearly six hundred minutes later the jury was in. Chelsea's style wasn't at their best when trying to work to the needs of Torres, they needed a forward with balls into his feet and he proved to be equally ineffective for Mourinho than he had been under other managers since moving to Stamford Bridge.

2011/12 Torres under Andre Villas Boas and Roberto Di Matteo – Six Premier League goals in 1907 minutes – an average of one goal every 317 minutes.

2012/13 Torres under Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez – Eight Premier League goals in 2573 Premier League minutes – an average of one goal every 321 minutes.

2013/14 under Mourinho – Five Premier League goals in 1592 minutes – an average of one goal every 318 minutes.

The statistics are remarkable but for the manager the biggest one that needed to change was minutes played. Throughout last season it was evidently clear that many of the Chelsea players, inside the three behind the striker, regularly showed a lack of trust in Torres as an outlet.

The consequence of this was teams defended deeper and the pressure fell on the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard to unlock the opposition. Chelsea led the league averaging 18.2 shots per game but the teams above them scored 30 or more goals as Mourinho's side scored just one goal or less in 15 of the 38 matches.

The Special One has been full of praise of the Chelsea board after targeting key areas to bring more power and strength through the middle for this season, particularly up front with the addition of Diego Costa. Didier Drogba's arrival, brought on as a sub on Monday, pushes Torres further down the pecking order.

"This season we have bought some key players and we believe we are in another dimension," said the 51-year-old in Friday's press conference ahead of Monday's clash with Burnley.

Sean Dyche's Premier League new boys may well prove to be the weakest of all the team's in the division this season, having come up through the Championship with very little funds behind them, so we should be cautious about drawing conclusions about this new Chelsea side based on their first opponents of the new campaign.

However, it was clear that Cesc Fabregas brings something Chelsea so desperately needs from central midfield and his pass for Andre Schurrle's goal will be one of the finest you will see this season. It capped off a brilliant, 22 pass move that changed the momentum of the game.

The former Arsenal man will grab the headlines for a sensational performance but the showing from Diego Costa was just as important.

It was a contest that was over by half-time. Burnley led for just two hundred seconds before the Spaniard smashed home an equalizer on the left foot.

The highlight packs will show a simple finish but the buildup showed what Costa can bring. 55 seconds before his left foot leveled the scores, Fabregas played a wonderful diagonal ball for the forward to run on to. He sprinted, held the ball up well and waited for others to come into attack.

Burnley couldn't get the ball back and 17 passes later he had scored by sitting deeper, off the defenders, and anticipating a clearance or rebound.

Costa's movement is excellent and much different to Torres. He doesn't spend a lot of time running on the shoulder of a defender, instead he wants to drop deeper and link up with others, which is exactly what the fluid, interchanging, intelligent Chelsea attack demands.

He is a striker who is very confident in every move he makes. He sprints with purpose and never was this more evident than in the 30th minute.

Costa sat deep between central defenders as the ball was played to left back Ben Mee but the moment the Burnley man received the ball, he anticipated he would be uncomfortable with a press from Hazard. He began sprinting towards the Burnley goal as if a Chelsea player had the ball and as soon as Mee did what he expected, he intercepted the ball and was clear away on a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

He was then brought down in the box but referee Michael Oliver wrongly decided to book him for simulation. Costa's intelligence had not been rewarded this time but it was just a teaser to what is to come over the next 10 months of Premier League football.

It's only week one but already Mourinho's men are top scorers. Costa scored but he brought much more than that, receiving more than 50 passes and linking up marvelously with Oscar, Hazard and Schurrle. Overall it was performance from a centre-forward that Chelsea have been lacking for far too long.

(fourfourtwo.com - click for larger image)

It is little wonder Mourinho is no longer cautious about Chelsea's title aspirations this season.




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