As Chelsea prepare for what could be a tricky game against Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the Saints sit fifth and have already taken four points from Manchester United and Liverpool, Jose Mourinho was again asked about his striker situation as Samuel Eto’o was ruled out of the game with a muscle injury.
His absence means Fernando Torres is likely to make his first start in over a month after suffering a similar injury in the win over Manchester City. Southampton, having conceded just 7 goals to date, hold the best defence in the league and will have in store a stern test for a Chelsea side who are struggling in attack.
It is an odd kind of crisis that occupies the Portuguese manager, a treble Champions League winning striker gets injured and a £50 million replacement is waiting in the wings, Demba Ba sits unmentioned near the bottom of the pile while in Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle, one would think Mourinho possesses enough creation and guile in attack to see the goals flow freely. Wrong. In fact, it was the striker not at the club who stole the headlines from Mourinho’s Friday press conference as he became typically animated about the increasingly strange decision to loan out Romelu Lukaku.
“Romelu likes to speak. He’s a young boy who likes to speak,” he said. “But the only thing he didn’t say is why he went to Everton on loan. That’s the only thing he never says. And my last contact with him was to tell him exactly that. ‘Why do you never say why you are not here?”
It was a startling contradiction to Lukaku’s comments early in November which stated exactly why, together with Mourinho’s blessing after an unconvincing cameo appearance in the UEFA Super Cup against Bayern Munich, he decided to move to Goodison Park.
“I have my own worries with my own team. All you want to do on the Saturday afternoon is play. People want to see you on the pitch” he said,“That was why I left Chelsea. I didn’t want to hear people saying ‘Hey, he’s doing well in training blah blah blah’ The game is what counts”
Before he watched his team take on West Ham last Saturday, Mourinho would have been an interested spectator in the Merseyside derby where the Belgian netted his 6th and 7th goals in 9 games for Everton. It has been another prolific start to another loan spell for the 20 year old who hit 17 goals whilst at West Brom last year.
At the Hawthornes he showcased the brute physical strength, intelligence and ruthless finish that seems him as a direct heir to Didier Drogba, yet Mourinho saw only the green eyed naivety of a striker still learning at the top level and saw fit to sign Eto’o, a striker who he can trust having managed him once before and at 32, harbouring just enough time in his legs before the time is fit to pass the mantle onto a then primed and ready Lukaku.
The powerful header to put Everton 3-2 up last Saturday lunchtime put the Belgian on 7 league goals, 2 more than Chelsea’s highest scorer, Brazilian Oscar, has managed. Eden Hazard has 4 and their highest league-scoring centre-forward, Eto’o, sits on 2.
Fernando Torres has fleetingly shown signs of a return to his swashbuckling best but they have only been, like away at Spurs and Schalke plus the home game at City, mere glimpses before another set-back has curtailed him. The Spaniard has 4 goals, just one of those occurring in the league.
It is clear that Mourinho does not trust Demba Ba, with just 1 Champions League goal to his name, having handed him just 175 minutes of football spread across 4 appearances, so it does not take a cynic to conclude from Mourinho’s agitation at the questioning of Lukaku that he regrets the initial decision to show the interest in Eto’o, a major contributor to the Belgian’s decision to leave.
Perhaps also the Chelsea manager rues the decision of his predecessor Rafeal Benitez to sell Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool last January as the English striker sits on 11 for the season at Anfield. His late equaliser at Everton last week was his 24th goal for club and country since he left Stamford Bridge early in the new year.
A major factor behind Sturridge’s edging out at Chelsea was his continual presence on the wing as Benitez strove to accommodate Torres, or in the case of previous managers, Didier Drogba. His subsequent rise in form and maturity has been Brendan Rodgers’s intention of partnering him with the unerringly prolific Luis Suarez in a front 2, a decision he has made possible by even reverting to a back 3 at times this season.
It is a hypothetical argument as to what Mourinho would have done had he possessed Sturridge under his charge, though it is not easy to look beyond a scenario where the Portuguese coach, like Rodgers, would have found his best position.
Whether he would have had the required faith in him though, as he has shown a lacking with Lukaku, would have been a different story. Though it is definitely something troubling Mourinho has he attempts to solve his own array of misfiring strikers with Sturridge and Lukaku doubling up for combined 17 Premier League goals so far from as far away as Merseyside.
Torres will line up against Southampton’s solid combination of Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte, but how much will Mourinho be wishing, secretly, he had the deft agility of Sturridge or the power of Lukaku for Sunday’s examination.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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