When Jose Mourinho re-joined Chelsea in 2013 he confessed that he wasn’t a fan of the Blues’ favoured style of play over the last few seasons, despite it having produced both a Europa and Champions League trophy. He has since led Chelsea to the top of the table by creating a very defensively minded and, in some ways, boring squad.
With exciting young players like Eden Hazard and Oscar, as well as £32 million man Diego Costa, leading their attack, Chelsea should be producing some of the most captivating, high scoring action week in, week out… but they just don’t.
Obviously Mourinho likes his teams to play a solid, defensive style even though he always has highly capable goalscorers at his disposal. His conservative approach has brought him success, but at other times it has led to Chelsea being held by other equally defensive opposition. The ex-Real Madrid tactician will complain after bore-draws that his team didn’t attack enough, but his strategy does appear to emphasise playing with the idea of not to losing rather than going for all three points.
This season alone, Chelsea have been held by teams like Maribor, Sunderland and Burnley. This is not to mention twice by Premier League title rivals Manchester City and Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain.
Wednesday night is a perfect example of where they have been going wrong this season. Chelsea went into their second leg tie against the Parisians with a crucial away goal. In the safety of their home ground Stamford Bridge, all they had to do was either stop the visitors from scoring or score one more than their opponent.
Blues defender Gary Cahill did much to help their cause with a goal in the 81st minute. Now with just ten more to go and with PSG already playing with one man down after their talismanic forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off in the 31st minute, the task should have been simple. But funnily enough it was Chelsea’s poor defending that allowed ex-Blues ace David Luiz to put his new club through to extra-time.
Chelsea went ahead once more, but yet again defensive errors let PSG snatch qualification to the semi-finals away from them. Now I’m not saying that they have to be perfect and never lose, but with so many attacking options, Chelsea should have been pressing harder and harder once Ibrahimovic saw red. Instead they passed and passed the life out of the ball.
In a season where clubs have had very changeable fortunes, Chelsea have been the most consistent, albeit quite boring, side, but I feel their lack of sparkle makes their failure to progress in Europe’s most respected competition quite fitting, as their performances have shown that they did not deserve to lift a cup in May and June.
Earlier in the season, Chelsea had opened up an eight point lead before throwing it away, but now after 27 games with a five point advantage and a game in hand, Chelsea are back on the road to their first league title in five years. If they do mess it up and allow second-placed Manchester City to catch them then Mourinho’s defensive and unattractive playing style will be called into question not least by the fans but by owner Roman Abramovich, too.