Jose Mourinho may be a decorated man at the helm with a number of clubs, but even he has pledges to take in the new year.
The Portuguese returned to Chelsea over the summer after spending a combined five years outside of England with Inter and Real Madrid, coming back into the fold at Stamford Bridge in the wake of caretaker boss Rafael Benitez’s departure to Napoli.
His resumption at the helm of the London outfit brought with it high expectations of silverware and steadiness after the instability that Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking in May 2011 brought about in the manager’s chair, even as the Blues snapped up their first Champions League title, an FA Cup crown and scored a consolation Europa League triumph with Benitez in charge last term.
Mourinho has thus far guided Chelsea to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition and has the club well in contention for top honours in the Premier League, though the 50-year-old has had his share of concerns to sort out ahead of the remainder of the campaign.
Following are four resolutions for the Setubal native to take as the calendar turns over to 2014.
Rotate the squad
The Portuguese boss has shown a propensity deploying his favoured troops even as fatigue has set in, looking to field the strongest line up possible as opposed to picking his starting eleven based on fitness. Deleterious effects of such a disposition showed up more than ever in the November 26 loss to Basel, for which Mourinho made just one change from the line up that defeated West Ham 3-0 at the weekend as the Blues mustered only a single shot opposite the Swiss in a dire showing. Fresh legs will only become more important as the long season carries on, and already having seen that his best men can’t cope with a workload so great, considerations must be made in order to preserve precious fitness down the stretch.
Give Mata a chance
Even as two-time reigning Chelsea player of the year, Juan Mata continues to find himself on the fringes at Stamford Bridge under the guise of Mourinho and his patience is no doubt wearing thin. There’s no clear indication that the Spaniard is inclined to seek opportunities elsewhere in January but considering his world class talent and the fact that a place in La Furia Roja’s World Cup squad is at stake, wit’s end can’t be far off for the former Valencia man. The Chelsea boss either needs to integrate the prodigious outcast back into the side, as he is certainly nothing but an asset to the Blues’ cause, or allow him to step away from Stamford Bridge to reignite his career elsewhere.
Bring in a holding midfielder
Steel in midfield has been a lacking element for Chelsea from the off this term, with Frank Lampard showing his age as half of Mourinho’s double-pivot as Ramires has been left to do all of the running through the centre of the park. John Obi Mikel has disappointed and Michael Essien only saw his first Premier League action after coming back to the Blues from Real Madrid four weeks ago, so going out on the transfer market in search of suitable cover is a necessity. Inter’s Fredy Guarin has been tipped as the man for the job but his supposedly clinched deal has been cast into doubt in recent days. Mourinho can’t risk losing out in the holding midfield department, so should do whatever is needed financially, with Roman Abramovich’s backing of course, to avoid not strengthening the squad in a key area.
Stick to principles
Mourinho’s back-to-back Premier League winning Chelsea sides in 2004-05 and 2005-06 were renowned for stout defending, conceding just 15 and 22 goals over the course of these campaigns respectively. The Blues have already allowed in 18 this term and whilst such a figure accounts for the third-meanest defence in England, the Stamford Bridge outfit don’t have the likes of a Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero to rely upon up front for days when the back line isn’t at its best. Known to value solidity, adding a defensively-inclined midfielder would help Mourinho in the pursuit of more miserly resistance in front of Petr Cech and the Portuguese must not compromise his principles by looking to outduel all comers in attack.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald