Following the 3-1 victory to Southampton on Sunday, OptaSports published on their Twitter page that Chelsea now had 12 different scorers in the Premier League this season – which needless to say is the highest in the division. It seems to me that it’s no coincidence that we manage to come up with the most typically Mourinho-style performance, (where we tire out the opposition and break them down slowly before making that extra quality count towards the end), the game after the Portuguese comes out and concedes that he hasn’t made full or appropriate use of his squad so far. The bringing in to the side of Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, was crucial in managing to sustain the pressure we applied to Southampton all through the 2nd half, with the players drafted in obviously less tired having played fewer games in recent times, but also with points to prove, and a regular first team place to reclaim.
Over the last few years, as past Chelsea-managers struggled with the issues of not having as a deeper squads as they would’ve liked or struggling to get goals from the centre forwards, their ability to rely on players in almost every single position to provide goals for the team has been their saving grace – and has won many points other teams in our situation would’ve failed to pick up. Now that those issues (of squad of depth and striker-form) have been largely resolved, that shouldn’t mean our dependence on goals from defence and midfield needs to be reduced. Especially during this winter period where there are so many fixtures to negotiate, it’s an advantage Mourinho should embrace and make full use of via squad rotation. Keeping as many players as possible match fit and happy, and aiming to produce fantastic collective performances as in the second half against Southampton rather than the ideal of shaping up to support Oscar and Hazard in assisting the centre forward (on the counter attack).
Sunderland and Stoke:
Our next two fixtures are both away in the Premier League to Sunderland and Stoke City. It’s hard to tell which will be the trickier game, with the former languishing further down the table after an abysmal start but improving under new coach and former Chelsea star, Gus Poyet. And whilst the Britannia is traditionally a tough place to get a result, Stoke are in poor form at the moment, getting hammered by Everton 4-0 in their last match – the same result by which they lost to us at home last season (where Jonathon Walters scored a brace of own goals and Eden Hazard scored than stunner).
Assuming everyone stays fit, and no one has a shocker on Wednesday, these would be mine line-ups for both games:
Sunderland: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Schurrle, Willian, Hazard, Ba
Stoke: Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Oscar, Schurrle, Torres
League of Your Own:
Of course it’s a fact that every side has its key players on whom its ability to win key matches and titles depend on hugely. But though it may be true without the stability and organisational skills of John Terry at the back, or without the boundless energy of Oscar and Ramires, applying pressure and creating space against the opposition in the final third, our level of play would be reduced massively, the label of a one-man team has still never been applicable to us. Or at least not it in the way it has been to the likes of Arsenal or Man Utd with Robin Van Persie, or Spurs with Gareth Bale, Liverpool with Luis or Man City – who can never seem to keep a clean sheet with Vincent Kompany out of the side.
To help prove this kind of point and others, a cool new website called League of Your Own has been created by Bwin, which allows supporters to alter the specific variables which impact on the PL season each year and examine to what extent they hinder/help out their side. For example, remove all goals scored by penalties and Tottenham would be 11th, 14 points behind Arsenal. Or remove all deflected goals and Liverpool drop down to 10th!
The most telling stats however which supports my point at the beginning of this article, are revealed when you remove the goals scored by team’s top scorers. For example, here is the table when you remove all Arsenal goals scored by Aaron Ramsey or Olivier Giroud (13 points behind their current total). Likewise, remove all Manchester Utd goals scored by Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie and they drop 12 points to 19th. Whilst Liverpool, without the contributions of Sturridge and Suarez, would be last on 7 points. Contrast this to what happens when you remove the goals of Chelsea’s two top scorers, Oscar and Eden Hazard, and we lose only 5 points, putting us level with Man Utd – hardly the end of the world.
With the ability to remove all early goals, late goals, free kicks, penalties, tap-ins and speculative long rangers, League of Your Own is the perfect way to examine exactly just what and whom each team is so reliant upon in order to pick up points. In my opinion, it’s the perfect illustration of the comparative lack of dependency we have on our key players to score goals. Which in the closest Premier League season to date so far, could end up proving a decisive advantage.
Head over to the League Of Your Own website and start experimenting.