When Roman Abramovich brought Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge, he put all of Europe on notice. Mourinho has come back to London, and has been handed the reigns to an embarrassment of riches in the midfield.
Chelsea has experience, youth, versatility and most importantly, world-class talent in the midfield. Frank Lampard, an England International at 35 years of age, is the unquestioned leader of the midfield. Even as the all-time leading scorer in Chelsea history, Lampard will find it hard to hold down a regular place in this talented midfield.
Lampard and Ramires, a Brazilian International, are true box-to-box midfielders, bringing energy and goals to the midfield and covering ground all over the pitch. Michael Essien, a Ghanaian International, and John Obi Mikel, a Nigerian International, are true holding midfielders. They are midfield enforcers that are responsible for playing holding roles to protect the back four and break up potential counter-attacks.
The creative influence in the midfield is where competition for places will be fierce. One bad performance can see a player slip down Mourinho’s pecking order. Juan Mata, a Spanish International and Chelsea’s player of the season last year, is not even guaranteed a place in midfield with the talent Chelsea has at its disposal. With the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar, Andre Shurrle and Victor Moses all vying for places as creative players in Mourinho’s midfield, competition will be fierce.
Mourinho is known for employing a 4-2-3-1 formation. All the creative players must compete for places in the three positions behind the lone striker. The striker competition will be just as fierce with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaka all looking to impress for a regular run of games in that role.
The striker competition will only intensify as Mourinho prepares an improved bid for Wayne Rooney which is believed to be in the region of €40 million for the disgruntled Manchester United player. Mourinho seems to have a backup plan if the Rooney deal falls through, which is believed to be in the form of Cameroonian international Samuel Eto’o. Eto’o currently plays for Anzhi Makhachkala, and formerly played under Mourinho at Inter Milan.
Chelsea supporters are enthused about the stability and star power Mourinho brings to the London-based club. Mourinho must be in awe of his attacking midfield options; they boast creative versatility and the ability to interchange on the pitch, making it hard for opposing defenders to mark them. It gives Mourinho the flexibility to switch formations without having to make substitutions, a luxury most clubs don’t have.
The creative players in the midfield have shown that they can effectively play multiple positions as out and out wingers, wide midfield players, or in the center of the pitch in the vaunted no. 9 role. Shurrle and Moses have also played as center forwards in their careers, extending the limits of what Mourinho can do tactically.
Chelsea’s midfield options will give them a distinct advantage throughout the season. Injuries won’t affect a side with interchangeable players that have similar qualities and skill sets. English Premier League and Champions League contenders should be wary of the midfield talent that Chelsea will to unleash on its opponents.
Mourinho is known for his ability to handle big personalities and egos in a dressing room. As a manager, Mourinho likes to see separation in his squad, always hoping that his first-choice players will distinguish themselves from the substitutes. It will be a difficult task that may lead to him rotating his squad more than he is accustom to.
This season, it will be interesting to see Mourinho handle disenchanted and disgruntled players that will get frustrated with their playing time (or lack thereof) due to an immensely talented squad.