Chelsea vs. West Brom: Jose Mourinho Out-Tactics Himself
Jose Mourinho will be upset to have dropped two points to a bad West Brom side. Upset at his players? Possibly. Upset at himself? Definitely.
West Brom played above themselves in order to stay competitive with Chelsea, the Premier League‘s leading club. The Baggies flew around the pitch, putting in crunching challenges all throughout the first half to make sure their presence was known. Now, it was not football, but it was effective. In truth, West Brom played about as well as a Championship side, and other linking a few good passes together once in a while, they boasted an archaic kick-and-chase game plan.
Yet, it worked. After conceding Chelsea’s only goal right before halftime — a fine, close volley by Branislav Ivanovic — it looked as though West Brom would inevitably crumble piece by piece and allow the Blues to open up and play their attacking game. But, like any bottom-feeder with their back against the wall, the Baggies carried on pressing and fighting for a goal.
Chelsea, on their end, seemed unprepared for the fight and were put off by the home side’s tenacity. It should be noted that the referee and his linesmen were hapless and utterly lost in the game, unable to assert any control over the proceedings. However, it was not the referee who gave up an 87th-minute leveler to Victor Anichebe.
No, it was the players, and most of all Mourinho. Well known for his game-tested tactical genius, Mourinho, like many Chelsea fans, were sure that all three points were in the bag once 65 minutes had passed. Thus, he took off the pacy Samuel Eto’o for Fernando Torres. A good substitution, but Eto’o had been playing well and linking up even better with Chelsea’s attacking midfielders. He was not gassed and there was no real need to remove him from the game.
Next was a formation-altering change that came in the way of John Obi Mikel for the more technical gifted and attack-minded Oscar. The defensive Mikel seemed a logical choice to sit in front of the back line and close out the game, yet this was the real turning point. With the loss of their central attacking midfielder, the Blues were willing to sit deeper and allowed West Brom more possession and time on the ball. This led to a continuous bombardment of dangerous crosses looping into the box from either side.
This could have been dealt with, had West Brom not been winning the majority of headers all game. A late injury to Gary Cahill left the sturdy center half limping around the penalty box, trying to defend the lead. Had he been fit, Saido Berahino‘s cross would not have gone over his head and into the path of the onrushing Anichebe.
With only a few minutes left, Chelsea were doing all they could to protect a tie that had once been a comfortable lead. A post-equalizer substitution saw Mohamed Salah come on for Ramires to the boos of the petulant Baggie faithful. From there, the game was practically destined to end in a draw. A 1-0 win with 20 minutes left was reduced to a draw through poor substitutions from a man who rarely makes such mistakes.
It is hard to blame Mourinho, though. Had Chelsea put away the win, he would be hailed as a defensive mastermind, and he still is as it stands. Chelsea sit two points clear, and the ‘little horse’ still has an unbeaten run to be proud of. Now, all that is left is to see if Chelsea can win the little games instead of dropping points to bottom-table teams.
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