Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
The return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea has precipitated added off-season speculation about the future of a club whose natural state is one of chaos. Perhaps this is the reason why the ‘Special One’ feels so comfortable returning to his former haunt; he himself being no stranger to the doctrine of disorder that Chelsea so readily expound. With a rather enigmatic statement emerging from his camp surrounding the spine of the squad, it seems that Mourinho has no intention of allowing the spectrum of chaos from abating anytime soon.
The five key players that have apparently been identified as integral to the fabric of Chelsea going forward are as follows; Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Oscar and Eden Hazard. The first question is whether to deal with the inclusions or exclusions from this curious ensemble. But wait a minute. Frank Lampard. It wasn’t too long ago that it seemed as if a moratorium had been called on the Englishman’s career, with contractual negotiations taking on the spectrum of a modern day Spanish melodrama. Now Jose is seemingly putting the goal-scoring dynamo at the fulcrum of his plans, an idea that some observers find regressive.
Firstly, no-one can deny that Lampard deserved his contract extension. However, to look at his importance to Mourinho in purely football related parameters would greatly underestimate the magnitude of the Mourinho-Lampard relationship. It is no secret of the Portuguese’s admiration of not only Lampard, but also slightly aged players; just think of the Inter Milan team he assembled from somewhere in the Jurassic period. He also must recognise the tangible value of utilizing Lampard’s significant dressing room clout as a means of filtering his ideologies to his new generation of Chelsea players. The disturbing omission from the line-up that automatically springs to mind is that of Juan Mata. The Spaniard has been instrumental to the broadening of Chelsea’s manifest imagination. This could be seen as a direct reflection of Mourinho’s preference for a counter-attacking style over Barcelona-esque possession football. I’m sure that Mata will figure for the London giants, but we could be witnessing a slight change in the focus of Chelsea’s forward guard.
The John Terry omission is probably not so surprising given his marginal status last season, but the herculean efforts of David Luiz in multiple positions probably would have put him near the pinnacle of Chelsea’s most prized assets in most people’s minds. But Mourinho has never truly valued the swashbuckling holding midfielder, just think back to the more pragmatic approaches of both Claude Makelele and Michael Essien. Also, Luiz’s defensive frailties could have inspired a made for TV movie in the relatively short time he has been at the club, so on-going links between the Brazilian and Barcelona could still be a source of serious concern for fans of the generously haired jack of all trades.
The inclusion of Oscar in the contingent is one that perplexes me. Hazard and Mata were dynamic influences on the team last year, while Lampard contributed with his standard metronomic efficiency. But Oscar often flattered to deceive, scoring a few splendid goals in a disastrous Champions League campaign. Perhaps it is his more pronounced presence in the defensive quadrant of the field that Mourinho admires, but I feel that Ramires is a far more valuable commodity to the club than the baby-faced Oscar. His boundless energy often only served to exacerbate his relative inactivity throughout the course of the season. Perhaps the most notable absence in the five man hit squad is that of a recognised striker. The much maligned Fernando Torres seems to have been given a pass, while Demba Ba will feel that the return of the ‘Special One’ could see his contribution limited to fringe involvement.
Would this be an indicator that Mourinho is in the market for a Cavani or Higuain? Or could Romelu Lukaku be about to emerge as the natural successor to the post vacated by Didier Drogba? He has all the physical characteristics that Drogba possessed, with the eye for goal that separated Drogba from other mere specimens. He also has become accustomed to the pace of the Premier League with his loan spell at West Brom, and it would probably make a fair deal of economic sense for the club if they retained the services of Lukaku and created a strike partnership by committee with the pre-existing strikers. This would obviously hurt the sensibilities of a certain Fernando Torres, but the time has come for the club to ask themselves what is more important, Fernando Torres’ emotions or the club’s broader success?
So, never a stranger to controversy, Mourinho’s return has already brought with it rumblings of insurrection and change. One question remains. Given his less than stellar Real Madrid odyssey, will he be presented with the same amount of freedom with Chelsea as Abramovich once gave him when his every move was perceived as a godlike gesture? Or will we see a somewhat humbled ‘Special One’, playacting at total control when in fact the pantomime has long since lost its appeal, showing he is just as expendable as anyone else in the league?
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