Chelsea’s problems are usually well-diagnosed, so no points for guessing what I’m talking about.
Chelsea’s first problem: No Gallas.
Carvalho and Boulharouz are not proper replacements for Gallas. His sale (and the circumstances surrounding his sale) has made Chelsea unbalanced in defence. You have Ferreira, Boulharouz, Terry, Carvalho, Cole and Bridge in defence. I count only two world-class defenders.
Mourinho has exchanged a quality centre-back for spoilt (yet excellent) left-back. It may be good for team spirit to get rid of Gallas but now Chelsea have to compensate. Thing is, Mourinho’s plans for the team being more ‘adventurous’ were realistic with Gallas around – Carvalho does not have the pace to anchor an attacking Chelsea.
One way to reduce the pressures felt by the departure of Gallas would be to have Essien replace Makelele in the side on a semi-permanent basis. Essien’s pace will allow him to provide defensive cover as well as to move forward to support the attacking midfielders. If Mourinho is going to play the diamond midfield, Essien, not Makele, is the logical choice at the base.
Chelsea’s second problem: Team formation.
How do you fit Makelele, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Joe Cole, Arjen Robben, Obi Mikel and Wright-Phillips into 4 slots? Makelele and Essien are effectively scraping for one spot, while in a 4-4-2 Mourinho will have to drop one of Lampard, Ballack, Cole and Robben on a consistent basis. And this is not even counting players like Wright-Phillips and Obi Mikel.
The best formation for Chelsea right now is not 4-4-2 but a return to their 4-3-3, with Lampard and Ballack playing in front of Makelele and Sheva up front on his own, with two of Drogba, Cole and Robben rotating on the wings. This forces Drogba out of his natural striking position, and at the expense of accomodating Ballack, alienates a whole bunch of fringe players.
Chelsea’s third problem: Wantaway players.
Like it or not, Wright-Phillips has ruined his career by moving to Chelsea. Scott Parker managed a move away, but Wright-Phillips could not and for another year this kid will be denied the chance to play regularly – something that he needs to do if he wants to get into the England squad.
Gallas, Crespo, Drogba, Duff, Gudjohnsen – all of them were unhappy at Chelsea. Only Drogba remains from last season. While Duff and Gudjohnsen went peacefully, Crespo managed to create quite a ruckus with his daily plea in the media to Chelsea to ‘set him free’ and Gallas rivalled Ashley Cole for the title of victimised player (although in his case he might actually have a point).
Chelsea is still the place to be in the Premiership, but the wage differences between Sheva and Ballack versus the rest of the squad are sure to cause imbalance. Terry is rumbling for an upgraded contract, and while he’ll get it the price of keeping their top stars at Chelsea is proving to be quite high. Winning the Champions League will help keep players happy, but you cannot alienate your best defender (Gallas) and say that there’s nothing wrong.
Wright-Phillips and Drogba won’t be happy, and how long before Robben starts complaining about his lack of opportunities at the club? And what about Bridge?
Mourinho has managed to win the league four years in a row now, and there is no doubt that he is a very talented manager (one of the best).
But can he control Chelsea, and more importantly, can he solve their problems?
It has to be said that most clubs would gladly take on these problems in exchange for a realistic chance at winning the Premiership and the Champions League.