And equally sad that Mourinho had to come out and defend Chelsea on this.
I mean – yes, they throw their money around, and yes, Chelsea are arrogant bastards, but accusing Mourinho of not playing the strongest team is stupid. He wants to win, so he picks what he thinks is the best team.
Problem is, despite Mourinho’s brave claims to the contrary, he HAS tried very hard to fit Ballack and Shevchenko into the side, leaving quality players on the sidelines in the process.
With Shevchenko at least, I get it. He’s one of two senior strikers at the club, so he gets to play. He needs time on the pitch, just like Ballack does, but he also has little competition for his place.
Plus whenever Mourinho wants to switch the Chelsea formation mid-game he can always throw on a winger, take off Sheva and turn it into their old 4-5-1/4-3-3.
But with Ballack it’s a bit confusing. Yes, Ballack is playing well, but he’s playing well (by his standards) in an unfamiliar position. Shedding width in favour of playing Ballack (with Makelele and Lampard untouchable, and Essien untouchable on form) means that Robben and Joe Cole have been reduced to ‘impact’ players.
Now, with Essien being tried at at right-back, an extra space has opened up in midfield. It’s quite likely that one of Robben and Joe Cole will be asked to fill that space, which is quite smart, because with the number of games Chelsea are playing (and the need to rest Makelele now and then) it will mean that everyone in the squad gets in a game.
I think most people raised questions about Ballack and Shevchenko because their signings broke the pattern of buying young talent and building a team together instead of buying established stars. Chelsea have gained (control in midfield) and lost (width and penetration) with the new formation, and with they play enough games to keep the bench interested as well.
It will be interesting to see Chelsea play 4-3-3 with these players though:
Essien, Carvalho, Terry, A. Cole
Ballack, Makelele, Lampard
Robben, Drogba, J. Cole
Or push Cole to midfield and replace Robben with Sheva, and return to 4-3-3 after half-time or with 30 mins to go.
One last thing – how does Chelsea have a world-class second XI? They probably did before, but not this year.
Boulahrouz, Wayne Bridge, Ferreira, Cudicini, SWP, Kalou – these guys are just as good / bad as the United’s second string (with the possible exception of SWP, although to be fair Richardson makes the England squad ahead of SWP). More on this later I guess.