Mourinho keeps faith in toothless strikers
Stoke City 3 Chelsea 2
Jose Mourinho has ruled out any January signings even though he is losing patience with Chelsea's ineffective forwards.
Mourinho fears that Chelsea's Premier League title hopes are becoming increasingly remote after his first visit to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday ended in a chastening defeat, and the statistics make unpalatable reading for the manager.
Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba have scored only four league goals between them this season and were unconvincing again, underlining why Mourinho spent so much effort battling to tempt Wayne Rooney away from Manchester United this summer.
The manager's decision to allow Romelu Lukaku to join Everton on loan appears ever more bizarre with each passing week and it is a situation that is threatening to reach crisis proportions.
However, Mourinho has claimed that he will not be pleading for transfer funds next month and pledged to work with his squad for the rest of the season which, on this evidence, represents a huge risk.
"If you tell me (Sergio) Aguero has scored already 10 or 12 goals, (Alvaro) Negredo 10 or 12 goals, (Edin) Dzeko four or five, Rooney eight or 10, (Olivier) Giroud eight or 10, (Daniel) Sturridge eight or 10, (Luis) Suarez 10 or 12, if you ask me would I like my strikers to score eight-10-12 goals, yes," Mourinho said.
"If we had eight-10-12 goals (from the strikers) we would be top of the league. That's a reality but my strikers give everything and the team works hard. What can you do more? We work, we keep working. That's the only way I know is to keep working.
"Of course we want the best possible results, but I am not waiting for players, I am not asking for players. This is a period for the club and this is a period of my team where we have to try and improve the players we have and try to build a future. It is my squad. For good and for bad it is my squad. Of course it is not the perfect squad, but it is my squad and I work with them until the last day. To criticise does not help me. What do I win by criticising my players? I win nothing."
Mourinho's problems are not exclusively with his forwards, however. Petr Cech was far from assured in goal once again while Stoke City frequently exposed Cesar Azpilicueta at left-back, while Ashley Cole gathers dust on the bench.
Chelsea may have scored 12 goals in four games, but conceding six against Sunderland and Stoke would have been unheard of in Mourinho's first spell at Stamford Bridge.
They looked on course for another of their annual jaunts in the Potteries when Andre Schurrle gave them a ninth-minute lead, but Mourinho's frustration at the profligacy of his players was evident well before Peter Crouch equalised shortly before half-time.
Stephen Ireland's excellent goal set the tone for an absorbing second half, only for Schurrle to equalise, but Oussama Assaidi delivered an outstanding finish in the final minute to leave Mourinho downbeat about the future.
The manager said: "I think we are one of the six teams that are the six potential contenders for the title. Remember that in the past two years, this team finished 25 points behind the leaders and finished 14 points behind the leaders.
"We are not speaking with me about my team being champions last year or finished one or two points behind. My team in the last two or three years in December was 15-20 points behind the leaders and I am saying we are building a team, a style of play with the players we have and of course we want the best results."
Arguably, this was a result Mark Hughes needed to silence his doubters after only one league win since August. The Britannia Stadium may have lost some of its fear factor over the years but this was a stirring reminder of their early days back in the top flight, when Tony Pulis made putting noses out of joint an art form.
Assaidi's devastating contribution, after his late introduction as a substitute, should earn him more opportunities after revealing he carried out his manager's orders to the letter.
"Before I went on the pitch he told me, 'Go and win us the game'," Assaidi said. "He knows what I can do. I'm very happy for this confidence, but I really want to start of course.
"The coach makes the decision. I had to be patient until he gave me my opportunity. Of course, everyone wants to play, me too. The coach made today another decision but I hope for more starts.
"But I'm very happy I started twice this week. For me this is good because for a long time I don't play and I hope I showed the coach that I can start." (© Daily Telegraph, London)