Mourinho scrambling for greater firepower
Chelsea boss knows success depends on overhauling attack, writes Jason Burt
Jose Mourinho has been set a familiar problem but in unfamiliar circumstances. The Chelsea manager has misfiring strikers but he does not have the weapons at his disposal to go to war for what he wants.
The sustained pursuit of Wayne Rooney during the summer transfer window, born of encouragement from those close to the player, proved that Chelsea and Mourinho were not just admirers of the Manchester United striker but unhappy with the club's frontline.
A discussion has also taken place at Chelsea in recent weeks as to whether they should try to make a bid for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who will line up against Mourinho's team at Stamford Bridge today. Other options have also been considered, including Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain, who played under Mourinho at Real Madrid, and Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, another player the manager has admired for a long time.
Chelsea have also discussed whether it would be worth trying to trigger Diego Costa's £32m release clause at Atletico Madrid, although, with Arsenal also interested, the naturalised Spaniard has indicated he does not want to leave in January ahead of the World Cup. Similarly, any move for Porto's Jackson Martinez would be even more firmly rebuffed.
Last summer, Chelsea withdrew from the bidding over Napoli's Edinson Cavani, who joined Paris Saint-Germain. Instead, they came out of the transfer window with just Samuel Eto'o having been signed, for around £2m, as the add-on in the deal to acquire Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala.
It all makes for an unbalanced line-up for Mourinho and one that he is clearly not comfortable with. His frustration has grown game by game and he has voiced it, albeit not with the level of aggression he would normally display. He does not want to row with the Chelsea hierarchy.
Neither Fernando Torres nor Demba Ba have convinced, while Romelu Lukaku is on loan at Everton having fallen out with Mourinho. Another problem is that his favoured argument that he is working with a young team who need to develop does not hold with the three strikers at his disposal, with Torres, 30 in March, being the youngest.
It is a far cry from when Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea and raised eyebrows by persuading the club to pay £24m for the raw talent of Didier Drogba, who became the manager's totemic striker even after Andriy Shevchenko was signed for £30m from AC Milan.
Mourinho subsequently attempted to distance himself from wanting Shevchenko but, although the Ukrainian was clearly primarily Roman Abramovich's signing, he was also on the manager's list. At that time, that list was topped by Eto'o.
But that was in 2006 and the Cameroonian is now 32 and no longer the force he was when he worked under Mourinho at Inter Milan. His signing has the feel of a stop-gap -- and also a deal to ensure Willian signed for Chelsea and not Tottenham Hotspur --until a bigger fish can be landed next summer, or possibly January.
Chelsea are monitoring whether Rooney does sign a new contract at United and Liverpool qualify for the Champions League. If not, they will be curious as to where that leaves Suarez, despite the Uruguayan's new contract at the Merseyside club.
Mourinho was pointedly rich in his praise of Suarez ahead of the encounter today and the way in which the Uruguayan has rehabilitated himself following the ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. "It happens a lot in the summer -- players who want to leave and after that it depends on them when they are 'forced' to stay," he said.
"It depends on them to have revenge in the negative way by not performing, by not being interested, by not being committed and it is almost up to them to say, 'OK, you kept me, but I am a professional and I want to do my work properly and be an honest guy'. It looks like Suarez, ever since the moment he was 'forced' to stay, I think his answer was magnificent. You can see his motivation."
The deep frustration for Mourinho is that he is failing to see similar levels of motivation from any of his current strikers at Chelsea.