Jose Mourinho is not an impulsive manager by nature. He is normally cold, and calculated in everything he does but he seemed to hit the panic button in this game. Leading into the match the formation was very much what we have come to expect this season. They played a 4-2-3-1 which has worked so well for them this season. But in this match they seem to be laboured in everything they did. Many promising counter attacks in the first half were slowed down by either Cesc Fabregas or Willian. While Andre Schurrle tried to play with urgency, he often lacked the required quality. At half-time Mourinho changed things bringing on both Diego Costa and Oscar to try and add a bit of potency to the attack. It meant that Didier Drogba played in an unfamiliar position out wide but it also gave them more attacking options. Things got worse for Chelsea as they found themselves a goal down so Mourinho reacted again but reverted to a back three after seeing Ramires brought on for Filipe Luis. The Blues haven’t played with a back three all season and so it would have taken some time to adjust to. Maribor profited as they constantly attacked the gaps in wide areas and nearly scored another goal through Luka Zahovic.
When he signed for Chelsea back in 2013 from Bayer Leverkusen, there was genuine excitement from fans. A few productive seasons for Leverkusen made him a regular in the German international team and it was thought that when he joined the Blues, he would take his game to the next level. That hasn’t quite happened for him so far as he hasn’t managed to establish himself as a regular. There have been moments from Schurrle and the quality is certainly there. His lack of form is maybe down to a number of factors. Firstly, Mourinho has not given him a consistent run of games this season, secondly, he doesn’t seem to fully trust him. When he does start games he is often substituted around 65 minutes. The lack of faith by his manager has manifested itself upon his game. Even though he was offside, his miss today against Maribor was a remarkable one. Another criticism of Schurrle this season is that sometimes he has failed to see the bigger picture. He has often gone for ambitious shots when a pass was the better option and he did that at times in the match against Maribor. If Mourinho can somehow extract a bit of form from the German, it could prove vital for the coming season as they look to challenge on all fronts.
Chelsea are now unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions this season but this was not the performance Mourinho would have expected. Maribor were full of desire and pressed them high up the pitch. It worked effectively as Fabregas was nullified. He is normally the creative fulcrum and the fluency of Chelsea often depends on him. But Maribor’s manager Ante Simundza got his game plan spot on. Chelsea still created enough chances to win, but found Jasmin Handanovic in inspired form. The only real positive to come from the game was the performance of Eden Hazard. He continued his rich vein of form and was always positive despite. He nearly won the game for Chelsea, but his tame penalty was kept out by Handanovic.
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