Starting the season so well has been brilliant. From the stand point of a supporter – being comfortably top of the table, nearly qualified for the next round of the Champions League, undefeated and never in fear of losing – the situation could not be much better. I have to scour the internet just for Premier League banter which is pointless because there is no fight back from Arsenal, Spurs, Pool, or any of the Mancs. With nearly everyone already ceding the title to our boys in blue I can’t do anything else but take a step back and think, is this be too good to be true? Obviously it isn’t when looking solely at the Premier League. We will win it out right but the floor of our ambitions has to be more than just the EPL title (especially after seeing the quality of the team so far).
Personally I am not impressed at all with Bayern Munich since Pep Guardiola’s took the reins but they are a perfect case study when looking at how we are breezing through the domestic competition. That team was excellent in the Bundesliga last season, albeit in a down year for the German League. When they finally came up against elite competition they were destroyed with extreme prejudice. Mourinho is a far superior manager than Guardiola at adapting tactics, personnel, and the player’s mentalities to the occasion, but we are also looking at a down year in the EPL which is aiding in our excellent start. It is fair to question, are we that good or is everyone else in Britain that bad? We have 6 more months of football to find out. That said, here are 3 things Mourinho is not getting right at the moment, two could affect our overall trophy haul at the end of the season and the third is important for a completely different reason.
To begin with, the at times has been unsettling. The expansive attacking game has some effect on this but we have to expect, even demand, better defending. Mourinho has started running an unusual 3/4 field press that leaves too much space between the back line and midfield. Emre Can’s goal is a clear example and was a carbon copy of his 1st minute shot. You don’t want any more than 40 yards between your back four and your striker when defending and we are often stretched to around 50 yards. In addition to getting stretched, certain players aren’t taking their individual defensive duties serious enough, but I won’t Cesc any names. Last year at times it felt like the team would just give Hazard the ball and expect him to create goals on his own. This season there has been a lot of ‘don’t worry Matic’s got it’ defending. He is immense but he can only do so much. These defensive tactics and lapses need to be tighten up before we step on the field against top teams or we may be looking back thinking would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.
Next the player rotation has been non-existent. Up to this stage in the season it hasn’t been imperative but with the run of games coming up, we need to see new faces and rested players all around. There are mental, physical, and psychological motives behind rotating players. Mentally Mourinho needs to know as well as the team, when someone that isn’t a regular steps into the team they can execute the tactics and perform. The players need to have belief in each other to play to their potential. Physically this will help prevent injuries and players becoming jaded late in the season. Probably the most important reason is to prevent complacency. Sitting out a match or two and seeing someone thrive in your spot puts you on alert. It keeps key players feeling like they need to leave their mark every match out of fear of losing their spot. We are definitely winning the EPL sprint but we need to be thinking about the treble marathon.
Lastly, drop Thibaut Courtois every once in a while FFS! Ok, Ok, I do not really want to drop Courtois but Cech deserves games. The restrictions on games played in the EPL to receive a medal has been dropped, which is great, but it’s deeper than that for me. Having captained the team in the recent past and still being a world class keeper, do you really think Cech wants a medal after playing in 3 or 4 matches? Probably not. Cech seems humble, nonetheless he will value his medal with his contribution. Cech isn’t Rudy(Notre Dame football practice squad player), he is still world class and one of us. Without a doubt Cech is a legend, and one day possibly thought of as a myth by youngsters that don’t believe he nearly died defending our goal. Without getting too righteous, give him games.
There are plenty reasons we are better and more suited for the long haul than the Bayern Munich team previously mentioned, however we could suffer from success if we are not careful. We must remember this is still a young team we’d expect to mature and improve for years. These are routine maintenance items because when the wheels fall off it may be too late by the time you’re back up and rolling again.