Last weekend Chelsea lost for the first time in the Premier League this season, they were trailing by two goals against Newcastle United before managing to score a goal in the last minutes. Prior to the match against Newcastle, Nemanja Matic along with Cesc Fabregas has been superb for Chelsea, the duo along with John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Thibaut Courtois had started every single Premier League game together forming a strong defensive unit. In addition, Eden Hazard was the only player among the front four who is yet to start a game.
Matic’s absence gave John Obi Mikel his first start of the season, although the Nigerian had come off the bench on seven previous occasions as a substitute. Mikel’s seven substitute appearances gave him around 120 minutes of football, most of which were at times were Chelsea were already leading comfortably against smaller clubs. Additionally, Cesar Azpilicueta was forced to miss the clash against Newcastle due to suspension, Azpilicueta’s and Matic’s absence may not be the direct reason for Chelsea’s loss but the blues should be careful in future clashes. Their reliance on a narrow set of players will backfire at later stages in the season.
Chelsea’s starting 11 is unrivalled in the Premier League but just like we mentioned at the start of the season, the blues don’t have depth in their squad. Compared to Manchester City, the citizens have plenty of options on their bench and even on their reserve list. Whereas, Chelsea, just like we said last week, are bound to lose a few players to injuries and suspensions and this will eventually lead to an imminent loss, which actually happened last weekend when Chelsea played with two of their back seven.
Jose Mourinho could face much more trouble if one of his defenders gets injured or suspended. The back four started 13 games together, Azpilicueta missed only two games while none of the other three was allowed to rest up to date. The back-up players, Filipe Luis and Kurt Zouma haven’t been given the chance to integrate with their team-mates, the former started only twice and came on as a substitute on four occasions while the latter was only allowed to enter off the bench on twice giving him a shy total of 45 minutes on the pitch.
Relying on a solid spine definitely has its positive, 10 years ago, Jose Mourinho had the likes of Petr Cech, John Terry, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba and it brought Chelsea Premier League success. Chelsea are still sitting in a comfortable position thanks to their strategy so far, but Manchester City are getting closer despite using eight different defenders and two goalkeepers in their starting line-ups. City’s squad depth will definitely give them the upper hand on the long run unless Chelsea sign a quality defender in January.
When John Terry and Gary Cahill get suspended or injured their replacement isn’t going to be of the same caliber, their replacement won’t integrate instantly in the side because of the lack of participation. Mourinho may be focusing on a select few players who are among the world’s best and it may be getting him the best of results but the Premier League is a marathon, it needs a huge list of players who are ready to play at any given moment and it needs enough players to be able to play the whole season in three to four different competitions.