Mourinho’s Options on the Bench

Chelsea have finally reached the business end of the campaign. There is no more time for mistakes, figuring out preferred squads, or trying new tactics. Our starting 11 is pretty much set, barring injuries or slight rotation. Assuming Oscar is preferred to start over Ramires, we will discuss the Blue’s options coming off the bench, and what they offer Mourinho.

The most rational place to start then, is Ramires himself. He is a box-to-box midfielder, often playing in the CDM role next to Matic. Typically when he plays, he allows Fabregas to push forward and contribute higher up in the Blue’s attack. Ramires is a tough tackling, hard working stalwart for Mourinho. He offers pace and stamina that few players in the BPL offer. Coming off the bench he offers more than just fresh legs, but energy. He can come into a match and incite pace into the game. Ramires offers a pretty good option next to Matic to shield the defense. Ramires will not offer much of an attacking threat however.

Loic Remy is the next member off the bench. The Frenchman is the most likely to make an impact in an attacking sense. He comes into a match and immediately increases the pace that Chelsea plays with. One of the best things about Remy is the runs he makes in behind defenders. Where Costa tends to create on his own opportunities, Remy opens up passing lanes for his teammates. His pace helps him to take defenders with him, creating holes for players like Hazard to dribble through. With Costa’s hamstring always being a concerning factor, Remy will continue to be instrumental for Mourinho until the final day of the season.

Kurt Zouma presents a strong option off the bench for Mourinho as well. There are a number of physical attributes that he possesses. The young Frenchman is 1.90 m tall and has a strong ability to jump and win balls in the air. Zouma also has tantalizing pace, which allows him to keep pace with fast strikers, and recover quickly, after him or a teammate gets beaten. However, this young man’s maturity is the standout factor for me in his current success. He has come into a well-experienced Chelsea side, brimming with talent, and has looked the part all along. The young CB is gaining confidence and skill from training with such elite players. He also comes with a fair amount of versatility. Zouma has proven he can play at CB, full back, and even in CDM. While most were initially skeptical of Mourinho’s decision to start Zouma in this position, the Frenchman did his very best to prove these critics wrong. Zouma looked very comfortable at CDM, where he had less time to distribute the ball than at his typical CB role. Mourinho will continue to count on Zouma to come in and sure up the defense, no matter where on the pitch he plays.

Didier Drogba will never be a man who cannot make an impact, even at 37 years old. The Ivorian is a constant threat and continues to lead Chelsea from anywhere, including the bench. Drogba is a role model to the younger players in training. However, when called upon during matches, the striker has failed to disappoint. He has scored several timely goals for the Blues this season, while providing Chelsea with a target man up top. While he may not be able to make the runs he used to, he is someone who can hold the ball up, use his size to dominate possession, and distribute to other attacking players. He also remains lethal in front of goal if given the chance. Drogba will also be called upon several more times this season, especially if Costa begins to struggle with injuries.

Filipe Luis is a world class left-back. In fact, he could easily be considered in the top 5 in the world. However, so is Azpilicueta, who continues to keep the Brazilian on the bench. However, don’t misunderstand the Luis’s talent. He is a seasoned LB who can not only defend admirably, but also join Chelsea in attack. Maybe his one advantage over Azpilicueta is the fact that he is left footed. His ability to play strong crosses into the box is something that both Azpi, and Ivanovic could take notes on. Luis also boasts an ability to take sublime freekicks if given the chance. Luis will be used to sure up the defense by Mourinho. He will not only help Azpi get a rest, but also be used as a fifth defender, depending on the situation in any given match. I hope we can hold onto Luis beyond this season, as the Brazilian has to be the best backup defender in the world.

Juan Cuadrado is somewhat of a mystery in a blue shirt. While not given many chances thus far, he has failed to impress in his few performances. There is no doubt that the Colombian has both talent and speed. He may simply be continuing to assimilate into the BPL. Either way, it is clear that Mourinho does not trust him as a substitute in situations that require a clutch performance. Hopefully next season Cuadrado will play a larger role for the Blues. However, I fear he was a rushed purchase, simply to offer numbers instead of a realistic replacement for Andre Schurrle. And at that price tag, I really hope that I am mistaken.

Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek typically take another spot on the bench. While both offer youth and a potential squad rotation, neither are fully trusted by Mourinho in important matches. Hopefully, if the Blues wrap up the title early, they will both get their chances at the end of the season. There is no doubt that they are both brimming with talent.

Petr Cech is the best backup goalkeeper in the world. Mourinho has often said that he has the best two goalkeepers in the BPL and perhaps 2 of the best 3 in the world, assuming Bayern’s Neuer is in that conversation. The fact that we have held onto Cech all season is a borderline miracle, coupled with a bit of “Mourinho Magic”. The Czech international offers Jose something that no other coach in the world has, the ability to swap first and second goalkeepers without noticing a difference. When called upon this season, Cech has proven that he remains nothing short of brilliant in net. If Chelsea manage to secure Cech for next season, I would consider Chelsea the luckiest team in the world.

While I believe the Blues need to sign another CAM in the offseason, they have a pretty deep bench. This will undoubtedly come in handy as they are almost at the finish line for this title campaign. The last few steps will come with challenges, and the fact that Mourinho can turn to an experienced bench is extremely comforting. Hopefully, with the Chelsea’s strength in numbers, we can lift the Premier League trophy sooner rather than later.

For more from Tyler Strauss, follow him on Twitter: @tyler_strauss_

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