The mood around Stamford Bridge is “special and happy”, two adjectives that describe the new man in charge of Stamford Bridge- Jose Mourinho. Chelsea welcome back the special one after sacking him back in 2007 and it looks like the Portuguese is on a mission to regain his reputation after his tempestuous departure from Real Madrid.
It was a disastrous last season for the Blues who even though finished third and ended their European campaign with yet another trophy, the mood among the fans was hardly a pleasing site.
Last summer saw an influx of creative midfielders in the side with the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar taking the Premier League by storm but Chelsea’s relatively poor squad depth ultimately took its toll during the final few months. With Daniel Sturridge being sold to Liverpool, the Blues attacking options were restricted to only Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, both out of touch and even though the latter chipped in with goals in the Europa League, his barren spell in the Premier League saw him net just once from December till the end of the season.
This season though has so far taken a positive shape for the South West London club. The Blues ended their tour of Asia with a 100% record and 13 goals in three games. Mourinho will be particularly pleased with Romelu Lukaku who ended the Asia tour with four goals netting in each of the three games. The young Belgian was quick to pounce on the opportunity and gave the new manager something to ponder about.
Yet despite his excellent form for West Bromwich Albion last season and a couple of pre-season games there still remains a doubt as to who would lead Chelsea’s attack come start of the season. The clubs present options comprise of Demba Ba, Fernando Torres along with Romelu Lukaku.
At first glance, one would feel Mourinho will go with the more obvious and experienced option in Fernando Torres who added yet another feather to his cap with the confederation cup golden boot. The Spaniard bagged 23 goals for Chelsea last season with the majority of them coming in cup competitions. Torres’s dismal run in the Premier League saw the Blues suffer on numerous occasions and entrusting him with the striking duties could be a huge gamble by the Portuguese.
Demba Ba on the other hand is mainly seen as a backup despite his decent showing with Newcastle during the start of the season. The Senegalese forward has so far failed to win many plaudits during the pre-season and despite his acrobatic finishes last season, the striker could mainly see a more regular role on the bench or the occasional capital one cup games.
Lukaku though despite his excellent form could be a major gamble by Jose Mourinho. The 20 year old has hardly been tested on big occasions and over reliance on him could backfire as the season progresses. The Belgian will get to see a lot of action this season more than what he got under Andre Villas-Boas which will help the striker develop his raw talent.
Chelsea’s need for a new striker has been no secret. After persistent efforts to sign Radamel Falcao and Edison Cavani, the club has now turned it’s attention to Manchester United forward, Wayne Rooney, the man who Mourinho identifies as the missing piece to complete the Chelsea puzzle.
At first look, it seems foolish to think that United will sell one of their longest serving player to their rivals especially in an area where the London club is desperate for reinforcements. But the last few weeks have seen a bizarre turn of events with the former Everton forward “angry and confused” with the way he has been treated by Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s constant flirting has given Rooney much to think about. So, if Chelsea are successful in luring Wayne Rooney from Manchester United, does he solve their problems?
Unlike Falcao or Cavani, Rooney comes with an advantage of having played in the Premier League for the last decade which makes life a little easier for the Manchester United forward to settle in at Chelsea. Another thing that separates Rooney from the current crop of Chelsea strikers is his versatility. The England forward has been deployed on the wings, as a central midfielder, in the hole and a striker too! In Rooney, Chelsea have a player with the ability to not only finish attacks but initiate them as well by bringing the ball from the deep, pretty similar to what Torres has been offering on a very inconsistent basis.
At 27 years of age, Rooney still has several years left in him and despite his “drop in form” for the past few seasons, Rooney could easily slot in as the main forward at Chelsea. Having played second fiddle to Robin Van Persie and out of position on numerous occasions last season, Rooney still ended the campaign with 23 goals in all competitions for club and country, decent for a striker who had to struggle to find a fixed spot for himself in the team.
Having largely played out of his comfort zone in order to get the best out of the likes of Ronaldo, Van Persie, Berbatov, Rooney’s potential to some extent has not been used fully by Manchester United. When played as the central striker (2009-10), Rooney ended the campaign with 34 goals and although it was not enough for United to win the league, the forward clearly made a strong case of his favored position.
With Rooney, Chelsea get a striker whose comfortable in playing with the “three amigos”. The three attacking midfielders seemingly interchange their position on a fairly regular basis and with a striker used to that sort of a role, it makes Chelsea’s front four even more fluid.
In Rooney, Mourinho sees a player desperate to prove himself, a player looking for a new challenge and should Mourinho manage to get the best out of Rooney, Chelsea could finally bid farewell to their striking woes.