Ahead of today’s second pre-season match, in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, Jose Mourinho has spoken about developing an effective defence for the months ahead and about his young squad members’ thirst for knowledge.
For the Chelsea manager, pre-season for the rearguard is just as much about moulding players together as a unit as working on individual skills, and he is giving different centre-back pairings the chance to grow an understanding.
In the match in Bangkok John Terry and Tomas Kalas were the central defence in the first half with Gary Cahill and Nathaniel Chalobah taking over in the second half. Today against the Malaysia XI it will be Terry with Chalobah, and Kalas with Cahill.
‘We have to work on combinations and that is what we are doing now without David Luiz,’ Mourinho explained.
‘When David Luiz is back and we go to the States, I will do the same with him. Branislav Ivanovic I think more of using as a right-back. I see Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta as our two right-backs, but also Ivanovic is very comfortable playing central defender. I asked him about that and he said it doesn’t matter where he plays.
‘He is very comfortable on the ball but because he has physical adaptations to both positions it is easier for him to play right-back and now and again play central defender than the opposite,’ the manager added.
‘When he is playing central defender and sometimes he goes to right-back, from the physical point of view it is a completely different dynamic in terms of the needs of the position. It is more difficult for a central defender to play right-back than for a right-back to play central defender, but from a technical point of view and the pleasure to be on the pitch for him it is exactly the same.
‘So we have solutions and we are working on that, and when David Luiz comes and Azpilicueta comes we have international players joining the group so I think our defence will be really good.’
David Luiz played seven games in midfield last season but although Mourinho fully understands the Brazilian can help the team in other positions when the need arises, he considers him to be a central defender.
‘He has an important quality for the football we want to play, which is to build from the back,’ Mourinho said.
‘He is comfortable with the ball and is not a player to play direct or rely on the people who play directly in front of him. He can improve as everybody can, especially defensively with the potential that he has.
‘He played in Portugal for a few years so I watched him play week after week and from a defensive point of view he can be much more effective and solid, but his potential is incredible.’
From day one since his return as Chelsea manager, Mourinho made it clear a major part of his role is improving and making the most of the young players at his disposal, and he has found them keen to learn, but blending them with experience is important too.
‘You cannot go with a team of Under-21s to try to be one of the best teams in England and Europe, so we need at least four, five or six mature players to be among the team,’ he says.
‘For the evolution of the kids we have, they need stability in terms of football ideas, we cannot every six months change the philosophy of training and a way of seeing football.
‘I am feeling that because the kind of tactical meetings I am having with the players, the way we analyse the training sessions, the way we analysed the first match, the way we are preparing for the second match – we are starting from a very basic point of view because they need to know first of all where I want to go in terms of football and the way I want to go.
‘So I am spending a lot of time with them explaining the sessions, the exercises, why we do these exercises, in which way we can use the fundamentals of these exercises in a match situation.
‘I am being a bit of a teacher because they are ready to absorb information. The first thing we did when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur was to have a meeting in relation to the match in Bangkok, because the kids they need to learn.’