Assistant first team coach Steve Holland has been speaking about players adapting when a team’s style of play undergoes a transition, and has highlighted examples showing this to be a regular requirement from top professionals.
Chelsea head to Swindon for our first domestic cup game of the season on Tuesday evening, and Jose Mourinho announced after the Fulham game on Saturday that players who didn’t feature then such as Juan Mata, David Luiz, Michael Essien, Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta will play in the Capital One Cup game, and said he hoped Mata’s performance would tell him the Spaniard has to play every game.
Holland, looking ahead to facing Swindon, confirmed the selection plan is unaltered with no injury concerns, and said there may be the opportunity for one young player to be involved who isn’t normally, however highlighting the problems Bradford City gave top-flight clubs in the competition last season, and the tough FA Cup match Chelsea had at Brentford before winning the replay, he added it will be a strong side sent out with the tie treated with the utmost respect. The coach also spoke more about Mata.
‘An assistant can have a different relationship with the players as opposed to the manager who picks the team and makes the major decisions,’ Holland said.
‘You are forever communicating with players but in this case you are talking about a professional player with a fantastic attitude. There isn’t a great deal that needs to be said to Juan, he knows the score and he is a top professional. He trained well yesterday as you would expect.
‘Having to adapt is nothing particularly new here. I have been here five years and going back to Carlo Ancelotti’s team playing with Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka playing behind Didier Drogba with three soldiers in midfield, Frank Lampard had to adapt and get out to defend against full-backs because Anelka wasn’t asked to do that in the role he played.
‘It changed with Andre Villas-Boas to 4-3-3 and Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata had to chase the full-backs, and with Roberto Di Matteo that changed a little bit and Salomon Kalou and Ramires played wide. Mata played in the no. 10 role for the first time really at Chelsea.
‘With Rafa Benitez it again changed a little, a bit more of a compromise. Oscar was asked then to play wide and Ramires, especially in the bigger games. When Juan’s role was the no. 10 it was another adaptation that was required and he has shown here he is more than capable of doing that, and that will be the case this time.’
Changing the identity of the team in terms of the way it goes about its business on the pitch does take time Holland reiterated, but he noted that Mourinho’s Real Madrid side had four creative attacking players in Mesut Ozil, Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema, presenting the challenge of making the team good when in possession and also when it didn’t have the ball.
‘Jose clearly managed to do that at Madrid given the results he had. I will also never forget the game against Chelsea when Jose was the coach of Inter.
‘I was working with Carlo Ancelotti and Pandev, Milito, Eto’o and Schneider were the front four. Three of those were strikers and one is a no. 10, so a very creative team to come to Chelsea away and yet they worked like Trojans the four of them, I have never seen attacking players work so hard. Eto’o played on the wing.
‘So Jose is quite clear in his mind given the success he has had. He knows the recipe for success and he feels that is the way forward for us this year. I am quite sure that can be achieved here as well.
‘Jose is always pushing the players to the maximum every day, and that is evident not just in the teams but in the individuals he has worked with.
‘Ronaldo is a player I have always really admired, but in his three-year period working with Jose he really evolved as an individual. He is not just a talented dribbler who can score goals, he has become a top-level match winner who wants to make runs in behind, and to threaten the goal.
‘That doesn’t just happen, that comes with pushing even if it is the best. In Ronaldo’s case he is the best in the world, and whether it is David Luiz, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Fernando Torres, whoever it is, I am sure on a day-to-day basis Jose will be pushing for signs for improvement, working to progress the individual but ultimately for the benefit of the team.’