Developing a more consistent spine for his team is on Jose Mourinho’s agenda next season.
Suspension, ineligibility and rotation mean we have not fielded the same starting XI in consecutive games this season. However, with a squad of the quality and depth of ours that is not surprising.
As he assessed his team selections over the course of his first term back at Stamford Bridge Mourinho explained why he has made certain decisions with differing degrees of regularity and outlined his hope for 2014/15 with that in mind.
‘In management the ones that you really mean by the untouchables, or the spine, are the ones where you know the stability is there,’ said the Portuguese.
‘I think Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta were a spine and a strength during the whole season. It’s a pity that Ashley Cole didn’t play so much because the player, the man, the Chelsea guy and the quality is there. It’s also a pity the kid Kalas didn’t have more chances. That’s because it is not just that the defence’s performance was so stable, it was also the fact they were almost never injured.
‘In midfield Matic can play in the Premier League but not in the Champions League. Because of that you always play him here and not there; and because of that you play Lampard here and not there, or Mikel here and not there.
‘Ramires was suspended for seven matches in the Premier League. It was a position between Lampard who doesn’t play every game because of his age, Ramires’s suspensions and Matic not being able to play in one competition. It was an area where it was really difficult to establish stability and the foundation.
‘With the strikers, I was trying to go from moment to moment, from quality to quality, and I think we were very successful in that. We started Eto’o at home to Galatasaray and he scored; but in Istanbul we started Fernando and he scored. At Liverpool we decided to start with Ba and he scored. Against Atletico we decided to play with Fernando and he scored.
‘The other three positions are positions where it’s easy to change between Hazard, Schurrle, Salah, Oscar and Willian.
‘So the structure and the base are partially there. It was not possible to complete that puzzle due to different factors. If next season we have, for example, a number nine that we decide deserves to be the first choice, plus the stability that Matic can give by being always available, and with Ramires hopefully getting fewer bans – hopefully then we can have more stability.’
The consistency in appearance and performance of our defence has undoubtedly been a success story this year. In 26 of our 36 league games to date the pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill have comprised the heart of our back four, and Mourinho believes the centre-backs’ nationality can make a difference.
‘I like English players’ mentality,’ he said. ‘It’s not just the fact that we are in England. I like the way they train and the way they commit themselves. I like the way they feel the game. It is not easy. I like to have a national core.’
– Join Ben Andrews and Jason Cundy on Chelsea TV from 3pm for all the build-up to this afternoon’s game.