x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Jonathan Wilson analyses five reasons for Chelsea’s uneven start to the season ahead of their Premier League match against Norwich City.

The purchase of Willian, left, by Jose Mourinho supplemented an attacking midfield department already overstocked. Darren Walsh / AP Photo
The purchase of Willian, left, by Jose Mourinho supplemented an attacking midfield department already overstocked. Darren Walsh / AP Photo

Jonathan Wilson

Premier league correspondent

Why sign Eto’o?

Samuel Eto’o used to be one of the best forwards in the world and played superbly under Hose Mourinho at Inter Milan; to that extent his signing made sense.

But Eto’o is 32 now and two years in Russia seem to have left him out of sorts.

Perhaps in a few weeks Eto’o will have recaptured his sharpness – although as Mourinho discovered with Andriy Shevchenko, once a player over 30 loses their bite, it is extremely difficult to rediscover – but the whole question of forwards seems to have been handled strangely.

Romelu Lukaku’s every goal for Everton raises the question of why he was sent out on loan, while Chelsea have retained Demba Ba, whom Mourinho clearly does not rate.

Why the problem with Mata?

Sidelining Juan Mata in the opening weeks of the season seemed mystifying. It is true that in being relatively slight the attacking midfielder is not a typical Mourinho player, but he has never been lazy – he happily tracks back and submits himself to the needs of the team.

Fortunately, because he is so placid, Mata shrugged his shoulders and got on with training and now seems to have forced his way back into the side. The whole issue, though, raises doubts about Mourinho’s judgement.

Why so many midfielders?

Chelsea already had Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses on their books. They brought Kevin de Bruyne back from his loan spell at Werder Bremen.

Then, in the summer, they signed Andre Schurrle and Willian, while sending Moses on loan to Liverpool. The result is six players competing for three positions – or two, if Ramires is used in a defensive role on the right, as he was away at Tottenham Hotspur last week.

A certain amount of rotation is expected and probably necessary, but six is still too many.

Other than stopping Tottenham getting him, there seems little value in the signing Willian.

Which Luiz will we see?

One of Rafa Benitez’s great achievements last season was to transform David Luiz into a joke figure, forever wandering upfield and neglecting his post, into an athletic defender of great authority.

This season, while never reverting back to farce, he has not been as commanding as he was at the end of the last campaign.

Is it a blip? Is it simply a case of feeling his way back into club football after winning the Confederations Cup with Brazil?

Perhaps Luiz needs Benitez to bring out the best in him

Chelsea long-term strategy?

In the six years since Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea, managers have sought to shake off his influence and impose their own tactical plan. Repeatedly, though, they wound up playing the same 4-3-3 formation based around the same old spine of players.

Only last season, as Benitez’s 4-2-3-1 took effect, did it feel like Chelsea were at last doing something other than following the template Mourinho had set. And then as soon as they had broken free, they reappoint Mourinho, meaning more upheaval as he tries to reimpose his methodology.

What is the strategy? Who is buying players and who is setting the philosophy? If Mourinho does not have complete control it is more likely the project will end in another acrimonious divorce.

sports@thenational.ae