Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho left impotent by problems of age as strikers continue to struggle

Blues' strikers have failed to deliver in front of goal this season

Jose Mourinho is not a man who is easily lost for words so, when the Chelsea manager declared not once, but twice, in the aftermath of Saturday’s unexpected 3-2 defeat at Stoke City that he did not know how to get any more out of his centre-forwards, it was not hard to read between the lines.

Chelsea’s defence may have just leaked three goals in successive league games for the first time since 1999, and this against two of the division’s least prolific teams, Sunderland and Stoke, but it was evident after this “shit” defeat – his word – that Mourinho’s chief frustration lay with their problems at the other end of the pitch.

This was another barren afternoon for Chelsea’s strikers who have not scored a single away goal in the Premier League in 2013. Between them, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o have four league goals this term and Mourinho believes the lack of a top-class goalscorer is damaging their title prospects.

“We try the best we can, the strikers, they try the best they can, I don’t know what to do,” Mourinho said, as he proceeded to list rather pointedly the goal threat of Chelsea’s title rivals. Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko, Wayne Rooney, Olivier Giroud, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez were all namechecked before he continued: “If you ask me would I like my strikers to score eight, 10, 12 goals? Yes. And [with] eight, 10 goals we would be top of the league.” He might have added Romelu Lukaku to that list but then the thinking behind letting the Belgian depart on loan to Everton remains one of this season’s great mysteries.

What is rather clearer is that when Mourinho suggests Chelsea’s “is not a perfect squad”, it is his striking options he has in mind. He had the look of a man whose patience had run dry and as he spoke about the impossibility of improving older players, it seemed no coincidence that Eto’o is 32, Torres 29 and Ba 28. “One thing is to improve a player who is 20, which you can. If you tell me can you improve [Eden] Hazard? Yes I can. Can I improve a player who is 30? How?”

As Chelsea dominated Stoke in the first period,  there was plenty of incisive attacking play from their creative trio of Juan Mata, André Schürrle and Hazard, but ahead of them Torres was a blunt instrument. Indeed, between him and the  second-half substitutes Ba and Eto’o, the only noteworthy goal attempt was an Eto’o shot which trickled wide late on.

The consequence of it all was a Stoke rally which thanks to Oussama Assaidi’s brilliant winning goal brought their first league win over Chelsea since 1975, and left the Londoners third in the table. It also left Mourinho on the defensive as he noted that Chelsea had finished “25 points and 14 points behind the leader” in each of the past two campaigns. “Who told you that we are the first contenders to win the league? I don’t think we are. I think we are one of the six teams that are potential contenders.”

On days like Saturday, it is hard to disagree. The club’s wish for a more adventurous approach than in Mourinho’s first spell means they are not as strong defensively – Peter Crouch’s first-half equaliser highlighted the vulnerability from set pieces once more – and then there is the absence of a credible No 9. This begs the question whether Mourinho will be able to bring in a goalscorer in January. “I’m not asking for players,” he said, echoing the noises coming out of Stamford Bridge in the past week. “Probably at the end of the season, because it is more normal, but I am not pushing for players now.” Time to read between the lines once more.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee