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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album