Chelsea can win the Premier League, European Champions League, FA Cup and the Capital One Cup this season, but what becomes of keeping a much-burgeoned squad happy?
Chelsea have “two of the best three goalkeepers in the world” at this moment, yet manager Jose Mourinho admits the situation reflects a dilemma in his selection process; such he thinks “every manager in every club would like”.
Neither Thibaut Courtois nor Petr Cech, 32, know whose responsibility it would be to guard the post at promoted Burnley on Monday night, a decision the Portuguese boss will only make on the eve of the club’s opening Premier League fixture.
Mark Schwazer, 41, waited until the latter part of last season to make his Champions League debut and start a Premier League game for the first time since the good-old days at the Riverside and Craven Cottage, all thanks to Chelsea’s long-time first choice Cech’s injury. A situation which doesn’t look to get better in the new season, following the arrival of Belgium goalkeeper Courtois, 22, the fans’ favourite waiting for his first competitive appearance in the colour of the ‘Blues’ after his success on loan at Spanish club Atletico Madrid.
“I can’t tell you (who will play) because they don’t know and the team doesn’t know,” Mourinho said.
“What I can say is that in my opinion, with all respect to fantastic goalkeepers around the world, I think Chelsea has two of the three best goalkeepers in the world, which is unique.
“Is it a problem for me? It’s a great problem because they are both fantastic. Even Schwarzer, who is at a different age and a different level at this moment, is a good goalkeeper. But, to have Cech and Courtois is a good problem every manager in every club would like to have.”
Someway or another, something has to give way, and at some point the 51-year-old coach would have to make up his mind- regardless whose ox is being gored- and take sporadic decisions. A few ride down memory lane, it dawned on me that Real Madrid’s legendary Iker Cassillas had to be sidelined to allow new signing Diego Lopez shine in 2013, despite that choice causing more apathy between the “Mourinhistas” and the “Madridistas” while the ‘Special One’s’ clock at the Santiago Bernebeu wound down just over a year ago.
Not a manager of Mourinho’s class would be caught unawares, per improving a squad of rare talents at an outfit competing in four distinct competitions. The resources are plenty and many have tipped the Stamford Bridge club for the league title this season, but if it all boil down to keeping the team spirit even, guess he knows he has got his hands full.
“The best way for me to work is to think in a pragmatic way, in a cold way too. It’s to forget and hide the emotions around the situation and decide what’s best for the team and the club. It’s a very safe situation,” Mourinho explained.
“It’s not easy because I don’t think any manager is happy to see one player in an uncomfortable situation, so from that that perspective it’s not easy for me. I like to see people happy. I understand that for goalkeepers who could play for any club in the world, and here one of them is going to be on the bench, it’s a difficult situation, but for Chelsea Football Club it’s a great situation.
“Obviously during the season if one is definitely my first choice I will have to support and stimulate the other one. I can’t have one incredible goalkeeper on the bench for three or four months waiting for a Capital One Cup game.”
Chelsea have bolstered its squad with the signing of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Didier Drogba.
Costa and Fabregas are two key arrivals hungry for success and have come with their own stool to sit at the heart of the team. The London club struggled to find a fitting forward in Fernando Torres and the long-gone pair of Samuel Eto’O and Demba Ba throughout last season’s silverware-shy campaign. And despite a disappointing World Cup in the summer, Spanish striker, Costa, has already proved to be the missing link and his compatriot has been tipped to fit well into the departed Frank Lampard’s shoes after and impressive pre-season.
One recurrent phrase in Mourinho’s pre-game briefing during the title run-in the last time out was “we are not favourites”, which, albeit thoughtful enough, has now be revised to “we are title contenders”. And this time it is no mind games. The ex-Inter Milan coach however agrees there are not just one favourite.
He added: “This season obviously we bought some key players, we believe and we are feeling that the new players have brought the squad and team into another dimension.
“Yes we are title contenders, if you expect me to say we will win the Premier League I can’t say that. I can’t because I have to respect the competition, which is the only one that has more than two title contenders. I have to respect the opponents and efforts the other teams made to improve their already top teams, but we all feel we are title contenders.”