When Planning Beats Players...

Who needs world-class strikers at their peak when you have meticulous planning and a collective force of will? Chelsea won this game on the training-ground...

Last Updated: 09/04/14 at 09:40 Post Comment

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"We worked all week on what we do at 1-0, 2-0, 2-1. Every scenario we had a gameplan," said John Terry, before Jose Mourinho confirmed that Chelsea had carefully rehearsed three different formations - the starting 4-2-3-1, the Lampard-less 4-1-2-3 and then the 'right, this is really getting sodding desperate now' 4-1-5 or however you want to label total commitment, extreme pressure and the introduction of all Mourinho's apparently unwanted strikers.

Chelsea were not brilliant; they were not wildly inventive; they were not irresistible on the eye; they were simply prepared. They were meticulously prepared tactically in a way that perhaps only Mourinho's teams can ever truly be and they were mentally prepared to push and push for as many minutes as it took to win this football match by the required margin.

It's difficult to argue that Chelsea played well - as they have done all season, they struggled to break down a side who seemingly came to play them at their own counter-attacking game. But it's not a gameplan too familiar to a PSG side who have dominated domestically and they could not follow in the footsteps of old hands Newcastle, Stoke, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace in making Chelsea pay for their lack of invention when faced with a bank of defenders. Instead they gifted Andre Schurrle (previously described by Mourinho as 'cold-blooded') criminal amounts of space to score Chelsea's opener and then dropped uncomfortably deep to make Demba Ba's eventual winner seem almost inevitable.

While Chelsea were prepared for every scenario, it seemed PSG were prepared for only one - being two goals ahead, frustrating the Blues and killing the atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge. It worked until Chelsea had the well-disguised luck of losing Eden Hazard and bringing on the direct and athletic Schurrle. The French champions did not adjust when he made it 1-0 and their tactic of simply hoping Chelsea would not score again was a) doomed and b) pretty poor form for such an expensively assembled side.

"We have not come here to suffer and let Chelsea dictate the game to us and dominate us," said Blanc before the match. Either he was bluffing or his players collectively succumbed to the temptation to protect their two-goal lead. That Edinson Cavani missed a fantastic chance will undoubtedly be cited as a turning point, but the fact that the chance came in the 77th minute - and was their first real sight of goal - is telling. There will be questions asked across Europe about the backbone of a team who do not often face this calibre of opposition. They were either unable or unwilling to impose their game on Chelsea.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have somehow found a way to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League without a world-class striker at his peak. But who needs a world-class striker when you have meticulous planning, sheer force of will and an awkward-looking third-choice, bizarrely effective striker who has scored three Champions League goals this season from a grand total of five shots? Only Mourinho's Chelsea could make that a winning recipe.

Sarah Winterburn

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