Pitchside Europe

Ignore Mourinho’s mind games: Chelsea merely a striker short of overcoming City

Manchester City and Chelsea strikers compared

José Mourinho recently defended his decision to offload fan favourite Juan Mata to Manchester United, citing a lack of evolution at Stamford Bridge in recent years as reason to need changes. A sixth-placed Premier League finish followed by a Europa League triumph is not the level of achievement Mourinho wants.

But he is not getting ahead of himself, insisting that the club is in a period of transition and needs time to reach the top. While he stated that his team is "taking time to build", he said that his side's next opponents, Manchester City, are already the finished product.

With both teams possessing almost limitless riches, having started the season at just about the same level - City finished just 3 points ahead of Chelsea - and making widespread changes over the summer, including replacing their managers, it hard to see quite where the Portuguese thinks City's advantage has been conjured from.

Frustrated after being held to a goalless draw against West Ham, Mourinho was close to conceding defeat in the title race. After City demolished Tottenham at White Hart Lane on the same night, there was little disagreeing with the fact that City were now odds-on for the title, but it is somewhat bizarre that Mourinho so readily accepted it too, given that even now there are still only 3 points separating the clubs.

Mourinho also stated a day earlier that he wanted City to beat Spurs so that his side would be all but assured of Champions League qualification. Again, a rather bizarre statement that hints he was looking over his shoulder rather than concentrating on their ongoing battle for the Premier League crown.

Any phase of transition that his Chelsea team are currently going through is of his own making, and certainly shouldn't be used as an excuse as to why City look set to run away with the title.

Dropping and later selling the club's player of the season from the past two campaigns meant that changes were necessary in heart of the team, while replacing Ashley Cole at left-back and failing to sign a striker as effective as any of City's have also been significant contributing factors.

Manuel Pellegrini has three of the Premier League's most potent forwards in his ranks, and when the teams come to blows next week they could make the difference. Sergio Agüero - a doubt after sustaining a hamstring injury at Spurs - has scored 15 goals in 17 appearances, netting with an impressive 21.4% of his attempts, which is up there with the best in the league. Álvaro Negredo is some distance behind, with a conversion rate of 16.1%, but even that - and his goal tally of 9 - is some way ahead of any of Chelsea's forwards.

Samuel Eto'o has usurped Fernando Torres as Mourinho's first choice striker, with 6 goals in 13 appearances at a conversion rate of 15.8%. The hat-trick he scored against United boosted those figures hugely, however, and Chelsea really need him to start start firing on a more consistent basis.

Much-maligned Torres, meanwhile, has scored just 4 goals, converting 12.9% of his chances - confidence clearly remains an issue for the Spaniard - while Demba Ba must look for a way out of Stamford Bridge sooner rather than later, used sparingly and clearly not up to the standard that Chelsea need in their ranks, with just one goal from 14 shots this season.

Edin Dzeko fares worst in that regard for City, scoring from just 12.7% of his attempts, but he shoots so frequently (every 17 minutes) that his minutes per goal record (136) makes him worthy of a spot in the City squad.

It is reasonable to say that Rafa Benitez's Europa League-winning Chelsea side only really needed a world class striker brought in to become contenders for the Premier League title. Eto'o has proved, so far at least, not to be of that calibre, and Mourinho could have gone out and splashed the cash on a someone in that role, rather than maintaining a relentless and ultimately hopeless pursuit of Wayne Rooney.

While the changes continue at Chelsea, fans are left wondering quite why their manager still sees the team as so far behind City in terms of quality and how ready they are to be a force at the top.

With their squad and resources Chelsea should be in contention to win the league, and José Mourinho trying to give himself extra time to make his side the best in the country is a somewhat negative move.

Transition is not necessary at Stamford Bridge, and this could have been the side's best chance in years to reclaim the Premier League title.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

By Alistair Tweedale @alitweedale