Mourinho explains his choices for the substitutes bench vs. Aston Villa

Jamie McDonald

So why was Fernando Torres not on the bench Wednesday?

Jose Mourinho's lineup choices on Wednesday were not met universal approval, to say the least.  With a crucial Manchester United match looming on Monday, many were surprised that he made only two changes from the weekend.  The manager admitted as much later, saying that it was maybe "not the best" and that perhaps "it would have been better to put more fresh players in from the beginning."

One of the changes he did make was at center forward, a position that's likely to see plenty of rotation with three players vying for a single lineup spot.  The more surprising part was the fact that unlike in the first match, only one of the non-picked strikers was then picked for the bench.  Although if you ask me, having to watch the game from the stands but seated right next to David Luiz is really not that bad of a proposition.

"The reason was in some matches I can have three strikers [in the match day squad] in some other matches I want to give the bench a different balance."

-José Mourinho; source: Sportsvibe

Against Hull City, there were zero actual defenders on the Chelsea bench, with perhaps Michael Essien as a makeshift right back being the only go-to option in case of emergency.  Villa's attacking threat is what required that different balance:

"This was a match I thought I might have to play [Cesar] Azpilicueta because he is very fast, and can deal with Aston Villa's counter-attack situation with [Gabby] Agbonlahor open on the left, so I wanted to have Azpilicueta on the bench."

"Maybe I needed [John Obi] Mikel's experience to control my midfield with a certain style."

-José Mourinho; source: Sportsvibe

Ramires was deployed in a very Mikel-esque role and performed admirably and perhaps even above expectations but Mourinho wanted to have the master of that style ready to go as well.  I do wonder how this dynamic will play out as the season rolls along.  Is Ramires being groomed as the "new Makélélé?"  Will Mikel be given a more dynamic role?  José does love to tinker with his players' roles...

"I wanted options on the wings and the No.10 position. I know Mata cannot play 90 minutes at this moment so I need to have Schurrle and De Bruyne as attacking options."

"Sometimes it's possible to have two strikers on the bench. Sometimes it's not possible, so Fernando was the one who stayed out. But, at the same time, Lukaku can say he's the only one who hasn't started a game."

-José Mourinho; source: Sportsvibe

Interestingly, despite markedly different bench compositions and despite facing two very different match situations, Mourinho has used the same three substitutes, in exactly the same order, at almost exactly the same times in both matches so far.

vs. Hull City: Schürrle 67', Lukaku 75', Van Ginkel 84'
vs. Aston Villa: Schürrle 65', Lukaku 65', Van Ginkel 84'

Not sure if this a testament to the depth and versatility of Chelsea or to the mad-genius of Jose ... or both?

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