We know that Chelsea aren't particularly good at breaking down sides that play defensively and deny us space to break into. We have known this ever since the halycon days of Didier Drogba, and it's been the major criticism of Jose Mourinho's side. Sure, they can defend and beat big teams through the counterattack, but what about the smaller ones?
The goalscoring burden should and does fall on the strikers, and it's not surprising that after an insipid 0-0 draw against Norwich that the strikers are once again the subject:
Against the teams that are more defensive, more aggressive, more worried about trying to keep a clean sheet than really to play, we keep saying the same. We have good players, but we don't have the kind of striker able to, in a short space, to make an action, to score a goal, to open the gate.
In these kind of matches you just need to open the gate. When you open the gate, the gate is open and you go on to win much more. We weren't able to do that.
-Source: Sky Sports.
The above statement is obviously true, but raises two important questions. First, why did the manager persist in playing as though he actually possessed a menacing centre forward? Second, why was nothing was done to address the issue (which has been absurdly obvious for years) in either of the two transfer windows Mourinho's had at the club?
In order to play properly against a packed defence, you need to open up space via either cleverness or brute physicality; preferably both. In the first match of the season, against Hull City, I noted Fernando Torres was making reverse 'false nine' runs to open up space behind him which Chelsea then fed, which led to a slew of chances. Where has that been since? The decision to loan Romelu Lukaku to Everton also deprived the Blues of their most physical striker -- yes, he needed the playing time, but tactically it now looks to have been a crippling decision.
The main issue here is the centre forwards. But the problem has been exacerbated by some strange choices, and the only resolution that looks like it's been seriously considered is 'let's fix it next summer'. I do think a new striker will solve the problem, but leaving it for so long, in a season of such opportunity, is really, really strange.