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Gary Cahill set to start in Champions League as Chelsea search for answers

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Is the Silent Guardian, the Watchful Masked Protector (part of) the answer?

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Here's something that might come as a surprise, given all the criticisms of Jose Mourinho's apparent favoritism and blindsight when it comes to certain players.  Starting with the Community Shield, Chelsea have yet to play the same starting lineup more than once.  And I don't mean just in consecutive matches; we've yet to play the same exact starting eleven twice in six matches.  And that trend is unlikely to change on Wednesday as we search for answers.

Regardless of whether the changes were enforced via injury or suspension (Courtois, Oscar), transfer market activity (Pedro), or tactical considerations (Zouma, Ramires), the only constants in the team so far have been the two full backs, Fabregas and Matic in the middle of the pitch (with Cesc sometimes pushed a bit higher), and Eden Hazard on the left wing.  The underperformance of those five guys has, in large part, led to our current predicament.  Not that the ones who have been rotated to some extent are faultless.  I'm struggling to think of anybody who hasn't been mostly terrible.  Defenders are all over the shop, midfielders are nowhere to be found, attackers conduct archeological digs in the quicksand of the final third.  We've become the nexus of the crap football universe.

Maybe that's overly negative.  We've had periods of solid play, but there's very little margin for error in the Premier League.  And with poor performances across the various partnerships and systems installed on the pitch, we are left without the ability to cover for each other.  Attacks peter out into aimless passing around the penalty area.  Runners into the box are a thing of the past.  Midfielders aren't shielding the defense.  Wingers aren't helping out the full backs.  Full backs and center backs don't communicate.  There's no consistency at the goalkeeping position.  Ivanović may be the poster child for the current malaise, but concentrating our ire on him does disservice to the systemic issues present in every phase of play.  It's a team game; no player operates in a vacuum.

That's not to say Ivanović shouldn't be dropped.  He's been ever-present for several seasons now, even starting every single league match last season like John Terry.  Terry had already broken that streak; Ivanović needs at least a mental break at this point.  Could that come this Wednesday against Maccabi Tel-Aviv?

"It's not easy to leave one of them [the center backs] out. John [Terry] was working with me in the last five days, Cahill was with the national team, he played 90 minutes last Tuesday. Cahill will be back to play the Champions League."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Goal

That was Mourinho's thinking before the Everton game, before yet another 90 minutes of positioning errors form Zouma and sluggish play from Terry.  With Cahill back, do we restore the trusty Cahill-Terry combination?  Do we trust new boy Baba Rahman to play next to Terry, a task that Filipe Luis struggled to cope with last season?  Does Azpilicueta even remember how to play right back?  Would it really be that insane if Mourinho gave his struggling veterans this opportunity in what should be an easy game to rediscover their game and confidence ahead of a crucial weekend matchup against Arsenal?

There are no easy answers.