Jose Mourinho has admitted he is still unsure of his best starting XI as Chelsea struggle for form but said he will not be recalling Romelu Lukaku from his loan spell at Everton in January.
The early days of Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge have been marked by considerable variety in terms of line-up and approach, with the midfield and forward areas in particular seeing a lot of changes.
When asked if he is sure of his best team, Mourinho said “probably less” than previously.
“The pitch makes decisions,” he said. “What I did in the past at this club means nothing, so what players did in the past means nothing. The way I work, the pitch speaks. What the players do on the pitch – not yesterday, one year ago, ten years ago – but in the last match, in the last training sessions, that's when I make decisions.
“Some players, with their performances, say to me: ‘This is my place. Don't touch me. This is the way I play.’ Some other players don't perform in a way where they can take doubts out of me. For some positions, I would say: ‘No doubts -- this player in this moment is first-choice.’
“In other positions, I need more information to decide well. The information is not based on stats or the past, but what we do day by day. What they do on the pitch. I always try to be honest with the players and with myself. It's a normal process.”
As regards the uncertainty around the striker position, Mourinho insisted his forwards do not lack confidence, and that the situation does not warrant Lukaku’s return from a loan to Goodison Park.
“I don't think they lack confidence in themselves. I don't think it's a question of a lack of confidence,” he said, with Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba all having struggled to assert themselves so far.
“You can feel that sometimes one plays, sometimes another one does. Lukaku is good at Everton -- if he's going to play every game, it's good for his future at Chelsea.”
Meanwhile, the Chelsea manager also revealed that Friday’s training session was much more light-hearted than usual.
“Today, instead of doing tactical work [that] I like to do pre-match -- set-pieces etc. -- I did a funny session. I didn't train. I didn't train in a normal way. We played handball, basketball, the goalkeepers with us scoring goals in the air. A funny session where everyone was laughing, smiling. That was important at the time.
“The way, sometimes, is not to massacre the players with tactical questions and pure working situations where, probably mentally, you are not open for that or happy enough for that. It was a good session for them. That's the only way I know to keep the spirits high. Last year they finished third. The year before sixth. In this moment, our situation in the Premier League is completely unclear. We can finish first, we can finish last.
“In the Champions League, last season they made history by being the first champions relegated to the Europa League. This year we lost a match we don't like to lose, that we cannot lose, that in my career was the first time I'd lost the first group stage match at home. But we have 15 points still to play for.
“If we go into the Europa League, that's bad, that's sad, that's unacceptable -- we have to raise the bar and qualify -- but if we qualify, this was just a defeat. Nothing else. If we go to Swindon and lose, the Capital Cup is over. But we lost at Everton and the Premier League is not over. We lost to Basel, but the Champions League is not over.”