This summer has seen a flurry of new players join Chelsea, especially in attacking positions. Much of the limelight during the transfer window fell upon Eden Hazard, the £32m signing from Lille. There was comparatively little fanfare for the Brazilian Oscar. Combined with Juan Mata, the three make for a potent midfield just behind Fernando Torres. However, it would be naive to think that Oscar is only an attacking force. His work rate and positional awareness are also key.
The statistics suggest that Oscar is a decent tackler and an excellent passer. Involved in a lot of ground duels, Oscar wins his fair share. But he also is involved in a lot of challenges which fall into all categories and, again, performs well.
In addition to his defensive strengths, Oscar’s passing forms a key part of his game. He isn’t afraid to track back to receive the ball and then release it to another player. A pass completion of 87% is excellent, and with a quarter of his passes going forward, and a quarter of them going back, he is clearly as comfortable with the ball going away from goal as he his attacking. He is able to play in the 2 of a 4-2-3-1, or, as Chelsea are deploying him, in the 3 just behind a striker. As we can see from the average positions against Arsenal and Spurs, he drops deep, able to dictate play and track key opposition players.
As we can see from the graphics below, Oscar (number 11 for the away (orange) team in both examples) drops deep. In the game against Arsenal especially, this was vital. The first graphic shows that Oscar is right on Arsenal’s number 8, Mikel Arteta. Arteta has completed the most passes in the Premier League this season, with 764 in total, 88 more than that of the next most prolific player, Yaya Toure. This in itself suggests that a lot of Arsenal’s play goes through the Spaniard. Oscar dropped deep in this game, and stopped Arteta dictating play. Chelsea subsequently won the match, in part due to the Brazilian’s effective shackling of Arteta. Even against Spurs (in the second graphic), Oscar played close to two of Spurs’ midfielders, numbers 6 and 30 (here overlapped), Tom Huddlestone and Sandro, who play as the two of a 4-2-3-1. Both of these players are good passers of the ball and both could have caused problems had Oscar not tracked them so diligently.
Oscar’s versatility, as well as his attitude and his willingness to work for the team would make him an invaluable asset to any squad. This is especially the case for Chelsea, whose team have been so attacking this season. Jon Obi Mikel, Ramires and Frank Lampard can be effective defensive midfielders, but it is essential that Oscar and the other more attacking midfielders in the Chelsea squad pitch in with defensive work, too. This article shows that Oscar is already a vital piece of the Chelsea jigsaw.
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