After the acquisition of Dutch under 21 international Marco Van Ginkel, as well as Andre Schurrle from Bayer Leverkusen, there has to be question marks over certain Chelsea midfielders and where they would fit in to the Jose Mourinho set up. One of the players that I want to examine is Oscar, his performances in the Confederations Cup for Brazil were consistent even with the large number of games he had to play. The problem that the young Brazilian has is that he has Juan Mata and Eden Hazard occupying the number 10 role that he occupies for Brazil. Here I’m going to look at the future for Oscar and how he could be used differently in comparison to last season.
In the Confederations Cup Oscar played in the traditional number 10 role, however for periods he would drop back and collect the ball and distribute. He was also willing to track back and defend as shown by his performance against Spain, qualities which aren’t necessarily shown by Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. When Oscar drops back, the formation for Brazil effectively becomes a 4-3-3 with Oscar playing slightly more advanced than Gustavo and Paulinho, however when Paulinho does go forward Oscar has the awareness to drop back alongside Luiz Gustavo.
Against Juventus in last season’s Champions League his positional awareness to track Pirlo throughout the game was earmarked as some pundits as fantastic, and that’s not mentioning the two goals he scored during the game. Oscar therefore in a number 10 role not only acts as a potent attacking threat as shown by his beautiful through ball for Jo in the Confederations Cup game against Japan, but he also shows that he has the defensive awareness to track back and provide effective defensive cover.
Oscar, however, played the majority of his games for Chelsea on the right of the three behind the striker. The influence of Juan Mata can’t be underestimated, with 12 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League alone while Eden Hazard had 9 goals and 11 assists in the league. Both are fantastic creative midfielders in their own right and it is understandable as to why they were ahead of Oscar for the number 10 role within the side. Oscar’s talents, I feel, are wasted down the right, so, where else would his talents be best used?
Within a 4-2-3-1 formation, Oscar can be played in ‘the pivot’ if not in the number 10 position. Oscar is deceptively strong and he is intelligent on the ball with accurate passing, having an 83% open play pass completion rate in the Premier League last season, therefore he would work well alongside a defensive midfielder. Against Leeds Oscar was forced to play in the role alongside Frank Lampard, although against Championship opposition he acquitted himself well, showing good positional awareness as well as strength. Oscar can be the playmaker that some suggest Chelsea need in the pivot. With Mikel and Ramires the pivot looked functional, however it didn’t provide large amounts of creativity. Oscar has the adaptability to provide the creativity that is needed, whilst being defensively astute enough to know when to track back.
Alternatively he could be in a 4-3-3. Below is a diagram outlining a possible line up if Jose Mourinho was to employ a 4-3-3 like he did in his first time at Chelsea. The problem that lies with this formation is that Eden Hazard and Mata would be played out of position, although Hazard is comfortable out wide, Mata is much better centrally. However, the 4-3-3 would suit Oscar. With a defensive midfielder, a runner, and a creative midfielder like the combination of Mikel, Ramires and Oscar would provide, the Chelsea midfield would have balance. Oscar has the capabilities, as already mentioned to track back as well as be creative and the 4-3-3 formation enables him to attack more than when restricted in the pivot where he has greater defensive responsibility.
What Jose Mourinho does with Oscar will be interesting, Rafael Benitez’s use of him was sporadic with him being played out of position. Oscar plays centrally behind the striker in a 3 for Brazil whilst playing on the right for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho won’t play him as the number 10 on a regular basis as Eden Hazard and Juan Mata provide those options. Therefore, in my opinion, Mourinho would do well to find a role for Oscar which enables him to be creative and effective. Oscar is a very good footballer, but what position he plays in the Chelsea team will be of great interest when the season starts.
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