This week’s column will discuss the role of Juan Mata in the current Chelsea squad and analyse his importance to the team, and look at the highs and lows endured by the Blues in the past week.
Juan Mata has been without a doubt Chelsea’s most influential player since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2011. Mata’s first campaign (2011/2012) saw him earn the Chelsea Player of the Year award, contributing with six Premier League goals and 13 assists, the highest assist tally in the team. In his second season at the club, despite the arrival of Eden Hazard and Oscar, Juan Mata once again earned the coveted Chelsea Player of the Year award, proving his invaluable influence in the team. Last season’s Premier League campaign saw Mata score 12 goals and create 12 assists, once again the highest assist tally in the team. Mata was also named the Player’s Player of the Year for his contribution to the team. How does a player that was so influential in Chelsea’s success over the past two seasons, both domestically and in Europe, get dropped from an 18 man squad, let alone the starting 11?
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I understand that football isn’t about playing your eleven best, but rather about playing your best eleven. However, surely there is a role for Mata in Chelsea’s preferred starting eleven? If Mata is granted regular playing time his contributions in attack will surely be realised and build-up as they did last season. As an attacking player, Mata’s first and foremost requirement would be to contribute in attack and then defend. In the same line, Branislav Ivanovic or Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back would first and foremost be required to defend. Therefore, if Ivanovic or Azpilicueta reduced their forward surging runs it would allow Mata to attack without opening up Chelsea down the right. This could be a temporary solution while Mata improves his defensive abilities. Alternatively Mourinho could opt for a 4-3-3 formation which will provide further cover behind Mata, and Hazard, allowing them the freedom to attack, as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 which leaves Chelsea open to counter-attacks in wide areas when our attackers lose the ball or are caught out of possession.
Jose Mourinho’s lack of desire to play Mata has baffled pundits and supporters alike. Mourinho is known for playing “his” style of football and players who don’t conform have been side-lined, however can Chelsea afford to side-line Mata? A player who’s influence and contribution to the team since his arrival has been indisputable. Mourinho has made it clear that Oscar is his preferred number ten and will play as first choice number ten in majority of Chelsea’s matches this season, unless Mata can convince him otherwise. Mourinho’s ideal role for Mata is on the right-wing with Oscar in the number ten role and Eden Hazard on the left-wing, allowing the wingers the opportunity to cut in on their stronger foot. However, Mata has not earned this position, because his contribution in terms of defence has been insufficient. As a result Andre Schurrle, De Bruyne or Willian have been given the nod over the Spaniard.
Having Mata watch over a match from the stands is a waste of a world class player who, with his special touch, vision, creation and majestic passing, could be assisting to Chelsea’s scoring week in and week out. As a Chelsea fan, I would really like to see Mourinho include Mata in his starting 11 or at least in his 18 man match day squad, with the potential to impact the match.
Mourinho’s second spell in charge did not get off to a perfect start with the Blues winning four, drawing one and losing three of their opening eight matches in all competitions. However, after suffering three successive defeats against Bayern Munich, Everton and Basel, this week saw an improvement in Chelsea’s rocky start to the season, with two wins away from home. Chelsea beat Fulham away from home with Oscar opening the scoring and Mikel making it 2-0, with his first ever Premier League goal for Chelsea. Cech keep a clean-sheet and Chelsea earned 3 points away from home. On Tuesday night Chelsea beat Swindon Town 2-0 in a league cup match, courtesy of Fernando Torres and Ramires goals. The forward was involved in both goals and looked sharp and full of pace, eager to impress his Manager and get the nod over Samuel Eto’o who has lacked sharpness. The win saw Chelsea progress to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup where they will face Arsenal at the Emirates.
It was not however all good news, as Chelsea suffered two injury blows in the Swindon Town match. Marco Van Ginkel suffered a serious knee injury and is likely to be out for six months, reducing Mourinho’s options in the defensive midfield. Ramires was also withdrawn from the match with a muscular injury and may miss this weekend’s match, however the injury will not keep him out for much longer. The Portuguese manager may have to rely on Michael Essien or John Obi Mikel this weekend to fulfil the defensive midfield position for the Blues.
This Saturday, Chelsea are away to Tottenham Hotspur in a Premier League London derby, which will see Chelsea face their former manager Andre Villas Boas. Mourinho has made it clear that it is vital to win all matches at this stage of the competition, especially against the top sides in the league. Chelsea are currently in forth position after five matches played while their London rivals Tottenham are in second. A win against the Spurs this weekend will see the Blues go ahead of them in the league.
The next challenge for the Blues will come against Steaua Bucharest in Romania on Tuesday, as they play their second UEFA Champion’s League group match of the new campaign. After a dismal display against Basel at Stamford Bridge which ended in the visitors securing all three points, Chelsea are in desperate need to pick up a win against Steaua Bucharest.
Another busy match week awaits, with two away games in four days, Mourinho will have to manage his squad well and it is likely that he will rotate players across the matches. Whilst competition in a team for positions is healthy, and player rotation is necessary, too many changes could be costly. However, all of the players will be eager for an opportunity to impress Mourinho and earn a coveted spot in the managers preferred eleven. Let’s hope the Special One finds a place in the team for our Special Juan. COME ON YOU BLUES!