Ever since the season began, the media, led by the Spanish outlets Marca, AS etc., have been constant with the Juan Mata vs. Jose Mourinho narrative and have subsequently been publishing crap to sell papers fitting that narrative. When used to justify why Mata isn’t in Mourinho’s good books, the reply is often “Mata isn’t Mourinho’s type of player as Mourinho loves to park the bus.” On what that assumption is based is a mystery altogether, but the scene at Chelsea looked set to back those revelations up, as Mata found his place on the bench continuously and Mourinho was publicly challenging him. So what exactly has been going on?
Let’s rewind a few years, when Chelsea’s #10 was a certain young Englishman. The young, dynamic and blossoming star was Joe Cole and still people say Mourinho hates young, swash-buckling #10s.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Mourinho on Cole (2004)” quotestyle=”style02″]Joe scored a very important goal – he gave us dynamism when he came on. But after he scored his game finished. I needed 11 players to work for he team and I only had ten. If he wants to be a regular for England he needs to improve and be part of the team’s defensive organisation. He needs to make an impact on me – not the crowd. Joe has two faces, one is beautiful and one that I don’t like. But I can improve him, and he wants to learn. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Joe Cole on Mourinho (2004)” quotestyle=”style02″]He has no axe to grind with me, he just wants to make me a better player. So I’ll listen to him and take it on board. It’s all about Chelsea really. There is a real good team camaraderie and the boss only wants to make us better players.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]
This set of quotes brought in a marked improvement in Cole’s performance, as he realised that his manager was only trying to push him on further and further till he became the amazing player he always promised to be. And while Joe was magnanimous enough to accept Mourinho’s judgement of him and work harder than ever before, one has to praise Mourinho for recognising that Joe had indeed stepped his efforts up and worked the way Mourinho had wanted.
Here’s Mourinho acknowledging Joe’s effort :
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” quotestyle=”style02″]I gave him a little help but his ambition was the engine of the process. If Joe is succeeding now it is because he was always open to be criticised, always open to be helped, always open to try to improve. He never gave up when the chances were not going in so he deserves everything that is happening for him.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]
All this led to Cole being one of England’s premier talents before, sadly, succumbing to injuries. He later left Chelsea on a free after not coming to an agreement in terms of wages.
Well, this shockingly mirrors Mata’s situation at Chelsea, doesn’t it? Let’s get the quotes to back it up!
The way I’m reading the situation and the reasons why, in this moment, he’s not playing so much are things I can speak about with him, but not publicly,” Mourinho said. “But he played against Everton from the start and you can analyse his performance. And he came on against Basel when the team were winning 1-0 – not like Demba Ba or Mikel John Obi, who came on to rescue the game –with specific tasks to do.
It’s part of a process with him, too. It is one thing to play with Ramires and Oscar closing down opponents on each side, and Mata as a No.10 behind a striker with his clever assists, clever passes and fantastic actions because he has great talent. But it is another thing to adapt to the way we want to play. In this moment, Oscar is my No.10 and, if anyone tells me Oscar has not been Chelsea’s best player this season, I’d have to disagree. I have to prove to the fans that I am good. Now Mata must do the same.
[Can the Hazard-Mata-Oscar triumvirate play together again?] But only when Mata adapts to what we want, I’m not ready to ask Oscar to track opposing full-backs. Brazil has more talented players in the No10 position than any other country in the world, and he plays there for the national team, so I want to build with Oscar as my No10. I want the other two players, from the side, to adapt to that reality and learn how to do things they were not ready to do before.
Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it Jose? This was said by the Chelsea manager while he was expressing his displeasure of Chelsea’s playing style during the previous season under Rafa Benitez. He doesn’t attack Mata here, as it has been said in the media to garner more page hits, but instead, is just asking him to improve his defensive game, just like ‘the ugly face’ of Joe Cole he didn’t like. But then, Mata, Chelsea’s Player Of The Year of the past two seasons should have been a guaranteed starter, despite how his performances were, because reputation guarantees starts, doesn’t it, Jose?
[quote]The story doesn’t play. If the story , because I won two titles here, because I never lost a match here in the Premier League, nobody would criticise me but people criticise me. The past is the past and you have to be judged on what you do now.[/quote]
Surely Mata would get aggrieved and demand a transfer, wouldn’t he? After all his manager has openly questioned his defensive involvement! Shouldn’t he storm out of the club’s doors and go to Barcelona or Real Madrid, which is every Spanish superstars’ rightful home?
Well, prepare to be disappointed, as the player in question is Juan Mata, the epitome of sportsmanship and professionalism!
[quote]I will play wherever he demands. I am young and can still improve. I want to do the same as I did in the last two seasons. My dad always said if you are left-footed improve with your right. I have to improve defensively, too. Every single player has to. To be the perfect player is very difficult but I have tried throughout my career to improve a lot.
I think Jose can help me. Every manager can try to improve their players. It’s his job to bring the best out of his players. Last season was the best in my career, but I could still have done better. Jose’s a manager who analyses everything, not just in our team. He’s a manager who likes intensity, who likes pressure. We have eight months to go to the World Cup and I believe in myself more than ever.[/quote]
Not just mere quotes, he upped his training levels and intensity! His performances definitely looked to be heading the right way and he even showed it against Swindon, prompting Assistant Coach Steve Holland to come up with the following quotes :
[quote]If you look at Mata’s performance tonight, he made Fernando’s chance early in the game, he was involved in the goal, so if you take those moments, it’s goal-making and goal-scoring actions, and then in injury time he conceded the final corner of the game supporting Ryan Bertrand in the left-back spot, which is how he as all night. That’s been the message from Jose from day one to all our attacking players, not just Juan Mata.[/quote]
Jose has made it quite clear what he wants the attacking players to do in all those positions. That message is not just to Juan, it’s to Willian, Kevin, Andre Schurrle, all those players. Tonight we are very pleased with Juan’s contribution, with and without the ball.
Well now you’ll have it from The Special Horse’s mouth:
[quote]He has a professional attitude. He made a big effort to come in my direction. So now I come to his direction.[/quote]
That’s so lovely, Jose! Really magnanimous of you to recognise Mata’s efforts at taking steps in his direction. And Mata, on the bench for the next game against the Spurs, came on at half-time and rescued Chelsea from a losing position and drew the game 1-1.
Is there a reason for Mourinho to be picking Oscar ahead of Mata, though? Does Oscar really offer ‘that’ much more than Mata defensively, as we all know both Mata and Oscar are equally vital cogs in Chelsea’s attack. Here are a few stats from last season that shed light on the defensive side of their game:
Oscar has won 49% of his 50-50s fought on the ground (328) against Mata’s 36% (225). Despite being a hobbit, Oscar has won 31 aerial duels against Mata’s 5, who had an aerial duel once every 549 minutes! Haha, pity you, oh tiny Juanito. Mata had a 56% success rate, on a tackle he attempted once every 110 minutes whereas Oscar boasted of a 68.6% success rate, attempting a tackle every 27 minutes. Both Oscar and Mata boast 31 and 21 interceptions respectively and were dribbled past 36 and 29 times respectively.
Well, certainly Mata, who gets an ‘E’ for effort, has to really step it up this season defensively. Mourinho doesn’t want him to be a Makelele playing at #10, he simply wants him to not be a liability on the team when the team is chasing the ball. It would be a wonderful sight to have Mata chase and hassle defenders into surrendering possession deep in their own half, like he did with Kyle Walker when Chelsea humiliated Tottenham at
Three Point Lane White Hart Lane last season.
In the last week or so, Mourinho has piled up similar criticism on Kevin De Bruyne, who he feels isn’t training up to the required standards.
[quote]The next time Kevin is on the pitch, he has to think he’s playing for his next appearance. At Werder Bremen [on loan last season] he played every game. Here he’s not playing every game. In Bremen he didn’t need to prove himself so much. This is a different reality. He’s competing against very good players, so every minute he’s on the pitch he has to work really hard.[/quote]
To this, KDB had all the right words in his response:
[quote]At both [Genk and Bremen] I fought for [a spot] and then I became more important. Here it is more difficult. It is the usual thing when you have big players and a big squad. Whoever is on the bench always says he isn’t playing enough. I work hard and try to do my best. And I try to show on the pitch, even when I only get five minutes, that I can do something.
I am a fighter. I learned it at Genk in my first year when we were fighting against going down. Also at Bremen last year it was very difficult. We had to fight more often than not. I will fight again to earn my place.[/quote]
When asked about his recent travails with Chelsea by leading Belgian paper DH, he was quite witty and surely impressed me. Hope you come across as impressed as well!
Is there a problem for you at Chelsea? “No. It is the press who create a problem (laughs).” It’s because we are worried for you, Kevin. “That’s not necessary. You’re panicking for nothing. I have not made any comments about the club.”
Well, well, well… Though these comments by KDB sound well, for the media this surely is boiling into a Mourinho vs. Joe Cole mk III or Mourinho vs. Mata mk II, or Mourinho vs. KDB mk I, whatever you wish to call it. More fodder for the media to chew at, and more headaches for Jose to deal with. But as Kevin made it clear, it’s the press who’re creating a problem and panicking for nothing. Let’s just hope that KDB, like Mata, and Cole before him, puts his head down and trains hard, and becomes the amazing player is his promising to be.
Jose is only wishing for the best for his players. It’s just like what your father would say to you after you score 90/100 in your science exam that the 10 marks you’re losing aren’t meant to be lost. Put your head down, study hard and score a 100/100 next time. So Mata and Kevin, get your act together, you are fighting for one of three spots against six world-class contenders. Cheers to Jose’s provocative, yet highly effective man-management! Infinity and Beyond!