Many thought Chelsea bought too many attacking midfielders in the summer, given that Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar were all already at the club, but the side relies upon their array of number tens. Jose Mourinho expects his three creative midfielders to work hard in both halves of the pitch and it was Mata’s failure to do the hard yards that cost him his place in the side. The likes of Willian, Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah have all been brought in by Mourinho to add to the competition for these spots. There appears to be a distinct strategy at Chelsea and the three players behind the striker are pivotal to it.
Eden Hazard has been the star of the Chelsea side this season, carrying most of the team’s goal threat in the absence of a clinical striker. He took a season to adapt to the Premier League, but he is now one of the best players and it is crucial Chelsea keep hold of him, as sides like PSG are sniffing around the Belgian. He has scored 14 goals and 7 assists to his name this season. He can play in any of the three positions behind the striker, but he is strongest coming off the left as it allows him to cut in on his stronger right foot. The Belgian can also use his left foot to devastating effect, he can go on the outside and deliver dangerous deliveries. He has created a chance every 32 minutes, which is 87 chances in all. His tackle success of 78.26% highlights the effect Mourinho has had on him as his defensive work rate has increased.
Oscar has also been one of the most frequently used players in the attacking places, scoring 8 and assisting 2 goals. He is normally used in a role behind the striker, but his great work rate allows him to get up and down the pitch. The Brazilian is a constant threat in the final third, especially with his venomous long shots. He has a tackle success rate of 77.05% from 61 attempted tackles, which is incredible for a player like Oscar. His creativity stats aren’t as impressive as Hazard’s, having only created 41 chances, one every 48 minutes, but his hard work brings something else to the side.
Another Brazilian, Willian, has had a good first season in England, establishing himself as a regular in the Chelsea side. He may only have three goals and one assist to his name, but his work rate and his contribution to the build up to goals has been impressive. He has created a chance every 31 minutes, which is more frequently than Hazard, and highlights the creativity that Willian possesses. He has a tackle success of 82.05%, which is higher than the two previously mentioned, but he has only attempted 39 tackles. The Brazilian offers more natural width as he is more comfortable on the flanks than he is centrally, while he can float around between the lines finding space to cut open opposition defences.
The other two players competing for these spots are Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah. These two both bring something else to the game as they like to run in behind defences using their pace. They are also both accomplished finishers when one on one with the goalkeeper. These two things are reasons why Mourinho has utilised Schurrle as a striker at times. The German has 7 goals and 1 assist to his name, while Salah already has 2 goals and an assist after only five matches. In tight matches, these two would add more goal threat to the midfield than Willian, but their work rate isn’t as high, therefore the Brazilian may be considered a better choice for the high profile matches.
The strongest three are Hazard, Oscar and Willian, but the other two aren’t far behind. Mohamed Salah appears to be more likely to break into the Chelsea first team as he is a harder worker then Schurrle, while he still carries the goal threat of the German. Eden Hazard is definitely the key man in the Chelsea midfield but Oscar isn’t far behind as he offers a different style of game, as is certainly more dangerous from outside the area. Next season, all five will be better for the experience they have gained this season and Chelsea could be an even more dangerous side, especially if a prolific striker joins the club as well.