Following their victory over Crystal Palace, Chelsea have only confirmed the inevitable by securing the Premier League title of the 2014/2015 campaign. The Blues did not have their strongest squad available, as Ramires was taken to hospital prior to the game and Oscar and Diego Costa were watching from behind the bench, though neither of the pair missed the opportunity to jump around Stamford Bridge in full kit and celebrate with the team after the final whistle sounded. It is the Brazilian midfielder Oscar who has recently been a subject to numerous speculations following criticism from Mourinho for “not playing as well as he could”. Something the Special One does not tolerate from his players.
The Blues boss could choose to cash in on the Brazilian in order to strengthen the squad for next season, while looking to retain the Premier League crown as well as challenge for the Champions League – The one major trophy missing from his Chelsea collection. However, to achieve that, Mourinho will know his squad still needs improvements to match the likes of Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid, and Oscar may well be the player sacrificed in order for those improvements to happen.
The midfielder is lauded by Mourinho for his work ethic and tracking back combined with his contributions offensively and the fact that Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata were both sacrificed to accommodate him into the team shows the manager’s trust for the Brazilian. Oscar’s recurring problem, however, is inconsistency going forward and in his displays in general. On his day, Oscar can be a huge asset and pull the team to victory. In 3 Premier League games this season he has contributed to more than one goal. However, in 17 league games of the 28 in which he has featured, he has not managed to make an offensive contribution (goal or assist). That is almost a 61% rate of matches in which he does not bag a goal or assist. In comparison, Eden Hazard only had 14 out of 35 such games, which leaves him with 40% unproductive league matches and Cesc Fabregas has 14 out of 32 games without a goal or assist, which leaves him at almost 44% of matches. Diego Costa has 8 out of 28 such league games, which gives him just a 29% of matches in which he makes no offensive contribution.
This stats comparison clearly shows that Oscar is the least contributing offensive midfielder in the Chelsea team with the exception of Willian, who is much more recognised for his defensive contributions and work rate than scoring goals and creating chances. Another problem Oscar is facing is the fact that his contributions to the team tend to dry up following New Year. This has been a recurring theme for all three of his campaigns with the Blues, and something Mourinho will surely have noted, having criticised Oscar for the problem last season already. Since January 17th, Oscar has only managed one assist in 10 league games and 14 games in all competitions. The suspected reason behind this drop off is the tiredness factor as every year for the last 3 years, Oscar has had a summer tournament with Brazil- the Olympic Games in 2012, Confederations Cup in 2013 and the World Cup last summer. This summer he was supposed to feature in the Copa America, but a training injury will prevent him from that honour as he is expected to be recovering for at least a month…
Should Mourinho decide to let go of Oscar for his team to be allowed to make a step forward, there are a number of options in world football the Blues boss could look at as an upgrade on Oscar. Here we will look at the 4 players who could be the best fit for Chelsea and who the Portuguese boss would surely consider. Having enough money coming in from Premier League bonuses, the new Yokohama deal and previously sold players, the Blues can, in fact, afford a combination of 2 of those 4 players. Whether any will end up at Stamford Bridge or not is another question entirely. Namely, we will look at Marco Reus from Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid duo Gareth Bale and Isco and Koke from Atletico Madrid.
The German had been heavily linked to just about any big team in Europe during the course of the season. Ultimately, he decided to sign a new contract with Dortmund this January to cease the speculations only for them to re-emerge following Jurgen Klopp’s announced departure from the club at the end of the season. It is understood the relationship between Klopp and Reus was one of the main reasons for Reus putting pen to paper in the first place and with the club almost certain to miss out on Champions League football, the club could witness a big exodus of players with Hummels, Gundogan and Mkhitaryan to name a few. Real Madrid have expressed their interest in the player. However, with Ronaldo, James and Bale, it is hard to imagine where Reus would fit in. Similar to Barcelona where the deadly trio of Neymar, Messi and Suarez operate. A move to Chelsea would actually make sense for Reus, who could take the right wing position or move to the number 10 role where he has previously played. He could, also, take his traditional left wing position with Hazard moving central. Having suffered three ankle injuries over the last two years, his medical condition may be the only problem standing in the way of a possible move. The German could be available for £45 million.
The Spanish attacking midfielder and a former Golden Boy would be a direct like for like swap with Oscar and could line up with his idol Cesc Fabregas. Isco has voiced his dissatisfaction with the amount of play time he receives at Real Madrid as he is currently behind Ronaldo, Bale and James in the pecking order at Los Merengues. Isco combines a great eye for a pass with wonderful dribbling skills and similarly to Oscar can be deployed on either wing. His weakness on the other hand is his defensive contribution. Isco would certainly offer Chelsea more going forward and if Mourinho could get him to improve the defensive aspect of his game and track back the same way he has done with Oscar and Hazard, the Spaniard could be a great signing. If Real Madrid decide to bring in another highly rated midfielder in the summer like Paul Pogba or Marco Verratti, Isco could follow Ozil and Di Maria as a makeweight and could well land in the Premier League. At slightly over £30 million, he would be a bargain.
Bale is the second Real Madrid player on this shortlist. His career has rocketed in the last four years and going from Tottenham’s reserve team to Real Madrid first team must be like a fairytale for the Welshman. However, in his second season at the Bernabeu, Bale is getting a tough time from his own supporters who often boo him and whistle at him for being “too selfish”. He has the mentality to stay and prove everyone wrong and show what he brings to the team and if he can do that in the next few weeks, he might stay. If not he could be sold back to the Premier League, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea being interested. Marco Reus, who also appears on this shortlist could be his replacement in the Spanish capital. In Bale, Chelsea would get a Premier League proven player who would fit perfectly into Mourinho’s style of high pressing and counter attacking football as he combines remarkable pace with hunger for goals. He would divide the attention of defenders who now have their hands full with Hazard on the left wing. Along with Bale, the pair would be a handful to handle for just about anyone. The one thing standing in the way of Bale’s signature would be his value, at £75 million, Chelsea would have to break both their own and the British transfer record and while they do have the money to afford Bale, they would then not have much left to improve other positions in the squad which need sorting out more than the right wing.
The last player on this list is the Atletico man who Mourinho is known to be a big admirer of. Given Chelsea’s rather prosperous relationship with Atletico, the deal could very much be on. Atletico are said to be interested in bringing Filipe Luis back, and Mourinho could demand Koke in exchange. Despite playing mostly out of position as a left midfielder, the Spaniard lead Atletico with assists this season, and he is more of defensive option to Oscar. With him in the team, Mourinho would most likely revert to a 4-3-3. This will relieve Fabregas of some of his defensive duties which would pass on to Koke, allowing the former more space for his creativity and getting the best out of both players. His price would be around £45 million.
Comparing the 4 with Oscar, Bale is the player to emerge on top with goals scored, having netted 13, just under 0.5 goals per game, followed by Reus at 0.43. Isco leads the way with assists at 0.37 per 90 minutes, with Oscar just behind at 0.36, followed by the rest who are at 0.30-0.31. Marco Reus creates by far the most chances (2.88) and has the most key passes with 2.57. His closest followers are Isco and Koke with the Real man having 1.7 key passes and 2.07 chances created and his Atletico rival having 1.69 key passes and 2 chances created. Isco has the highest pass completion of the lot with an impressive 88% with Oscar at 82% and the rest just under 80%.
Marco Reus and Gareth Bale are the biggest shooters with 3.68 shots every game for the German and 3.56 for the Welshman, something Chelsea lack on their right wing with the chances Fabregas and Hazard create. Isco has the highest shooting accuracy, however, at 68%, with Oscar just above 50%. Isco’s style of play is clearly demonstrated in the next two areas. He leads the way for take-ons with 3.18, a number only topped by Hazard at Chelsea. As wingers, Bale and Reus come in second and third with 2.21 and 2.08 respectively. This trio also have the highest rate of successful dribbles with Bale marginally in front at 55.6%, followed by Isco (54.6%) and Reus (52.3%). The German is also the most fouled player with 2.5 fouls suffered ahead of Isco (2.1).
As we are speaking of transfer targets for Jose Mourinho, we must also consider the defensive aspect of all players compared to Oscar. Koke gets the most tackles with 2.14 ahead of Oscar who manages 1.87. Bale then dominates the next four disciplines losing the least tackles (1.09), winning the most aerial duels (1.39), marginally beating Oscar at 1.38. The Welshman also wins almost half his aerial duels (48.68%) and a 51.8% of his total duels ahead of Reus (49.3%). Koke gets the most interceptions (1.31) ahead of Reus 1.1. Bale gets the most blocks (0.19) ahead of his Real partner Isco (0.12). Oscar then tops the discipline of clearances with 1.56 ahead of Koke (1.03).
It is obvious that all four of these players would offer Chelsea a different style and certainly be an upgrade in specific aspects. Bale and Reus are both wingers, and signing either could change Chelsea into a 4-3-3 with Hazard on one wing and the other wing occupied by the new signing. Another option would be for Willian to slot into a number 10 role where he excelled at Donetsk prior to his move to Stamford Bridge. Both Bale and Reus have great pace, which fits Chelsea’s style of quick transition into attack upon retrieving the ball.
Isco would be a like for like swap with Oscar filling in the number 10. He offers less goals and equal number of assists, but he creates more chances for teammates and is a better dribbler, which means he can get into dangerous positions. His defensive contribution could potentially be a problem, especially with Fabregas in the side and he hasn’t created his reputation by defending. However, the Blues are very likely to make a move for a defensive midfielder in the summer anyway to partner Matic against the better opponents, and with Isco offering more offensively than Oscar, he could help open up the lesser opponents.
Koke, though deployed as a left midfielder, is a central midfielder in nature. He doesn’t quite have the vision of Fabregas but is very good with the ball at his feet and he leads Atletico with assists (9), as much as Isco has. Koke, however, has a very important Mourinho-esque defensive contribution to the team, which could help bring the best out of Fabregas and Koke himself.
As mentioned earlier, Chelsea have the finances available to land a pair out of those two players, if they sacrifice Oscar that is. A combination which would perhaps make the most sense would be Koke with Reus or Isco with Reus. At the hefty price, Bale could hardly be combined with another player, he would be a sole signing, but undoubtedly a great one. It may also happen that Mourinho decides to stick with Oscar for at least another season and goes just for a winger like Reus or Antoine Griezmann, who has bagged a remarkable 22 goals in La Liga this season. Though Juan Cuadrado is also at the club, he has flopped and it is hard to see him in Mourinho’s future plans.
However, before Chelsea choose to address the “Oscar problem”, they should sort out the positions which need most attention, which will be a new proven striker given Drogba’s likely departure and Costa’s injury woes, and a defensive midfielder who will partner Matic against the top clubs without Mourinho having to turn to Zouma. Petr Cech is certain to leave the club so a back up keeper will be another responsibility at Chelsea this summer.