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Juan Mata and the cost of falling from Mourinho's favour
It’s a mystery to most Chelsea fans, and one that they are uneasy about. There’s an almost inviolable requirement to trust the decisions and judgements of Jose Mourinho, but there’s this nagging doubt and concern that the Portuguese manager just ‘doesn’t get’ Juan Mata. The Spanish playmaker has been a hero of the club, and constant source of creativity since his arrival from Spain, and the Blues’ fans crave seeing him perform on the pitch for them. With Mourinho current penchant for accumulating midfield players however, Mata’s claims for a regular starting role appear to be diminishing with each passing day.
Last season was an under par one for Chelsea, despite their securing of the Europa League trophy. Throughout the season, performances had been less than that required. The one shining consistent light however was the combination of of the three ‘number tens’ of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Mata. Despite the frailty of the various strikers playing in front of them, the trio could be relied on to spark with prompting and pressing, plus more than a few goals of their own.
With Mourinho back at the helm, and the summer transfer window presenting an opportunity to locate the striker that would be worthy of his supporting trio, Chelsea fans could have been forgiven for expecting an improved performance in the new season. This may still happen of course, but not quite perhaps in the anticipated way.
With Mourinho’s base requirement for all players to work hard, and the most talented to work the hardest, breaking up the triumvirate should never have been a surprise. Hazard is the ‘flair’ player that Mourinho appears prepared to tolerate. But even this has come at the price of the Belgian’s acceptance that there’s a required defensive element to his role in the team. His compatriot Kevin de Bruyne remains a young player trying to earn a regular place in the squad, but his youth means he is open to the ministering of Mourinho’s defensive requirements.
With German international Schurrle to play on the other flank, plus the addition of new purchase Willian to compete wide berths may not be open for Mata. That said, his preferred role, and that in which he shone most brightly for Chelsea was behind the striker. The true ‘number ten’ role. Mourinho however appears to prefer young Brazilian Oscar in that position. For all his slight frame, Oscar is a dogged competitor and always has the desire to work back and defend when the team lose possession. Such desire is manna for Mourniho.
With the above being the case, it’s easy to see the dilemma for the little Spaniard. If he is to secure a regular starting position in the team, it seems likely that he will either have to displace Oscar, or prove his worth in another role. Neither will be easy. With only a few days of the transfer window left, it’s unlikely – although not impossible - that Mata will leave Stamford Bridge on either a loan or permanent basis. That said, with the World Cup coming up, and the player’s opportunity to represent Spain in Brazil apparently hanging in the balance – he has recently been omitted from the Spanish international squad – if nothing has changed with regard to his playing opportunities by January, a move could be very much on the cards.
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