Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho has asked Juan Mata to change his game in order to play in his side, but in truth it is the Portuguese who needs to change his mind-set.
“I have to prove to the fans that I am good. Now [Mata] must do the same.” – Mourinho said.
Juan Mata was involved in 88 goals, scoring 36 and assisting 52, in the last two seasons for club and country. The Spaniard and even the fans, for that matter, must be pondering, what else does a player, who had incidentally been the best player at the club for the past two seasons, is left to prove!
Juan Mata, who at the age of 25 has won the World Cup, Euro, Champions League and Europa League – cannot find a place in Jose Mourinho’s starting eleven because he is defensively not responsible enough.
Mourinho is adamant that Oscar will be his No.10 and that Mata will have to adapt to a different role in the side under him. To be fair to the Brazilian, he has been in fine form this season, but Chelsea are missing out on the abundant creativity and flair that Mata brings to the table. Ergo, Mata is essential for the type of football that the Chelsea owner wants to see at Stamford Bridge.
Roman Abramovich might have seen his club lift the much coveted Champions League trophy, but perhaps his biggest desire is to see his club play with flair and domination that teams like Barcelona have put up on display. He has seen his club fight their way to European glory, but he wasn’t particularly thrilled by the way they achieved it, which was perhaps the biggest reason behind the sacking of fan favourite – Roberto Di Matteo.
A Mismatched Squad For Mourinho’s Style?
An interesting article, published on DailyMail by Pete Jenson, states how Chelsea have spent three years in making a team for Guardiola, but now had to put Mourinho in charge as the former Barcelona manager took up the job at Bayern Munich. While “building a team for Guardiola” might be an exaggeration, but it is clear that Chelsea were building a team to play like Guardiola’s Barcelona, like most European teams have done after the unprecedented success of the Spanish side.
Jose Mourinho has built a number of successful sides during his managerial tenure so far, but he has always been a reactive manager tactically, rather than a proactive one like Guardiola. Every side managed by the Portuguese mastermind has had some common traits – defensive discipline, quick wingers, direct football and being extremely potent in counter attacks. His sides were always better and more potent without the possession than with it. But this is exactly opposite to the tactics that Guardiola’s Barcelona displayed. Of course the type of players required for both these tactics are quite different as well!
Ideally in a Jose Mourinho side, one would hardly find a player in the starting eleven who cannot contribute defensively – especially in the wide areas. He is very particular about the type of wingers he needs in his side. They should be able to fall back and track the runs of opposition full backs and this is exactly what Juan Mata fails to do at times. Mata can, and has played in the wide areas in his career previously, although his best has always come in a more central role. But it was never a situation of “either Mata or Oscar” in the side, both of them can play together. They have already shown that in the past – the Mazacar trio were meant to play together. They can exchange their roles in the game, with Mata drifting in from the flank while Oscar drifting wide and vice versa. While the likes of Andre Schurrle, Willian and De Bruyne might be better defensively, but neither of them bring in the creativity and goal threat of Juan Mata.
The Mourinho Way
Jose Mourinho has stated how he wants to change the way Chelsea have played for the past years, and he is confident that he has the backing of the owner to do so. Roman Abramovich will be patient with his manager this time around, despite some poor results at the start of this season.
“I had one meeting – not five, 10, 20 – with Mr Abramovich and we were convinced this was the way we want to do it. I don’t want to defend as a low block, central defenders playing in midfield or long balls to a lonely striker. We want to be proactive. We cannot sell 20 players and buy 20 players but we don’t want to play the same way as we did before. And I really don’t want new players in January. At the end of the season, as a natural evolution, we will find these players can make us better, one here, one there. But we will learn.
“We want to play a certain style. Not what you are seeing now – we have to look better than that – but the reality still is we played at Everton, the team with the most ball possession in the Premier League up to then, and had 60-70% of the ball at Goodison Park, with 21 shots and six big chances. We lost but you need to adapt not only psychologically but also physically.
“If you sit there deep in a low block, with no spaces, you can do that for three hours. No problem. I’ve played like that many times at certain clubs and it’s not a criticism. It’s an option. I went with Inter to Barcelona and, for 60 minutes, we played with 10 men. If we’d had to play for another 60 minutes, we could have. But I don’t want my team to play like that.” – The Chelsea manager said.
Mourinho stated that he wants to be proactive, but his team selection reflects his reactive mind set. In proactive tactics, the preference is always on what you do when you have the possession of the football, not what you do when you don’t have it!
A Mata-less Future For Chelsea?
Players with superior technical abilities, ball control and vision are essential in playing proactive football – and there are few players superior to Mata in that aspect in the Chelsea squad, if any. More than Mata, it is Jose Mourinho who needs to adapt and change his mindset if his side are to play the sort of football Roman Abramovich craves for.
Moreover, with the World Cup looming large on the horizon, Mata won’t stick around to play for Chelsea’s reserves and blow up his chances to be in the Spanish squad – where there is a tremendous competition for his place.
If PSG or Manchester United knock at his door in the winter transfer window, the little magician might well consider his future at the club. A player of his ability and talent deserves to play regular first team football, especially someone who has already given so much to the club and the fans in his short stint at Stamford Bridge.