Figuring out why Juan Mata isn’t starting for Chelsea…
Before the season started, many had pencilled in Chelsea’s Spanish 25-year-old playmaker as a potential player of the season contender…
However, three games in, and Chelsea’s reigning player of the year has not made a Premier League start under new boss Jose Mourinho.
Instead the returning Portuguese boss has brought in £33m Brazilian Willian who plays in a similar position, and started Eden Hazard and Oscar over the brilliant playmaker.
But why is Mourinho showing so little faith in a player with such undoubted ability?
Here’s four potential reasons:
1) Mata’s defensive inabilities:
For as brilliant as Mata is, he does not put the defensive work in Mourinho normally requires from his midfielders. Mata was afforded the luxury of hovering in between the lines between the opposition defence and midfield under Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez, but Mourinho has given this privilege to the brilliant young Brazilian: Oscar. Whether Oscar is more deserving of the spot than Mata is debatable – but it is clear that only one of the midfielders, along with a lone striker, will be allowed to roam free for Chelsea. Mata’s talent arguably does not hide his average work-rate and lack of physicality for Mourinho, traits which the legendary manager traditionally favours.
2) Mata’s lack of pace:
Mata is relatively slow. He’s not Jamie Carragher slow, but more importantly, he’s not Eden Hazard quick. Mourinho traditionally deploys two fast wide players as wing-forwards, that drop back and make a five-man midfield when the opposition has the ball. Arjen Robben and Damien Duff did it during Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge, and Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil did it for Real Madrid. Mata is not a player who will beat a fullback for pace and deliver crosses form the byline, nor can he wait on the defensive line and run in behind. Nor does he enjoy tracking back and defending. As fantastic as his skills are, they are limited in that he is purely a creative midfielder (albeit a very good one) and Mourinho may feel his inclusion in this sense is a risk.