Since the Oscar link exploded yesterday evening, there has been all sorts of talk about the player and how he'd fit in terms of need with Chelsea FC. He's not Luka Modric, and he hasn't played the same role as Luka Modric. Many fans seem to feel this is reason enough to say he doesn't fill a need. Luka Modric, however, doesn't play the same double pivot with Tottenham Hotspur that he would (in theory) at Chelsea. So why is it we're so willing to move Luka to a somewhat new position without even a second of hesitation and not even consider it with Oscar?
Today I think we need to do an exercise that works out well with any youngster. As kids develop physically, sometimes their ideal position on the pitch will be different than what they have been playing previously. Axel Witsel seems a perfect example. As a youth player, he was always one of the most gifted attackers in the Standard Liege system. When he reached the senior level, a move deeper seemed appropriate in order to maximize his talents. John Terry came through the youth ranks as a midfielder, as did David Luiz. Mikel was an attacking midfielder when we signed him. We still don't seem to know what Ramires best position is, but we all seem fairly confident slotting him in almost anywhere. With those players in mind, we're going to look today at what Oscar does well as opposed to where he has played to date.
First of all, I'm going to direct you back to the profile we linked on the front page yesterday. It's just excellent. I've seen a fair amount of Oscar at both the international and club levels, and frankly I have a hard time disagreeing with anything written there. I'm going to briefly sum up what I see as Oscar's best attributes in bullet point form:
- Great passing range
- Two footed ability
- Calm in possession
- Excellent acceleration and agility
- Great balance
- Good in tight spaces
- Decent size
- Excellent work rate
- Sees the action as it develops exceptionally well for a player so young
Now we'll look at some of the weaknesses in his game
- Lack of top end speed
- Not the strongest at this point of his development
- Not a great leaper
Just looking at those attributes, I'd immediately rule out center forward and the center of the defense just due to his physical limitations. His lack of top end speed should also rule him out of playing out wide, as wings and fullbacks often have far more runs into open space. It would seem that Oscar would be an ideal candidate to play in the central midfield then.
As he's played more, he's begun to develop some patterns with the way he plays. Let's take a look at those:
- Likes to pass the ball while running
- Prefers the higher percentage pass to the 'homerun" type of pass.
- Like to come back to receive the ball, turn, and move it forward.
- Likes to immediately move into space after passing
- Isn't hesitant to play any type of pass
So what do these tendencies tell us exactly? When I look at them I see a central midfielder that can fill basically any role in the center of the park. He doesn't seem to be the Juan Mata type of player that's going to go for killer ball after killer ball, and his less than eye popping assist totals would seem to back that up. What he does seem to do well is find the player that's in a perfect position to deliver that final ball, a potentially mouth watering ability with players like Mata and Hazard working ahead of him. Should the defense leave a lane for a long ball or through ball, Oscar is more than capable of exploiting it. Even from a more advanced position, he'd be an asset in transitioning from defense to attack. He'd certainly seem quite capable of lining up in a deeper role though.
One other thing I've noticed with Oscar is his tendency to play deeper now as opposed to a year ago. In the U20 World Cup last summer, Oscar acted almost like a second striker for much of the tournament. In the recent string of friendlies, Oscar still played as a advanced midfielder, but was often found dropping deep to receive the ball and help transition the squad to attack. He still wore the #10, but he didn't really play as a traditional #10 at all. Watching the transition and the ensuing performances, it's not hard to envision Oscar moving even deeper into the exact same role Luka Modric makes his own at Tottenham.
The fact that I feel Oscar could play deeper doesn't mean that's what the club envision at all. It's not fair to the player, however, to pigeonhole him as strictly a #10 due to the fact that he's played there for most of his very short career. Look at what he does well and what he likes to do, and odds are you'll see a talent that could fill in any number of roles in any number of formations. Considering his peak is still likely 5-6 years away, where he's been playing for club and country to date is largely irrelevant. Think outside the box. Look at what he brings to the table. Forget about what formation we want to play to start next season, as we change primary formations more often than we change managers. The formations we play are best chosen by the talent available to put on the pitch at the time. Oscar would be a purchase for the next 10 years (hopefully), we're not looking at him as a temporary fix in our double pivot. Then again, he might well be that fix anyway.