Since the arrival of Eden Hazard he has been the man who has captured the headlines, and we have all sat here and said that Juan Mata (one of our best players last term if not the best) has appeared fairly anonymous, but that may be just an illusion. When we signed Mata he became the focal point of our attack, and with two strikers who couldn’t hit a barn door last season, a lot was expected of him. A few sites have done a comparison between Mata and Silva and in their first season’s Mata was by far the better player. This means he has the chance to progress and become a top player for many years to come.
This season his role has changed a little bit. He and his new best mate Hazard have been causing all sort of problems for Premier League defences despite Mata not weighing in with as many goals and assist’s as we might like. Watching the ESPN coverage of the Chelsea vs/ Newcastle game I learned very little before the match, mainly because it seems designed to teach as little as possible about tactics, but the one thing they did do well was show up just how much space there was for Juan Mata in both opening games. It appeared strange to me, but look at the time he has to pass to Ashley Cole for the leveller against Reading, admittedly it isn’t half an hour but for a player in his position he has a lot more time than he should, and a lot more time than he is used to.
His ability this season may see him turn closer to David Silva as I think he will be expected to float around the pitch in certain games, and be the key to unlocking a defence along with Eden. The space he has had to roam around in the first 3 games has been brilliant, because although he is good at pick passes when it seems impossible the more time he has the more accurate and lethal his passes are.
I have also noticed quite a difference in the way he is playing. Last season he was given a fairly free role after we realised he was far too creative to be a left winger, but the play almost had to catch up to him in the pitch. He stayed a lot higher up the pitch and when we pushed up that was when he was at his best.
This may have been why Torres wasn’t finding the net as much as he may have liked, the game was pushed into the one half, and so you are almost immediately destroying Fernando’s biggest asset in my opinion, his pace. It would leave him only 10 yards to run into and he would have to instantly shoot, he appears to be enjoying more touches of the ball, and more space to run into (even on our relatively small SB pitch). Mata is now coming deeper, facing the play and looking at either Torres or Hazard for a through ball. Hazard has been used more at the moment because teams are not doubling up on him as yet, and so he is one on one compared to Torres who would have to beat both CB’s. I think this may change the longer Hazard plays well because he will be double marked, and then it will probably see the through ball’s made more evenly between the two. This of course works in reverse as well, we have seen Mata make the run off Torres and Hazard be the “playmaker” but all of this is being done very quickly to give the opposition little time to react, which is working in our favour.
With the new tactics of play seemingly offering more, I can also understand why we would have Moses and Marin in the squad, because If Hazard is being marked vigorously, and Torres is as well it leaves fewer options. Ramires is a good player but running 1 vs 1 at a defender isn’t the best part of his game. Bertrand is the same, top player but that isn’t his skill. I think we will continue to see Ramries or Bertrand when RDM feels the opposition has a very strong winger or midfielder themselves, and that player will be used either RAM or LAM in order to stop them and simply let our front three focus on the attacking.
The new type of system seems to fit Fernando’s style of play perfectly, and maybe we will see a return of the Torres of old. I also like how because we didn’t get Modric RDM has tried to get Mata to play a like-minded role, in that he can play the ball through, but from slightly higher up the pitch.
It is of course only 3 games in, but looking at the CS we seemed to do the same then as well, so I think this may be how RDM sets out his team this year. Lightning on the break and trying to exploit as much space behind the opposition defence as possible with Torres and Hazard. I think there’s a bit more left to see from Hazard with his pace, he literally flew past one of the Newcastle CB’s and I have never seen anything like it, but that’s something for another day.