The very few weaknesses in Mata's game:
1. Lack of real top speed over long distances
2. Lacks a good solid long shot a la Hazard, Schurrle, Lamps
3. Defensive ability(and not a nonchalant attitude)
4. Form dips when suffering a burnout
Mou says his preferred system is to use inverted wingers → the only left footed player we have is Mata → Mata will play on the right wing.
Well, is Mata suited to the right wing AS he is suited to the center?? A big fat no. The only weaknesses he has in his game are the most exposed on the wings. He may have started his career playing as a wing forward at Valencia but he was 20 back then and more in shape. He had pace to burn and still lacked the defensive ability. Yes, he did play on the wings in his first year at Chelsea and won the clubs Player of the Year but he was not half as influential back then as he was this season. This season he won Chelsea’s player of the year as well as coming close to the EPL Player of the Year trophy.
On the wings, he lacks the pace to get ahead of a good quality full back, he lacks a long shot to cut in and shoot from outside the box, his lack of defensive ability is more exposed when he has only his wing back behind him as opposed to the two pivot midfielders when in center, will have to track back and run up and down the flank which will induce his burnout more quickly leaving him unable to perform to the best of his abilities at the business end of the season.
So when people say that Mou will improve his defensive game to make him play on the wing, I am like..fine. But then wait a sec, if you can improve his defensive contribution then why not improve it and still use him in the center?
Not too long ago, we were berating a manager as being too stuck up to his ideologies and formation for using Ramires in the pivot, instead of changing his formation to suit the players at his disposal. Now we are like Mou is great because he wants to shift Mata from his optimal position because he likes to play inverted wingers.
As for the argument that this will be the best move for the team, I would like to say that Oscar in the center is at best 60% of Mata (in terms of skill and vision) in the center. Oscar on the wings is not at all appeasing. Mata on the wings is also 60% of Mata in the center. So when you put Oscar in the center and Mata on the wings, you effectively have a Hazard and 120% Mata in your attack. Comparatively when you use Mata in the center with DeBruyne/Moses/Schurrle on the right you have a Hazard, 100% Mata and KdB on your team. The only thing that you don’t have is one inverted winger.
Now KdB on the right is something that has to be seen. We know from his days at Werder that he is very good in the center and can also play as a false 9. Looking at his pace, acceleration, ball control, crossing and dead ball delivery few will doubt that he will make a good winger. Although it was just preseason performances, I am convinced already that he will make a better winger than Moses.
So what have you got when you play a Hazard-Mata-KdB. A world class inverted winger who will cut into the center or shoot from the edge of the box and is convinced himself that he can score more goals if he tries (an assumption backed up by the manager), Mata the magician in the center (improving the defensive contribution of whom is a task set by Mou onto himself) and a winger who will provide excellent crosses in the box for the Kraken to attack, will shoot from distance and also is comfortable in the center to interchange with Mata to provide the team with two inverted wingers if required.
The point I am building upto is that having one inverted and one true winger will provide more balance/diversity/gameplans to the attack when you have someone like Lukaku leading the line. When an inverted winger tries to cross with his preferred foot after cutting in, the entire forward line is playing with their backs to goal. This is a severe under usage of Lukaku’s abilities. Also, the gameplan becomes too one dimensional with both the wingers trying to cut in and overcrowding the center. Even if the fullbacks do come up for support, they cannot do so at every move and risk the defense. With one true winger, you have someone able to run to the touchline and put in balls for someone with physical abilities not seen before in the league attacking the ball. The attack becomes multi-dimensional and hence better and more balanced in this scenario.
I do remember some stats to backup my claim but am too tired writing this piece to provide them now. They were the ones about the goals scored and goals conceded with Hazard-Mata-Moses being better than any other combination last season.
Oscar can rotate with Mata with Schurrle and Moses rotating with Hazard and KdB respectively.