How Was Your Summer?
Well, well, well... our little Brazilian has had quite the year already. Despite requiring a large chunk of the season to find the back of a Premier League net in his first year in England, Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Junior needed only 12 minutes under his belt before securing Chelsea's first goal of the 2013-2014 season. And what a beauty it was. Hazard moved the ball from the flank, finding KDb who had moved into the space open to defenders, and the Brazelgium magic saw a nutmeg pass to Oscar the Antigrouch, leaving all of the Bridge with smiles from ear to ear.
And it's not as though this was a fluke. Oscar contributed heavily in the Confed Cup over the summer, his brilliant displays only outshone by the new Barca man, Neymar. Honestly, if Neymar didn't have the name, the number, and the big exciting transfer move going for him, I'm convinced Oscar would've been named Man of the Tourney. Below, here's an excerpt of some of the good stuff from the final. The Brazilian Blues were stars of the show, with David Luiz pulling out an amazing goal line clearance to prevent Mata from getting on the score sheet, and Oscar being the key man in the second goal. Don't watch this past that point, or you'll see Dave failing pretty miserably at stopping Fred from getting a shot off for the third and final goal.
Then after a much-needed, much-deserved, and much too short rest, he linked up with the Blues on tour in the U.S. So he must have lost some steam then, says you. Not a chance in hell, says I. Oscar leapt into the side, scoring early in the tour's first match: Inter Milan in Indiana. Surely it was an easy tap-in, where others did the work, says you. Shut up and watch, says I.
While our favorite geezer was inducing us into renditions of The Temptation's classic "Ain't Too Proud to Beg,"* his quiet compatriot was tugging at the heartstrings in a whole different way. If he wasn't a crowd favorite already, you can bet he is now. And the Chelsea Nation are not the only ones taking notice. He's been written up in several web articles, from ESPNFC to Squawka to GiveMeSport. Oscar may very well be on his way to a serious breakout season.
*Think: "I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go..."
So What's Next?
So Oscar had a good preseason, and has started the Premier League campaign off with flying colors, but some questions linger. Can he really keep up the success? Especially now that CFC have added the likes of André Schürrle, the returning loanee De Bruyne, and Marco Van Ginkel (who may allow Ramires to be played in the attacking band), will Oscar even see significant playing time? Several clues point to affirmative answers for both queries.
1) Oscar has featured in every single game under Mou since returning from the Confederations Cup, and he started every match with the exception of the contest with Roma.
2) Oscar fits the profile of attacking players that Mou has preferred in the past. Want to know what has The Special One so interested in Rooney? Very few top tier strikers work as hard as Wazzah, and none of them comprise part of the Chelsea roster currently. The reason behind the narrative that Mourinho "only plays ugly football" is that JM rarely sacrifices defensive soundness for attacking prowess. His favorite players are those that can do both (this is why I think we can feel great about David Luiz right now, because he'll take huge strides under Mou to correct his shortcomings, but JM will still utilize his strengths effectively). Oscar is one of those players.
3) With the World Cup coming up, Oscar will be especially motivated, but he'll also be extensively used. Playing 90 minutes twice a week for club and country (again) will be immensely tiring, but there's no fear of him getting rusty. While I doubt very much we'll see any less of him in the Brazil setup, the introduction of Schürrle as a defensively sound option for the band of three will allow some opportunities for rest, when necessary. Still, I think it's clear that Oscar holds a place above the German for the moment, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
I think we can expect Oscar to start a vast majority of our games. In better matchups, he may even be shifted to the middle, with Schürrle and Hazard/Moses/Ramires on the wings. However, I think most matches we'll see Hazard-Mata-Oscar in the lineup. I anticipate Kevin De Bruyne to be the only player that might be able to push one of those three out of regular starts.
Areas to Improve
Look at this picture above, then the one below. Keep in mind that the photo above was taken early in the year last season (Valentine's Day*, coincidentally), and the instance below occurred in Sunday's match against Hull. Notice anything interesting? It's subtle, but I think Oscar has filled out a little bit. He'll hopefully be able to put on some more weight than this, but that he doesn't look like he should've arrived in London in a crate labelled "FRAGILE" is a good sign of improvement in this area. Look for him to try and bulk up a little more under Mourinho this season.
*I absolutely loathe that "holiday." What's so special about taking someone out to dinner when everyone else is doing it? You ought to be showing your loved ones the love all year round anyways. What a poor excuse for Hallmark to keep itself afloat. Ugh. Rant over.
Oscar is, generally speaking, a very solid all-around footballer. He dribbles well, he has decent pace, he has great ball control, and places passes very well. His vision is undoubtedly his greatest asset, both in defense and attack. Despite doing a good job of linking the two for Brazil, Oscar has struggled to find the same groove in an admittedly very different Chelsea side. Look for Oscar to do more dropping deep and bringing the ball forward to orchestrate the buildup, as he grows into that role this season.
But that's a skill the skinny Brazilian* already has. We know he can do it, and he's quite adept at it. So what's something this multi-talented baller, this terrifically clever shot-caller, this unbelievably adroit wall-to-waller doesn't do well? You may surprise to hear that he's really not too much of a threat as a goalscorer. You're shocked, and I can hear your cries of outrage already, but know this: Oscar put only 43% of his shots on target last season. That compares quite poorly to Juan Mata's 54%, André Schürrle's 57%, and Hazard's 60%. When he hits the target, he often does it in style, but if he can be identified as less of a threat to shoot, teams can adjust their tactics accordingly. Expect Mourinho to put Oscar through intense drilling in this regard, and to see a more favorable statistic come next May.
*This really isn't that descriptive, because they're all toothpicks. Fred and Hulk have to be taking something.
If you aren't excited about this season for the best number 11 out there (screw you, Gareth Bale), then you need to get yourself to a medical and/or spiritual authority ASAP. Or you can just watch this, and know more is on the way.
Peace out, homies, and keep the blue flag flying high!