While Juan Mata may hog the headlines due to his lack of play-time, one player that has thrived due to it is Chelsea’s attacking midfielder and Brazil’s #10, Oscar dos Santos Junior. As Eden Hazard hasn’t hit the ground running this season, while Juan Mata has had really little time on the pitch, the onus has fell on the third of the famed "Mazacar" to make Chelsea tick. Oscar is a footballing genius, whose intelligence and movement make him a world-class player. Leaving the Everton game, Oscar has started all of the matches for Chelsea in this campaign.
Rafa Benitez, in a bid to make Chelsea’s rotating band of three way more defensively aware, shifted Mata from the wing to the central attacking midfielder at the expense of Oscar. Oscar’s outburst after Chelsea’s Club World Cup defeat gave him a few chances for some time, but after that his minutes came down the wing. Oscar has the intelligence to unlock the defense, his movement is brilliant and he can also pressurize the opponent’s defensive midfielder. However, he lacks pace and isn’t the flashiest of players. While his defensive work on the wing was good, his attacking produce suffered.
Jose Mourinho has however, played Oscar in his favoured #10 role or a Central Attacking Midfielder. He has recently made some quotes to support that:
‘Oscar is my No 10 and, if somebody tells me that Oscar is not Chelsea’s best player since the beginning of the season, I would have to disagree.’
‘I am not ready to play with Oscar following full backs to the end of the earth.’
‘I want Oscar as my No 10 and I want the other two players from the sides to adapt to that and learn how to do things they were not ready to do before.’
For comparison basis on how his role has evolved under Mourinho, I will take examples of the difference in Oscar’s play in this year 0-0 draw of Chelsea at Old Trafford and Chelsea’s 0-1 win at Old Trafford last year where Mata scored a late winner.
Oscar started down the left wing during the 1-0 win, but he swapped wings with Moses in between the game while also moving slightly central, in order to combine with Mata. In the Mourinho game however, Oscar played as a attacking midfielder. He did shift out to the wing to account for Eden Hazard or Kevin de Bruyne cutting in (similar to his role for Brazil), with Oscar moving out to the right often. The heatmap below is taken from squawka.com (0-1 win left and 0-0 draw right).
Oscar completed 40/53 (75%) passes (including the assist to Mata) in the earlier game, while he completed 48/57 (84%) in the later one. Oscar also ended up with two interceptions down the wing in the earlier game, while he attempted three crosses. 3 of his 4 tackles came on the left and right wing too. In contrast, Oscar contrast 4 aerial duels in the 0-0 draw, all of them around Carrick’s position. He made 4 clearances, and didn’t register a cross or a interception.
For the above passing chart, 0-1 win left and 0-0 draw right.
Oscar is one of Chelsea’s most crucial players this season, and he is not going to be wasted down the wing. Juan Mata may well have to settle for a spot down the wing, because Oscar’s current form make him near undroppable.
P.S.: I mainly wrote this article for opinions on how it is. I thought using a Chelsea community to post it would be good. Please comment where I can improve. I generally prefer FourFourTwo Stats, but I couldn't find their stats for the 0-1 win.