Juan Mata faces a battle for his place
Jose Mourinho has said it is up to Juan Mata to oust Oscar as Chelsea’s primary playmaker in order to secure more playing time -- at least until the Spaniard fully learns a new approach and position that allows both to appear together.
Despite his sparkling performances over the last two seasons for the Blues, Mata has so far only started two of the side’s six games this season. Mourinho finally decided to publicly address the issue, just as a host of other questions arise after two consecutive defeats.
“There are things I cannot speak with you about. It’s part of a process with him, too. One thing is to play with Ramires and Oscar in the side, them closing each side, and Mata as a No. 10 behind the striker, clever assists and clever passes, fantastic actions because he has great talent.
“Another thing is to adapt to the way we want to play. In this moment, 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’d have to disagree. These are football issues.”
When asked whether Mata must dislodge Brazil international Oscar at present, Mourinho said: “Yes.”
He added: “They can [play together], when he adapts to it. But I’m not ready to play Oscar following full-backs, because he plays in that position for the country with more talented players than anyone else in the world in that position. I want to build with Oscar as my No. 10. I want the other two players, from the side, to adapt to that reality and learn now to do things that they were not ready to do before.”
Chelsea sources maintain that Mourinho’s comments do not mean that he wants to sell Mata, despite the intrigue of his comments, and that the manager merely does not want to give away any tactical secrets.
Meanwhile, Mourinho has surprisingly stated that he would not choose to utilise Inter Milan’s famous approach against Barcelona again.
In the 2009-10 Champions League semi-final, the Italian side withdrew to an extreme degree, blocking out Barca in order to win 3-2 on aggregate and go on to become European champions.
“You need an adaptation, not only psychologically but also physically. If you sit there deep in a low block, with no spaces, you can be there three hours. I went with Inter to Barcelona and, for 60 minutes, we played with ten men and if we needed to be there longer we'd have played for another 60 minutes. I don't want my team to play like that.”
Mourinho stated that was part of a new proactive approach that had been agreed with Roman Abramovich.
“We don't want to be reactive. We want to be proactive, and to educate the players in this direction,” he said. “We had one meeting -- not five, ten, 20 -- but one, and in that meeting we had not an agreement but we were all convinced this was the way we want to do it. This is the way we want to do it.
“I really don't want new players in January. I don't want. But at the end of the season, as a natural evolution, we will find these players can make us better -- one here, one there.
“The project is beautiful. We had two very ugly results -- we don't like [them], we are not used to them... it's a problem for us. But I accept criticism.
“Mr Abramovich is the owner of the club, my boss. But, directly and indirectly, we are in contact every week. Not to say many times, but I explain what I'm doing because that's part of my job. You do that in your job, and I do that here. I always did. Is he upset with the results? I hope so.”