Azonto Epistle 22: Mata-Oscar Dilemma, Mikel Scores & Chelsea "Crisis"

Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata

A fully packed action week(end) full of thrills, groans, surprises and shocks just went by and you can’t really say that was a bad week or good but let’s say it was a week Mikel Obi scored a goal after 261 matches. It followed after we surrendered our lead to Basel FC at Stamford Bridge, a place where fortress had been built and you never imagined it will collapse under Jose who built it. Then ensued the “crisis” which some journalists were too quick to plunge us into. The Jamie Redknapps of this world and our own Ruud Gullit couldn’t give Jose a Breathing space. The issue of Mata not playing has become the single most talked about issue in England even more than the Syrian crisis. And Chelsea’s loss to Basel made the media brand us as the losers of the transfer market while they obviously lauded Manchester United’s signing of Fellaini and keeping Rooney as the best. Well, it took Manchester City just 50 minutes to remind people that there are other mini crisis ahead. Adieu to Paulo Di Canio, after his 5 months 22 days spell at Sunderland. He lasted far too long.

The Basel Loss

We never got into our rhythm, we were always struggling to keep the ball at the last third of the pitch. I never felt comfortable watching the game even after Oscar scored and kept us ahead undeservedly. The second half didn’t see much improvement and it was still a nervy moment when we lost the ball to a well composed Basel side but I kept on believing we could get into our rhythm. Well, it wasn’t meant to be, Sallah was always going to score and Strellar didn’t have any sympathy on us either. Willian put in a good performance for a debut, he chased the balls, held on to it and sent in good crosses. Oscar was undoubtedly our best player again and it is becoming no news either, since he has proven to be very comfortable playing as Number 10 and such good performances couldn’t have come any better time than when the manager has given him full confidence in a midst of all the talk. Hazard’s performance typified the performance of the whole team. It was an average show and it wasn’t the usual Hazard we know. In fact, we haven’t seen the Hazard we know this season and I hope it changes soon since he is a crucial part to our success And moving forward. The key issue happened to be the holding midfield, Lampard and Van Ginkel struggled to hold the threats they posed from the midfield. MVG and Lampard are far too similar players to be playing as holding midfielders, against a team, we expect to dominate, we can use them but Basel have shown that they are no walkovers and we paid for it. By the time Mikel came in to save the day, it was far too late and their confidence to score had risen above us and the defeat was just a matter of time. Eto’o has not scored but he puts in the performance you expect from a serious striker who can demolish any team when he gets enough supply at the right areas. And that happens to be the issue which will keep on ringing for the debate of Oscar-Mata. It’s no accident that Oscar plays to score and Mata plays to assist. You could see far too many that Eto’o got himself in the right positions but the simple “Mata” pass was not forthcoming and we delayed too much on the ball which made our opponents always covering before we get in there and we were always crowded. It is becoming a problem for us these days playing against teams who defend deep and spring up the counter attacks. Who sends in the intelligent through ball , the defense-splitting pass for our strikers to feed on to? I hope we soon find a solution to it and our strikers start doing their job.

The Mata-Oscar Dilemma

It’s one of the most talked about issues in town, the issue of Mata not playing. Many have still not come to terms with the fact that a-two-times best Chelsea player can be made to “prove” himself once more and be asked to “adapt” his game in order to get a good playing time. Jose has been unequivocal in his words that Oscar is his number 10 and that the rest of the team should adapt to that. Oscar on the other hand has been up to the task and shown why he deserves to be the number 10 with his personal performances. There is no doubt Oscar is a bonus to our team in terms of defense and closing in of players. Mata on the other hand has shown that his real weakness lies in his inability to defend and show more athleticism in his all round game. But how has Mata become a joy to watch and looking at all the backlash that Jose is facing with his decision it is clear not many are impressed seeing Mata out in the cold. Oscar dribbles his way out of trouble and will take his time on the ball to do that. Whiles Mata always like to pass the ball to someone in a better position quickly to get himself out of trouble. Whiles Oscar’s one key strength is to get himself in a good shooting position and able to take quick decision ahead of his opponents to surprise them with a good shot, Mata wants to always give that intelligent pass which will unlock the defense of opponents. A manifestation of this is why Oscar is quick on the score sheet and the good number of shots on goal he makes in a match. Mata’s is manifested in the good number of assists he makes and a classic one is the Demba Ba FA Cup assist against Manchester United. So when Mata on the field, it reduces the rate at which we get crowded in the half of our opponents when they defend deep. These days we seem to pass the ball squarely so much, to the right side, back to the left side and to the middle where they inevitably crowd and lose the ball with far too many one-two passes. This is why Mata is crucial to our play. He solves this issue. However, it doesn’t need to be at the expense of Oscar. We need them both on the pitch and it will be great for Jose to device a system to accommodate them. Mata has his strength and weakness but his strength is so great that we cannot do without him, just as Oscar. To me, Mata is the most intelligent player to see a good pass when on the ball. His vision always put his opponents in a state of surprise since he can give a pass at any time to cause a breakdown of formation. His passes defy defensive organization by opponents and he is the sort of player who can find Eto’o in the right places to feed him. We have striker to do good job and they need to be serviced. Mata,  I know will prove himself once more

Mikel Scores:

John Obi Mikel deserves a full Azonto Epistle piece for scoring his first goal since 2007. We congratulate him and we urge him to eye that Lampard record. If Mikel can actually score, then it means anything can happen including breaking the record of Lampard and Arsenal wining a trophy. Hey, and Ballotelli missed his first official penalty against Napoli. Strange things do happen you know.

They said we were in crisis, it Mikel to shut them up. Lets hope the talk of more crisis to waken the goal scoring threat in Mikel. On Sunday I watched the most One-sided derby match ever and it was Manchester City who walked through the park like they were having their usual training session with a group of reserve side. I hope the team I watched wasn’t the defending champions of EPL who are said to be having a good and peaceful times devoid of “crisis” under David Moyes.

We wait anxiously to see how Jamie Redknapp and his cohorts analyze the humiliating defeat of Manchester United at the other side of the divide and spare us of this “crisis” mantra.

Until then, KTBFFH!

By Seth Adusei (twitter @sethaadusei)

  1. Aliyu Mohammad says

    incisive and fun to read as always keep it up bro

  2. Ken says

    Have decided not speak abt mata’s issue..I hopefully pray that some series of bad results will prove jose wrong. Moreover, each player has his weakness(es) so I see no reason why mata should the sacrificial lamb or is there other personal attached to it that the mere eyes can’t see cos I’ve observed that SPANISH players are being sidelined by mourinho at cfc. Is time mou dropped his ego…

  3. Joseph says

    Support the team not Mata….do you mean Oscar isn’t our best player so far? Speak the truth.Mata just recovered frm injury and is out of form.he came on when we where leading 1:0 against basell but at the end we doesn’t like stepping back in helping the defense or even attack when we lose the ball to our if this happens,who should run for the ball and pass you?he should adapt to mourinho’s style of play and he will be great….remember,at valencia Mata was a winger so it will be easy for him to adapt….thanks

    1. alexcfc8 says

      Mata was a winger in his first season even then it was only for half the games that season the rest he had been playing behind Soldado as a supporting striker in the No. 10 role

  4. Ken says

    @joseph mata’s strength is far greater than his weakness(es) if you look at the team recently you would notice that we’re lacking those killer passes n assist offered by mata,we also hvn’t gotten any clear cut opportunity in any game
    secondly, ozil played almost every game under mou at Real which makes me to ponder the difference between mata n ozil. I still believe there are reasons behind mata’s exclusion other than footie related or tactical reason KTBFFH!!

  5. Cyril Obi says

    lovely article just goes to show that loosing a match or winning one doesn’t field a forecast of your season. And Mikel, I noticed can run… hahaha, At a time against Fulham he won the ball in the middle and it was him Ramires and Torres on the break I loved it

  6. K DHEERAJ says

    You are pointing gulit’s comments …don’t do that so,after all he is also one of us and has right to tell anything. Don’t forget the past, he brought us trophy when we don’t have money(abramovich) by the way i like Jose too.

  7. K DHEERAJ says

    Good article! But are you pointing gulit’s comments …don’t do that so,after all he is also one of us and has right to tell anything. Don’t forget the past, he brought us trophy when we don’t have money(abramovich). By the way i like Jose too.

  8. Ola says

    If you love chelsea support the team not a player can some one tell me that oscar is a bad player nd come 2 think of it all the game that we lose mata play part in it nd of the game that we won mata did not play so let leave this man 2 do his job mata should proof him self then we ll know what 2 say chelsea 4 life

    1. Jeff says

      Last season we lost more games without Mata than with Mata so don’t use that…personally, I alwayz knew and said Oscar was played out of position last season as a winger and as well put by this article, I would prefer Mata and Oscar play together OR they both share the number 10 jersey as both can’t play all matches but Mata as a right winger I just don’t see it but would be glad if I am wrong cos I love my chelsea and I supported the recall of Mourinho

    2. alexcfc8 says

      Please look at last season before you say a comment like that Mata was instrumental last season and if it wasn’t for him we would of lost a lot more games last season

    3. carlos figueira says

      did you forget the little one-twos between Mata and Hazard around opponents leading to goals last season? have you or anyone stop to think the absense of Mata is affecting the other chelsea best player? chelsea spent 58mil and shouldnt have excuse to be doing worse than last year, like the way they played man utd, everton and Basel who was beaten 5-2 in aggregate last year. Oscar is doing great but the team WITH 58MIL IN REEINFORCEMENT is not even matching last year end of season performances when Mata Hazard and Oscar played together. Another point: IS IT NECESSARY TO PUT A PLAYER IN A SPOT LIGHT BY IS OWN MANAGER IN FAVOUR OF A TEAM MATE? Isnt this things better be kept within? Did Mourinho thought the handle of Casillas a good thing for Madrid?

  9. GABBY says


    Assistant first team coach Steve Holland has been speaking about players adapting when a team’s style of play undergoes a transition, and has highlighted examples showing this to be a regular requirement from top professionals.

    Chelsea head to Swindon for our first domestic cup game of the season on Tuesday evening, and Jose Mourinho announced after the Fulham game on Saturday that players who didn’t feature then such as Juan Mata, David Luiz, Michael Essien, Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta will play in the Capital One Cup game, and said he hoped Mata’s performance would tell him the Spaniard has to play every game.

    Holland, looking ahead to facing Swindon, confirmed the selection plan is unaltered with no injury concerns, and said there may be the opportunity for one young player to be involved who isn’t normally, however highlighting the problems Bradford City gave top-flight clubs in the competition last season, and the tough FA Cup match Chelsea had at Brentford before winning the replay, he added it will be a strong side sent out with the tie treated with the utmost respect. The coach also spoke more about Mata.

    ‘An assistant can have a different relationship with the players as opposed to the manager who picks the team and makes the major decisions,’ Holland said.

    ‘You are forever communicating with players but in this case you are talking about a professional player with a fantastic attitude. There isn’t a great deal that needs to be said to Juan, he knows the score and he is a top professional. He trained well yesterday as you would expect.

    ‘Having to adapt is nothing particularly new here. I have been here five years and going back to Carlo Ancelotti’s team playing with Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka playing behind Didier Drogba with three soldiers in midfield, Frank Lampard had to adapt and get out to defend against full-backs because Anelka wasn’t asked to do that in the role he played.

    ‘It changed with Andre Villas-Boas to 4-3-3 and Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata had to chase the full-backs, and with Roberto Di Matteo that changed a little bit and Salomon Kalou and Ramires played wide. Mata played in the no. 10 role for the first time really at Chelsea.

    ‘With Rafa Benitez it again changed a little, a bit more of a compromise. Oscar was asked then to play wide and Ramires, especially in the bigger games. When Juan’s role was the no. 10 it was another adaptation that was required and he has shown here he is more than capable of doing that, and that will be the case this time.’

    Changing the identity of the team in terms of the way it goes about its business on the pitch does take time Holland reiterated, but he noted that Mourinho’s Real Madrid side had four creative attacking players in Mesut Ozil, Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema, presenting the challenge of making the team good when in possession and also when it didn’t have the ball.

    ‘Jose clearly managed to do that at Madrid given the results he had. I will also never forget the game against Chelsea when Jose was the coach of Inter.

    ‘I was working with Carlo Ancelotti and Pandev, Milito, Eto’o and Schneider were the front four. Three of those were strikers and one is a no. 10, so a very creative team to come to Chelsea away and yet they worked like Trojans the four of them, I have never seen attacking players work so hard. Eto’o played on the wing.

    ‘So Jose is quite clear in his mind given the success he has had. He knows the recipe for success and he feels that is the way forward for us this year. I am quite sure that can be achieved here as well.

    ‘Jose is always pushing the players to the maximum every day, and that is evident not just in the teams but in the individuals he has worked with.

    ‘Ronaldo is a player I have always really admired, but in his three-year period working with Jose he really evolved as an individual. He is not just a talented dribbler who can score goals, he has become a top-level match winner who wants to make runs in behind, and to threaten the goal.

    ‘That doesn’t just happen, that comes with pushing even if it is the best. In Ronaldo’s case he is the best in the world, and whether it is David Luiz, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Fernando Torres, whoever it is, I am sure on a day-to-day basis Jose will be pushing for signs for improvement, working to progress the individual but ultimately for the benefit of the team.’

  10. Nyametease Obed says

    hahahaha i like ur jab at our frnds on the other half of Manchester who slept early yday. but seriously i hope Mata dont become a ‘Kaka or Casillas’ for all its worth.

  11. Anonymous says

    Chelsea fans can whine all they want, but they should tell Mata to up his work rate and he will get played. Oscar is also in better form and there’s nothing that can be done. It beats me that Mou’s choice is playing well and we are still complaining. When Torres was played despite being poor, we complained. Some fans are just funny.

  12. Anonymous says

    Mou just von the battle. Happy that Mata recognise that he must improve and be a COMPLETE number 10 because tracking back, tackling and winning 50-50 balls is part of the number 10 job. Oscar, Rooney do this Come on Mata, we need you!

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