Something's Mata? Call 9-Juan-Juan.
I don’t even know how to begin this article. In the positive or in the negative way? Because both are food for thought. Okay, let’s be positive for a minute – enough negatives in the last few months…
Our romance with Juan Mata begun on 27 August 2011. Just a few days after we bought him from Valencia for the amazing sum of £23.5m (good thing Valencia haven’t called the police yet because that was a pure robbery…) Mata made his debut – Stamford Bridge vs. Norwich. The score was 2-1 and we were looking a bit distracted – which was perfectly natural after Didi was knocked out by John Ruddy, Norwich’s goalkeeper. And then came Juan Mata. The ‘mini AVB’, the Magician, the Future Legend, who I bet nobody thought would have an impact so big. A few minutes later – BOOM (Piers Morgan reference, lol) – Mata scores in his debut. From then on it was well known – this boy will be something special.
And just look at the impact :
Scored in his Champions League debut vs. Bayer Leverkusen – we won 2-0 but before HIS goal in stoppage time, Bayer were looking pretty damn dangerous.
Mata assisted Chelsea’s 6,000th league goal (Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal) and scored a phenomenal goal in the same game. We may have lost the time, but his impact was still great. His goal made the score 3-3.
Mata set up the first two goals which were scored by JT and Sturridge and also scored the third goal himself in a 3–0 win against Wolves.
He was awarded the Man of The Match in a 0–3 away win vs Newcastle.
On 6 December 2011, during Chelsea’s decisive Champions League match against former club Valencia, Mata made two assists for both of Didi’s goals. Game ended 3-0.
I can go on till forever with all these facts [Source: wikipedia] but it will never be enough. I can just say that in his 89 games with Chelsea, Mata has scored 26 goals and has given 37 assists, including the equalizing header by Didier Drogba vs. Bayern in the Champions League final.
Sure, Mata may have some weaknesses – he isn’t very strong. But come to think of it, he isn’t bullied so often. He manages to escape (‘Run little Juan, run run, little Juan’). His penalties sometimes aren’t very good – for example vs. Birmingham for the FA Cup or, more importantly, vs. Bayern in the FINAL. However, he’s only 24 years-old. His current contract is for the next 6 years – God knows how many trophies will this little man bring to Stamford Bridge.
But here come a few negative questions – Why are we so reliable on him? We seem to be doing nothing without our little Juan in the team! Sure, he sometimes has the occasional weak games but who doesn’t? From 89 games, he probably has around 8-9 weak games but in the other 80 he’s been absolutely fantastic. In the summer of 2012 we bought Eden Hazard, who is probably the best talent in the world right now. We bought him to ease the role Mata had in the 2011/12 season. We also bought Oscar for that. Both Oscar & Hazard are doing their best, having some great impact so far but somehow Mata is irreplaceable. Sadly, Eden’s ban came in a moment when he was doing a great job easing Mata’s role. Let’s face it – next season Eden & Mata will be competing for Man of the Match awards, mark my words – Eden is ready and he just needed one full season to prove it. Still around 4 months left till the end of this season. I’m sure that after his ban, Eden will come stronger and even more motivated.
But Eden’s not the topic in this article. It’s that whenever we’re in trouble we turn to ‘Juan’ man and this is Mata. We saw it just yesterday – Brentford dominated (wow…it does sound awful), we weren’t able to put 2 crosses together without losing the ball. Benitez finally made a good substitution by getting Marin off and introducing the Magician Mata to Griffin Park. The impact was immediate – Chelsea started to play more organized, the crosses actually reached their target man and goals came. Sure, Oscar scored the goal but the fact is our players feel more comfortable on the pitch with Mata there as well. We were losing 1-0 at half time and if it hadn’t been for that shit penalty the referee gave them OR if he gave us a penalty in stoppage time (a handball after – you guessed it – MATA’s cross) we would’ve won the game.
Why are we so reliable on Mata? What do we have to do? We can NOT rely only on one player. Sure, he’s young, his batteries always seem to be at 100%, but they’re not. Eden & Oscar are doing fine, but Oscar needs to play in the center of the midfield to perform, because he’s awful on the wings. Let’s say Moses will take the RW, Eden and Mata may have to change positions – LW & CAM – because let’s face it – AVB used Mata on the LW till he was fired. So I don’t see why not. The point is though when Mata doesn’t play, because let’s say he needs to be rested (everyone needs to be rested) we need to win our games. God knows what would’ve happened yesterday if Benitez hadn’t changed Marin with Mata. We could’ve lost the game like Liverpool lost vs. Oldham. That would’ve been a disgrace, to be fair.
I must end now because it’s only mid-season. After the season ends we can analyze how Eden & Oscar (& Moses) did to ease Mata’s role. But for now…
To be continued…