Jose Mourinho displayed his anger with the performance of his Chelsea team against QPR on Saturday. According to Mourinho, only one player had played well on the day – Oscar. The Brazilian scored an absolutely brilliant goal with the outside of his right foot, but his contributions to the game are greater than that. The goal showed what Oscar can do at his very best going forward, and he’s shown glimpses in the past, including his spectacular goal against Juventus at Stamford Bridge on his Champions League debut.
In the past, when 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 were the most common formations throughout Europe, most players playing off of the main striker were a “second striker”or a “withdrawn forward”. While they played an important role in the creation of goals, they scored lots of goals, usually in double figures. Examples of players like this are Roberto Baggio, Del Piero, and Francesco Totti. Over time, the 4-2-3-1 has become quite common in Europe. The formation allows for a true “No. 10”to be played behind a lone striker, and while the goal input from these playmakers has been heavily reduced, their assist count has rocketed. A great example of the modern playmaker is Mesut Ozil, who created a whopping 492 chances for his teammates from 2008-2013. Ozil has never been known as a great goalscorer, as he not very good with his weaker right foot, and often poor with his finishing. Nevertheless, he has tallied a very high assist rate, reaching extraordinary levels during his time at Real Madrid.
Oscar, however is a very different player to the average playmaker nowadays. While the likes of Wesley Sneijder have balanced scoring with assisting, few playmakers work as hard as Oscar defensively. Leading up to the 2014 World Cup final, Oscar had completed the most successful tackles of any player in the tournament. His immense work rate does not stand out against average Premier League teams, but in the big games, he is key to Chelsea’s hopes of winning trophies. Last season, he was the first defensive line for Mourinho’s Chelsea. Jose Mourinho believed in Oscar to be his No. 10 ahead of Juan Mata, a superb playmaker, but one who offers little defensively. With hard-working wingers on each side, Chelsea were able to keep a superb defensive record in the Premier League. Recently, in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, and Diego Costa were praised. Hazard had embarked on a fantastic run to win a penalty, Fabregas had played a delicious ball over-the-top for Costa to run into, and he superbly finished past Szczesny. The Arsenal game was just one example of the attention the likes of Costa, Hazard, Fabregas, and even Nemanja Matic have received this season. On that day, Oscar was the key player for Chelsea, superbly pressing and winning the ball back, even defending in his own box at times. His stamina and commitment are brilliant, especially for a player who has played nonstop ever since joining Chelsea in the summer of 2012, as he is yet to spend a summer on vacation due to various international commitments.
As mentioned, Oscar’s superb tackling and pressing abilities are key for Chelsea in the big games. The importance cannot be devalued, especially due to Fabregas playing in the pivot (as part of the two in defensive midfield) in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Fabregas has never been known for his defensive ability and does not have the greatest pace, often leaving the Chelsea defense exposed. Against the teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table, he is exactly what Chelsea needed. He is a player who can control the tempo of a game, picks out passes for players in tight situations, and has the ability to score goals. Playing further forward, often as a No. 10 at Arsenal, Fabregas did not have any defensive responsibility. At Chelsea, Fabregas has had to adapt, and he has done fairly well, making more challenges than seen in the past. Nevertheless, his defensive ability is a weakness, which can be exploited. There is no questioning his impact at the club, as seen by his chance creation and 10 assists, but there is a reason he has performed poorly in the two biggest games of Chelsea’s season thus far, against Manchester City and against Manchester United. Oscar is key in those games, providing a line of defense ahead of Chelsea’s pivot, so that Fabregas’defensive deficiencies and Matic’s lack of pace (although he has been absolutely superb for Chelsea this season), can be covered. Oscar’s interchanging of positions with Fabregas has also been successful, bringing an element of unpredictability to the team going forward, as well as making it tougher for opponents to mark Fabregas.
Mourinho clearly had a vision when he entrusted Oscar as the No. 10 in his new Chelsea team upon his return to Stamford Bridge. To oust fan-favorite Mata was a bold decision, but Oscar has shown that he is ready to fill the boots. At the tender age of 23, Oscar still has a long way to go, and time is on his side to truly fulfill his potential. His finishing can be superb, but at times, his final pass as a playmaker is lacking. For a man with a light frame, Oscar is certainly not light going into challenges. With a World Cup on the horizon, Oscar’s form dipped towards the end of last season. Now, with no distractions in front of him, Oscar is ready to step up for Chelsea and become the player he can become, spearheading a young, energetic Chelsea side for years to come.
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