ENGLAND: What’s the Mata at Chelsea?


Would the Spanish maestro be better off elsewhere with Mourinho ruling at Chelsea?

Jose Mourinho has made a great start to his second reign at Stamford Bridge. Victories over Hull City and Aston Villa in the reigning Europa League champions’ first two games of the new Premier League season, followed by a goalless draw in a clash with Manchester United, have given Chelsea fans reason to be optimistic for the new season. The introduction of Kevin De Bruyne to Chelsea’s attacking line is something many will continue to watch with a keen sense of intrigue after the Belgian had an excellent season in the Bundesliga, and fans will no doubt be desperate to see Romelu Lukaku get more game time after a successful 2012-2013 season at West Bromwich Albion. Andre Schurrle and midfielder Marco van Ginkel have also joined the ranks, and with Brazillian playmaker Willian joining earlier this week, Chelsea have a versatile plethora of attacking options to line-up with the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Lampard.

But what about Juan Mata? The little Spanish wizard has a multitude of trophies and accolades to his name down to his talent, yet it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ‘The Special One’ doesn’t favour a man who is arguably his most special player. There were rumours in the summer that Mourinho was looking to offload Mata, and although these rumours have died down somewhat, it’s hard to believe that Mourinho would not be looking to get rid if the right offer came in. Mata has only featured once in Chelsea’s three games thus far this season, coming off the bench mid-way through the second half of a 2-1 win against Aston Villa.

During that Villa game where Mata made his only appearance in a Chelsea shirt under Mourinho, the attacking midfielder registered a 96% pass success rate with 47 passes completed out of an attempted 49, displaying his ability to consistently deliver accurate passes and retain the ball – a trait of the upmost importance to midfielders. It wasn’t a one off, either: Mata completed 1566 passes out of 1838 attempted in the Barclays Premier League last season, giving him an 85% pass completion rate. For an attacking midfielder like Mata who is relied upon to make key passes and accurate balls to strikers, this is a strong statistic, and because of his aptitude for passing he made 35 assists for Chelsea in all competitions last season and has created 197 goal scoring chances for Chelsea since his arrival in 2011. The ability to pass with finesse and precision and to retain the ball aren’t the only impressive attributes of Mata: his eye for goal is ever-present. Since moving to Chelsea in the summer of 2011 for a fee of £23.5 million from Spanish side Valencia, Mata hasn’t been phased by the new set of defenders he has faced and has thus racked up a goal count of 32 goals in 119 games for the 2011-2012 Champions League winners – this is around a goal every four games in a Chelsea shirt.

With all these statistics on show, it’s easy to see why Juan Mata is a favourite in the stands at Stamford Bridge. Why is it that Jose Mourinho doesn’t fancy Mata as a key component in his regular starting XI? Eden Hazard is a fantastic player who could be viewed as similar to Mata, but in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Chelsea fans will have become used to under the likes of Mourinho and Rafa Benitez, surely it would be beneficial to have both men in the same side? Especially when they were Chelsea’s stand-out players last season? It would seem Mourinho really doesn’t seen Mata as a regular starter for Chelsea, which seems a little strange when you consider the cutting edge he would bring to a side that plays the style Mourinho employs. They’re keen to create chances through the use of accurate through balls and short passing to create space, and the trio behind the team’s striker are often adept at dribbling into the space created and making use of it. Is it Mata’s lack of defensive contribution that steers Mourinho away from giving him a regular spot in his starting XI? Mourinho has always emphasised defensive contribution from the players on the pitch as being vital in his system, so it is arguable that Mata’s ability in advanced positions would not be utilised if he has to track back and put in a big shift defensively. Only the enigmatic Mourinho will know the real reasons why it seems Mata isn’t favoured at present down in West London – it’s certainly difficult to analyse his thinking.

It has been reported in the mainstream media that Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham have all expressed interest in Mata and it is apparent that Liverpool have had a loan bid rejected for the Spaniard. Meanwhile, Mata has expressed his desire to stay at Chelsea, but would it be more beneficial for him to move elsewhere? If he were to stay at Chelsea and continue to be benched under Mourinho’s reign in charge, it would surely be better to just uproot and move elsewhere before his career begins to stagnate. According to http://www.transfermarkt.com , Mata’s current market value is around £39,500,000 and thus it would take a sizeable offer to get Chelsea to consider selling the attacking midfielder who still has 3 years remaining on his contract. When you factor in domestic interest, Chelsea could command a big fee due to not wanting to sell to league rivals – Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham will all chase Champions League football this year and will certainly have no issue trying to overtake Chelsea in the league’s standings. So what about a move abroad?

Let’s talk hypothetically. A move back to Spain would provide him with two options: Barcelona or Real Madrid. With Isco, Modric and Ozil at Real Madrid, it is unlikely a move for Mata would be on based on their summer spending (and reported big-money swoop for Gareth Bale) and the depth they already have in attacking midfield. Meanwhile, Barcelona continue to look strong and another attacking player wouldn’t be high on their agenda with their reported interest in signing a centre back remaining a regular feature in news columns. So, a move to Spain would be very unlikely should he go between now and the end of the transfer window. What about Germany? Bayern have a great deal of attacking options already so a move there is unlikely, leaving Borussia Dortmund as the only real option in Germany should they be able to pay for a player of Mata’s quality. They were linked with Christian Eriksen as a replacement for Mario Gotze and whilst they have brought in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, is he developed enough to make the difference on the level Dortmund have risen to? Arguably not. Mata could fill that void left by Gotze and add that extra spark that Dortmund have so far lacked this season. There are other sides out there that could benefit massively from bringing in Mata: PSG? They’ve already spent big on Edinson Cavani this summer, and any more big transfer business looks unlikely for them despite having the money to pay for Mata. Monaco? Again, they’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money and their real big money transfer dealings are winding down for now. Could Juventus be a feasible destination if they could pay for him? They probably wouldn’t be too interested with the talent they already have in midfield and their attack. Alas, maybe Mata’s future does lie at Chelsea after all, unless a side wants to pay a big sum of money to get him or are content to loan to Spaniard.

It’s going to be interesting to watch Chelsea’s activity over the next week or so and see whether or not Mata is likely to leave – we all know how transfers can come about out of nowhere. A lot of it is speculation for now, but there does seem to be some substance to Mata’s possible departure based on what has been said over the course of summer. Who knows? Is Mata going to stay at Chelsea to fight for a place and perhaps make a real difference to Chelsea’s season? Or could Mourinho be looking to offload Mata for September 2nd?


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