For some reason, Juan Mata continues to be the least used member of the creative midfield company Jose Mourinho has at his disposal, despite being the best player for Chelsea ever since he arrived from Spain.
Eden Hazard and Oscar seem to be automatic choices for Mourinho, even though both of them haven’t started out the season in the best of form. Hazard, like Mata, is a very hard player to drop considering his talent and his ability to make something out of nothing even on a weak day, but Oscar is a bigger conundrum as to why he is preferred in the lineup to Mata.
So why would Mourinho choose to bench (mostly) a player who has proven to be one of the best in the Premier League? From the moment the manager signed with Chelsea rumors of Mata not being his cup of tea exactly were surfacing. Is it the fact that he’s too much of a playmaker type, without the ability to shoulder defensive responsibilities on the wing? Mesut Ozil was similar to Mata for Mourinho in Real Madrid in that aspect, and it didn’t hurt him have some huge seasons.
Maybe Mata came back tired from the Confederations Cup? Unlikely. Oscar had the same tournament, and it didn’t hurt his chances of winning a place in the lineup. There hasn’t been any injury as well to the Spaniard. It leaves two options – either Mourinho simply doesn’t think Mata is a good enough player in comparison to those he already has, or he’s still trying out the combination in the threesome that plays behind his striker.
The problems for Mata? More players have been added to the mix. Andre Schurrle seems like someone who’ll be getting plenty of credit, be it as a supporting striker or winger, but it will come at the expense of someone in the creative threesome. Willian arriving from Anzhi for £30 is surely going to get some playing time as well. Someone is going to get hurt real bad when it comes to his minutes, and Mata, not Kevin de Bruyne, seems like the most likely candidate to lose even more minutes.
New managers change things, but even someone as successful as Mourinho makes mistakes. While it’s too soon to pass a verdict on Willian and what he’ll bring to the table, the benching of Mata, who has outperformed Oscar and Hazard last season vastly in his ability to remain consistent even if he is less versatile and less tactical than both of them, is something Mourinho might regret later on in the season.