The transfer window is open again and predictably Juan Mata has become a hot topic for debate – I say predictably because aside from the fact he’s barely got his boots dirty for Chelsea since the return of Jose Mourinho, the way he stropped off the pitch when subbed against Southampton at the weekend spoke volumes.
Juan Mata is an unhappy man and so, by default, is his boss. In true Mourinho style though, there’s been no sign of a dummy being spat. In fact, in response to Mata shrugging off his supportive pat on the back and slinking down into his seat as his team-mates went on to take control of a 3-0 win, Jose Mourinho says “I don’t want him to go, that is my opinion and that is my wish—but my door is open. The club door is open too, so when a player wants to speak with us we are there waiting for them. But if you ask me do I want to sell him, I don’t want to” – loosely translated to “if you keep stamping your feet too hard, you might just go through the trap door”.
So, Mata is more than welcome to stay, very publicly so, as long as there’s no tantrums. If he sulks, that too will become evident – in which case, the choice would lay solely with the player.
Juan Mata is a great player – and one we don’t particularly want to lose – we saw that in his first two seasons at Chelsea. What we didn’t see under the previous set up though, was how he’d respond to a manager with a higher level of expectation from his players, a manager whose focus is very much on the unit rather than the individuals within it.
Jose Mourinho demands a strong defensive approach to the game, with the focus on not losing, and creating opportunities on the break. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for creative players like Mata, just that players of his ilk are required to adapt to the demands of the system. Mata has struggled with this. Not the most robust in the centre of midfield, we’ve seen him utilised as a winger – and yet, as demonstrated against Southampton, he can struggle to win the battles out there too.
Mata’s game is predominantly creative, it’s more about the intricate touches and passes we delighted in over the previous two seasons, than running at the opposition’s defence, using a bit of physical presence to win the battles before whipping in heavy duty crosses. As a result, he doesn’t seem able to adapt either defensively or in terms of position in the same way as Oscar.
And this is where Jose Mourinho holds all the cards because there is absolutely no recourse whatsoever when he makes the decision to take an ineffective player off – and the impact of this decision proves immediately positive for the team. You just can’t argue decisions like that. Nor can you argue Mourinho’s decision to leave the door ajar for Mata – this way, it’s up to the player whether he goes through it or not.
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