Jose Mourinho has always been known as a pragmatist. A manager who specialises in getting the job done even if it is not always pretty. The Portuguese manager is renowned for getting the best out of his players and getting them to play a certain style of football, a style that is geared often towards winning than playing beautiful football.
One of the reasons why he is one of the most sought-after managers in football right now is his ability to make split-second decisions and his ruthlessness and result-driven nature, which makes him a perfect fit for modern football management, a place where the players have all the power.
If there is one thing Mourinho has always done, is make big calls with regards to the players he has at his disposal. He always has his trusted players on the pitch, while others who aren’t quite in the same page as he is, are sold on. Sometimes his decision doesn’t go down too well with the fans or even his players, but the simple fact is that he gets it right more often than not.
So when he decided to sell two-time and reigning club Player of the Year, Juan Mata in January, many felt that he was making a mistake. Others felt that it was yet another Mourinho master stroke in the making. 10 months on from his decision to sell Mata to Manchester United, it looks as though he was right after all.
Whether you are a winger, a full back or a centre forward, if there is one thing that the Portuguese manager expects from all of his players, it is commitment. A commitment to winning the ball back and not just standing around waiting for the ball to come to you. Even before he sold Mata, the Chelsea manager knew that the Spaniard wasn’t going to feature heavily in his team.
While it was true that Mata was great going forward, he was nowhere near as good while tracking back. In fact, the Spaniard seldom did so and was always keen on staying forward and helping out in attack and that wasn’t something Mourinho was going to take to kindly. Especially since he had a player, in Oscar, who was probably as good as Mata, when it came to going forward, but a lot better when it came to helping out his defence.
So far this season, that has certainly proved to be the case. Although the Spaniard has played more games and more minutes than the Brazilian, he still has the same number of assists, key passes(6) and chances created (7). While Oscar has remained central to Chelsea’s great to the season, Mata has been expendable from the United line up.
While it is true that is more due to the plethora of attacking talent available at United, the simple fact is that if you are good enough, you should be playing all the minutes and being crucial to the side and not be just another player who is expendable. Unfortunately for Mata, the fact that he can only play in a single position and isn’t particularly good at tracking back has meant that he hasn’t been as important to his side as Oscar has been to his.
In fact, even in attack, the area in which Mata is supposedly better than Oscar, the stats are very similar this season. The only real aspect of the game in which the Spanish playmaker has been better than the Brazilian has been his goal scoring record. But even that isn’t by too much as he has 2 goals to one.
But when you look at the defensive aspect of both player’s games, there is clearly only one winner. Oscar has won more than 50 % of his aerial duels while Mata has only won one-third of his. The Chelsea playmaker has made 4 interceptions this season, compared to the Spaniard’s 2, but the biggest difference in their defensive numbers is in their tackles and clearances. Although he is an attacking midfielder, the Brazilian has made 10 tackles and 10 clearances so far this season while the Spaniard has only made 2 and 1 respectively.
All things considered, Mourinho is being proven right with every passing game. In Oscar, he has a player who can not only help out in attack, but is also more than handy at helping out his defence. And if there is one quality that Mourinho values more than anything else, it is a player who puts him team first and the 23-year-old certainly does that and that is precisely why he has made the right call in picking Oscar over Mata.