Mata Becomes a Useful Blue Again
It seems like it was just yesterday, when José Mourinho dropped Juan Mata, the Spanish international, from his first XI.
But the two-time Player of the Year recipient has since shown the Chelsea skipper that he's still got it and one the Blues will need in vital matches. Mata's performance recently against the likes of Swindon Town and Tottenham Hotspur has made him not only re-gain the trust of his manager but also solidified his position as a starter.
The arrival of André Shürrle, Paul Williams, and Kelvin Debryne last summer intensifed the midfield competition, leaving the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Mata himself with the specter of limited playing time. Oscar and Hazard ultimately found their places in the first team with the coach categorically stating that Oscar was his No 10, ie-. the player behind the striker. Meanwhile, Mata languished on the touchline.
Finally, Mourinho explained his reasoning that Mata was treating defense like it was a communicable disease. With Chelsea featuring a counter-attacking style of play, that simply wouldn't do. Given Mata's consecutive Player of the Year honorifics for Chelsea -- due to his posting 18 goals and 34 assists in 64 games as an attacking midfielder -- to be relegated to the bench this season seemed incredible.
So the question then was, would Mata truly improve his marking?
Fortunately for his career and Chelsea's chances, Mata took it as a challenge. From the looks of it, he's succeeded.
Mourinho did him a favor. Sometimes prolific scorers forget the pitch behind them, which is inexcusable at all times, but especially if the goals don't come. Mata deserves observing the rest of the season to see if this lesson has actually sunk in.