How Mourinho Alienated Juan Mata And Forced Him Out Of Chelsea

Juan Mata ignores Mourinho

If you are a Mourinho fan turn around now. I love the man but I am not blinded by it. Oscar and Willian are not spared too, so proceed with caution.

When Mourinho joined Chelsea he had a big problem in his hands. There were some players which he didn’t want or didn’t fit in his plans and one among them was Chelsea’s 2 times Player of the Year in his 2 years at Chelsea and also the last season’s Player’s Player of the Year,  one particular Juan Mata. Mourinho himself commented on Juan Mata that the getting those 2 awards shows how much he is respected by players and loved by fans and his statement goes to show that how daunting he considered the management of Mata.

Ousting such a player and keeping his good image intact was a indeed a mission impossible.

Safety First

Mourinho didn’t have a personal vendetta against Juan, it was rather his football philosophy. Mou’s natural instinct is to defend. It seems he will play with 9 defenders and a striker, if he can. Whatever the 3 behind the strikers bring in terms of attacking – apart from defensive contribution – is a plus and not the other way around. Mourinho was unconvinced with Juan Mata’s athleticism and hence the defensive contribution. People can also argue that Mou didn’t fancy him as an counterattacking player but that would only be speculation.

The anti-football he has played at Old Trafford, Emirates and tried at White Hart Lane has largely gone unpunished. Not going for the win against United shows his pragmatic approach, when even Steve Clarke sensed that United were there for the taking. Moyes was not capable and Wenger adventurous enough to test Chelsea’s sturdiness, AVB was and succeeded in the first half.  (Chelsea were forced to play in the second half being 0-1 down). Pellegerini is capable, adventurous and ambitious to do such a task. After losing the match at Stamford Bridge and having Jose rub it into his face, he would want to make a point. Mou will go with a 4-3-3 against Man City, with 3 of Mikel, Ramires, Matic and Lampard. If City decide to go for the win, they won’t be stopped until Chelsea decide to play. Anyway, I digress.

Immediately after joining Cheslea, Mou said he doesn’t want to force out any player without giving him a chance. Forcing Juan Mata out was, in fact not even an option, as it would have drawn severe negative criticism from press as well would have caused major unrest amongst fans.

Mata's place is on the field.

Playing Time

The first thing Mou did was to shift Mata to the right flank knowing that the best position for him was in the middle of the park. The move made some sense from his point of view.

Combined with a little injury at the start of the season, Mata was ineffective in his first appearance against Aston Villa but he did regain form.

Mata celebrates against Arsenal in league cup

When ever Mou started Juan Mata he took him out after 60 mins. (Only time he played 90 minutes were against lowly Swindon and severely weakened Arsenal). Couple this with the fact he never sent him on as a substitute. Mata has only 2 substitute performances, one against Spurs and one against West Brom. Both times Cheslea was loosing and the fear of loosing made Mou put his best player on the pitch. Unsurprisingly, Chelsea ended up rescuing a point on both occasions.

Total substitute appearances for Mata are 3. Compare this to Schurrle who has 11, Willian 6 and Oscar 6.

Important Matches

This is not the only issue. Mou didn’t start him in any important match. No appearance against Man United (home & away), Bayern, Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Schalke (home & away) goes to show the player that how much his manager distrusts him. Mata has become a second string squad player for Mourinho. His only appearance against a title contender came against Tottenham when he was forced to put him on in order to save the game.

Has Juan Mata not been good enough, Is Willian/Oscar simply better?

Oscar is fantastic defensively but he is less creative than Juan Mata. Whenever he gets the ball you can note his tendency to run in a straight line towards goal and get dispossessed. Willian has squandered a lot of good opportunities as well. He is not a finisher as Mata is.  Wilian’s average is around 5 goals/5 assists per league season and that too in the Ukranian Premiere League. Mata banged in 12 goals and 13 assists last season in the PL.

People who say that Mata can’t counter attack are mistaken. What Mata loses on the speed front, he covers in vision & ability to pick a pass. Remember the goal against Arsenal last season on counter or there was a goal when he assisted Hazard on the break, where even the commentator said” I almost thought that he took too much time on the break , and the chance was gone and then he slipped the ball through to Hazard”

Juan Mata has played 834 minutes in the Premiere League and created 30 chances.

That is 1 chance created every 27.8 minutes.

Oscar creates 1 chance every 56 minutes. Wiliian 1 every 42 minutes. Even Hazard lags behind Mata with a chance created every 37 minutes. Even the assist machine Mesut Ozil is behind Mata with 1 chance created every 29 minutes. [Stats can be verified from Squawka & Whoscored]. This might be even league high.

Did Mou give Mata a fare chance?

Did Mou give Mata a fare chance?

Did Mourinho really want Mata?

Mou could have changed Chelsea’s system. He is not playing particular attractive football that Roman craves anyway. He could at least have played Mata in his most effective no. 10 position against weak teams with slight tactical changes. Teams which were going to get dominated (at home) and defensive ask would be naturally less. One would be too naive to think that Mou will develop a philosophy to play attractive football at Chelsea and when I say attractive, I am not talking about the negative possession football that Spain is playing correctly. I am talking about attacking football with a philosophy that we will win by outscoring them. The way Mou sees it is- playing attractive football is luxury, what matters is the result. He is too pragmatic to consider an approach to outscore the opponent like Man City have at the moment.

Mou can point to Real that they played attacking football but whenever they played a strong team he reverted back to cautious approach. Seriously the gulf between the 1st two and last 16 teams in La Liga is appalling,  Chelsea banged in a record number of goals too in his first tenure but as a famous quote goes, one manager commented, they will lull you to sleep and then bang in one on a counterattack.

Mou made zero effort towards integration of Mata to the team. The message from him was loud and clear – Get frustrated and request a transfer so that he can’t be blamed. One day he would say Mata deserves to play and next day he would leave him on the bench. He will say the door is open and then would say wouldn’t want Mata to leave. Cut the bullshit, Jose! That is for the press. After the transfer is complete, Mou will try to cover his ass and distance himself from his part in the transfer.

Hero to Zero in 2 months of Summer

What was Mata supposed to do? Be a good boy and rot on the bench? Had Mata stayed at Chelsea it would have just wasted time. He had enough when he was substituted at Saints away when despite performing the same as Hazard, Chelsea were struggling. Schurrle being the worst of the attacking 3. If you watch the match you won’t be able to decide who to substitute? Mata or Hazard. Mou blindly removed Mata. And it worked. Wouldn’t it have worked if only Schurrle was substituted, no one can know!

Chelsea are going to make profit on this transfer but Mata’s value isn’t going to decrease for at least 3 more years. It will increase.

Mata is a player who would sustain this level for next 10 years (till 35-36) and will get progressively better. He doesn’t depend on attributes like speed or athleticism. he is like the classy old wine of bottle that gets better and better.

Willian on the other hand, will max out at 30.  His potential is limited. People can say that Willian is simply better at the moment but he is not as the stats show.

I don’t need to hope that this comes back to haunt Mou, because it will. Fact remains Roman wanted Guardiola or Klopp and had to settle for Mourinho instead. Mou would be breathing huge sigh of relif at the moment a tricky management issue facing him solved itself? out with him doing very little? about it but if one day he gets sacked, not a single tear will be shed from these eyes. It would be painful to see possibly United jump on him, but he would have it coming.

If Abramovich has shown the world one thing that success can be bought. (I don’t say it was wrong, it is fair). United have money. Moyes has it till next season otherwise a better manager will come. They will remain in the top 4. Juan Mata needn’t worry. It isn’t a step down.