What is Juan Mata's Place With Chelsea?

By Greg Sulik
Mitchell Gunn-USA TODAY Sports

When Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge, most thought that Juan Mata would become a key figure in his Chelsea side. After all, the Spainard has filled the No. 10 role for each of last two seasons for the Blues, being named the club Player of the Year both times. The left-footed Mata is a wizard in midfield, consistently playing the right ball to spring a teammate towards goal.

Mata is also more than capable of getting the job done himself, scoring 20 goals in all competitions for Chelsea last year to go with his 28 assists. Mourinho likes his wide midfielders to be able to tuck in and attack on their strong foot, so many believed that Mata would get the lion’s share of the starts on the right side.

This has not materialized yet, as Mata has made only one appearance in four games so far. Mourinho has repeatedly chose to play new acquisitions Andre Schürrle and Kevin De Bruyne over Mata, despite the fact that both are less accomplished (and right-footed). Mata is not an expendable afterthought like the just-loaned Victor Moses, but rather the man that nearly every observer would point to as the team’s best player.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect here is that Mata has not even been granted the opportunity to prove himself. It would be one thing if Schürrle and De Bruyne were clearly outperforming him (though, in their defense, both have been very good), but Mata has not gotten any opportunity to display his skills.

Many Chelsea fans are distraught over the fate of one of the club’s most talented and popular players, and few can figure why Mourinho is so opposed to playing him. Of course, the season is very young, and Mata could yet earn a role as a regular starter. Mourinho continues to claim that Mata is in his plans, so we have no choice but to wait and see if he’s telling the truth.

There doesn’t seem to be any scenario where it is not in Chelsea’s best interest to play Mata. Hopefully, things will straighten themselves out and Mata will join Eden Hazard and Oscar in Chelsea’s brilliant attacking midfield. However, if Mata has not been granted a regular spot in the starting XI by the January transfer window, don’t be surprised if his time at Stamford Bridge comes to an untimely end.

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