One of the main topics of conversation surrounding the slow start and lack of crisp play from Chelsea so far in Premier League play and in their 2-1 loss to FC Basel in their opening Champions League game, has been the fact that Jose Mourinho has preferred to either have Juan Mata as a substitute or not even on the squad for that particular game. In their league game against Tottenham early on Saturday, Chelsea drew 1-1 as it was the exploits of Juan Mata that helped the ‘Blues’ salvage a draw.
In the first half of the game, Chelsea intended to get behind the Tottenham defense by beating them over the top with through balls to Fernando Torres who got the start as the lone striker over Samuel Eto’o. This strategy proved to be of little use as it made defending for Tottenham a lot easier by not having to worry that either Eden Hazard and or Oscar making runs at their defense and creating potential havoc as a result. In addition, Mourinho started Jon Obi Mikel in the midfield in what as clear sign that he again preferred a cautious approach in a big game as opposed to playing a guy like Mata from the start who is a clear potential game changer.
The result of these tactical decisions by Mourinho did not work as Chelsea was overrun by Tottenham in the midfield as Tottenham did not have to worry about Mikel being an attacking threat. Also, the playing of balls over the top by Chelsea negated the advantages they could have had with Hazard and Oscar making runs at the Tottenham defense. As a result of finding themselves down 1-0, Mourinho wised up and inserted Mata for Mikel for the second half. Not surprisingly, Mata’s presence on the field changed things and allowed Chelsea to play much better than they were in the first half.
Mata’s presence in the midfield allowed Chelsea to first neutralize the fearless runs that Tottenham were making in the first half, second, Mata’s presence allowed Chelsea to make runs at the Tottenham defense and therefore pressure them alot more. Finally, Mata’s presence passing set up or led to clear cut scoring chances and a goal for Chelsea as exhibited by his crossing pass of a free kick which John Terry headed in for the eventual 1-1 draw. At the end of the game as Chelsea could be said to have been fortunate to get a point, the clear reason they did was because Juan Mata came in and changes things with his presence.
Again, it is clear that whatever reasons that Jose Mourinho has given to date as to why Juan Mata is not a no doubt about it starter no matter the opponent is ridiculous. It is clear that without Juan Mata starting from the outset, Chelsea are going to be a team that are as dangerous as they could be, especially when playing against teams like Tottenham who are very good tactically and technically. Juan Mata is a player who might not have that blazing speed that Mourinho might want but he has the vision, touch, and skill level to more than make up for a lack of speed and those qualities make him a great player. Mourinho needs to learn to adapt to his players and that means, playing Mata if he truly desires to win trophies.