One of the breakout stars for Chelsea early in the season was Oscar, the 22 year old Brazilian attacking midfielder. Oscar’s skill, creativity and work ethic while playing underneath the striker in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation was a revelation, so much so that Oscar forced two time club player of the year Juan Mata out of the side, leading to the latter’s sale to Manchester United.
However, Oscar has endured some major struggles as of late. He has not played in any of Chelsea’s last four games despite being perfectly healthy, and he was an unused substitute in yesterday’s Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid, a game in which Chelsea desperately needed some attacking inspiration. Oscar has only two goals and one assist since the start of February, with both goals coming in Chelsea’s freakish 6-0 demolition of Arsenal in late March.
Most importantly, Oscar has clearly fallen behind Eden Hazard, Willian, Andre Schurrle and possibly even Mohamed Salah in Jose Mourinho’s hierarchy of attacking midfielders. Players like Ramires and Frank Lampard, who generally play deeper in the midfield, have been used ahead of Oscar up front lately as well. Most damning of all was yesterday, when Mourinho chose to start Cesar Azpilicueta, a right back by trade, ahead of Oscar in the midfield.
The string of unimpressive performances and Mourinho’s unwillingness to play Oscar seem to cast doubt on the young star’s future. Of course, many 22 year olds go through growing pains, and there is every chance Oscar will re-emerge as a key player next season. However, Chelsea are desperate to acquire a world class striker in the summer transfer window, and there are some concerns about whether or not they can afford it while still abiding by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play laws.
The obvious solution to that problem would be to sell a big name player, and at this point Oscar must be considered the leading candidate. He is too expensive and too talented to waste away on the bench, and the profits from his sale would certainly allow Chelsea to chase after the likes of Diego Costa and Edison Cavani. Mourinho has previously said that he would not sell a young talent like Oscar or Hazard to fund the purchase of a striker, but the fact that Oscar has barely seemed a part of the team in recent weeks raises that question again.
Personally, I think the Blues would be foolish to sell a young player as gifted as Oscar, but anything is possible. If Chelsea can acquire a striker without a major sale, then that will likely be the route they take. However, if they determine that they must sell a player to fund a big summer purchase, don’t be surprised if Oscar is the man sent packing.