Chelsea: Is Oscar Potentially Chelsea's Most Important Summer Transfer?
In the light of Chelsea's recent friendly against PSG, which ended 1-1 after a late goal from the Brazilian Nene, certain problems about the new setup were exposed quite ruthlessly by the Parisian giants.
Chelsea fielded players of the caliber of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Marko Marin against PSG's new singing Ezequiel Lavezzi, who teamed up with Clement Chantome, Mathieu Bodmer and Javier Pastore.
Chelsea set out in a 4-2-1-3 system with Eden Hazard playing slightly deeper than a traditional number 10, intercepting and controlling the play in a Xavi-like role, a more tactically disciplined fashion than before. He was flanked by the double pivot of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, in a typical regista-destroyer combination.
PSG played a very similar controlling 4-2-1-3, with Pastore playing in front of Bodmer and Chantome. Pastore played a similar role to Hazard, playing in a horizontal playmaking line across the halfway line. Pastore played a very deep defensive block for PSG, helping them to launch attacks from the center.
As I have pointed out previously, I feel that Eden Hazard is not suited to his role as a playmaker in the center. This is mainly because of his aggressive attacking intent and lack of positioning nuance required by the player who dictates the tempo of the side. Against Seattle Sounders, his output came mainly from the wings, when he made runs toward goal. It was Marko Marin and Josh McEachran who were more creative in the sense of a playmaking midfielder.
Hazard's instincts lead him to wide left positioning (playing closer to the left winger than the center forward), and as a result, unbalances the team's defensive dynamic, leaving the defensive midfielders bereft of positioning. It was clear that Hazard's relatively deep positioning indicated that Di Matteo had realized this problem, and had faith that Hazard could take on more playmaking qualities, when positionally forced to do so. He was meant to play as the 1, in a 4-2-1-3 (for details see this.)
In practice, the idea was disastrously applied.
Mikel and Lampard were unable to motor forward and protect Hazard, and he became isolated, trying to move to the left. He got no joy all game, making no threatening runs or assists. Javier Pastore, previously thought of as a classic playmaker, was uncharacteristically disciplined, holding position and denying Hazard space.
Both sides defended deep, but Paris Saint Germain focused their defense mainly on the center defensive midfielder position, denying Chelsea. Both sides were classic "broken teams", with defensive players holding position for attacking players given more attacking freedom and little defensive responsibility.
Chelsea battled for a 1-1 draw.
So, Where does Oscar fit into all this?
The Brazilian playmaker has been heavily linked with Chelsea (via The Mirror) and it seems that he is likely to move there. The London club now have a surplus of talented attacking midfielders, but it seems that Oscar will be the most important one. The tendency with the old-style playmaker was to destroy the idea of the collective. That was the reason managers used to distrust them before the 70's.
Hazard has shown a similar tendency to drift. Therefore, Oscar would be the perfect choice for Chelsea's playmaker. The Brazilian is a multi-function playmaker, similar to Mikel Arteta in a way. He is a combination between classic Brazilian and contemporary Spanish style. He wins the ball high up the pitch and starts the attacks higher up.
In addition, he can dictate the tempo of a side. His movements are very subtle. He can elude his marker by dropping deep and then distribute like a Pirlo. His off the ball movement is also superb, showcasing the ability to be anonymous in a passage of play, in the sense that Michael Carrick is often invisible from deep, but he can suddenly break forward from deep.
In practice, he should be ideal for a team like Chelsea, a side not accustomed to playing a possession based game, and more schooled in a counter-attacking style. Now that they are trying to become more proactive, Oscar can help them win the ball high up to start counter-attacks, and supply killer passes when they dominate possession against sides who "park the bus."
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