Chelsea FC: 3 Reasons Juan Mata Is the Blues' Top Playmaker
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Seven matches into the Barclays Premier League and Chelsea are sitting pretty atop the table with a 6-1-0 record.
A lot of the credit for their early season success belongs to playmaker Juan Mata.
Mata—last season’s winner of Chelsea’s Player of the Year award—has been in sensational form as of late. It’s a run many didn’t expect to see after the team brought Eden Hazard and Oscar into the midfield.
But instead of taking away from his role in the attack, the newly acquired talents have only seemed to help strengthen it.
Although he has flourished alongside Hazard and Oscar, the 24-year-old Spanish international has made one thing clear: This is still his team.
And if he has anything to say about it, Chelsea will repeat the success they had from the last time they started out this well—the Blues won the 2005-06 league title after starting 9-1-0.
Here are three reasons why Mata is Chelsea’s top playmaker.
1. His Dual-Threat Ability
Mata has proven that he can score as well as distribute.
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When Chelsea brought in Mata for 23.5 million pounds during last season’s summer transfer window, the team knew they were getting a talented midfielder.
What they didn’t know was that they were getting arguably one of the best playmakers in the world.
Mata instantly made a mark with the team, scoring in his debut as a substitute against Norwich City. His 90th-minute strike sealed a 3-1 season-opening victory for the Blues.
It was only a glimpse of what he had in store for the club.
Mata led the team with 26 assists in all competitions—the highest mark in club history since FIFA began keeping track of the statistic back in 1994—as well as finishing fourth on the squad in goals with 12.
His ability to both distribute the ball successfully and find the net led him to be considered not only one of the top players on Chelsea, but also in the entire league.
This season, after a slow start—mainly due to burnout from an offseason filled with international duty obligations—Mata has finally picked up where he left off.
After failing to record a point in the club’s first six games, Mata has netted four goals and dished out six assists in the team’s last five. He ranks first on the team in assists and is tied for second behind Fernando Torres in goals.
With Mata just beginning to take off, the young midfielder seems poised to have one of his best seasons yet.
2. His Strong Commitment to the Team
There's no other place Mata would like to be playing than at London with the Blues.
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In an age where many young players utilize their clubs as stepping stones toward the ultimate goal of playing for the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, Mata is the exception.
Whether it’s for Chelsea, or for his country, Mata is as loyal and selfless as they come.
With the multitude of offseason additions the Blues have brought in at midfield, manager Roberto Di Matteo has been experimenting on how to best utilize his roster. As a result, Mata has seen playing time on the left, on the right and on the middle.
While the lack of consistency might frustrate most players, Mata insists that the team’s success is far more important to him than his personal need (via Dan Levene, fulhamchronicle.co.uk).
That’s a mindset he shares when it comes for his country.
When Spain announced its list of recalls for their upcoming World Cup qualifier next Tuesday against France, Mata’s name was left off the list.
Although he was upset, Mata pledged to earn back his spot on the first team (via Reuters).
His heart, dedication and persistence make him a huge asset for Chelsea.
Not only for this season, but for many seasons to come.
3. Only Player Who Can Really Trigger Torres
Mata and Torres have formed a relationship that has proven deadly thus far.
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Batman had Robin. Superman had Lois Lane. Cheech had Chong
Juan Mata has Fernando Torres.
Even before his arrival at Stamford Bridge, Mata always shared a strong bond with Torres from their time on the Spanish national team. In fact, Mata admits that it was Torres who pleaded with him to come to Chelsea (via telegraphtv on YouTube).
Boy, has it paid dividends for Torres.
After scoring only one goal for Chelsea in 18 appearances in 2011, Torres began to make positive strides during Mata’s first season with the Blues.
In 46 appearances for Chelsea last season, Torres netted 12 goals and added a career-best 12 assists.
Although Torres struggled mightily in the first half of the season—he went nearly six months in-between league goals—Mata has always remained one of his most vocal supporters.
Whether he was fumbling one-on-ones with the keeper, or missing wide-open nets, Mata was confident that the embattled striker would find his form again (via Mark Doyle at goal.com).
Thankfully, that encouragement seems to be doing the job.
During the tail end of the season, Torres’ play increased significantly. His five goals in his last 12 appearances wasn’t exactly mind-blowing, but it displays a great sign of improvement.
Torres publicly applauded Mata for his faith during the 2011-12 season, even repaying the midfielder by handing him a goal in the closing minutes of the Euro 2012 finals against Italy, an assist that Torres said he enjoyed more than his own goal in the same game (via The Sun).
This season, Torres has continued his path to improvement.
In 11 appearances for Chelsea, Torres has netted six goals. That includes three in his last four games—two that came off of assists from Mata.
With the lack of depth at the striker position, it’s vital that Chelsea get the most out of Torres.
Mata is essential in doing just that.