What a difference six months can make.
Since joining Chelsea last summer, Oscar has gone from the fringes to the first team and back again, perhaps becoming the biggest casualty of managerial changes at the club.
In truth, not much had been expected of the Brazilian in his first season in English football. He was lauded as one of Brazil’s up-and-coming stars before joining the Blues, but was still very much an unknown quantity to many at Stamford Bridge. Then came his home debut against Juventus in the Champions League, which changed everything in an instant. Suddenly he was a star.
That night Oscar scored twice in a 2-2 draw and for large parts marshaled the threat of Andrea Pirlo with all the wisdom of a player beyond his years. It was the night Oscar truly arrived in England. And with his second goal a spectacular long-range effort, it was the night he won the hearts and minds of the Chelsea crowd.
Since then, however, much like the early part of his Chelsea career, it hasn’t gone the way many had expected.
Oscar may well have not been seen as a regular starter for the Blues when he joined, but alongside fellow new recruit Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, he had helped transform their style of play. From scrapping their way to Champions League glory in 2011/12, they were suddenly outplaying everyone before them and the 21-year-old was a huge part of that.
Indeed, such was their impact, it wasn’t long before the trio were being dubbed the Three Amigos, with Roberto Di Matteo’s side riding high on top of the Premier League table. It’s no secret Roman Abramovich has craved entertaining, attacking football at Stamford Bridge, and with Oscar’s help, the Chelsea owner was getting just that.
If Oscar’s rise taught us anything, it was that things can change in an instant in football. And with the appointment of Rafa Benitez as Di Matteo’s replacement when the Italian was fired in November, Oscar’s season has changed with it.
Under Benitez, Chelsea’s tactics and approach to matches has been altered, and despite being part of the aforementioned Three Amigos, Oscar hasn’t figured as prominently under the Spaniard, with the more direct style of Victor Moses preferred.
Warming the bench and late cameos have become his forte of late and it doesn’t take a great mind to see it’s affected his form. The Brazilian youngster is no longer impacting games as he was earlier this season and the understanding that was flourishing between Hazard, Mata and him is only displayed in rare occasions of brilliance.
Chelsea’s defeat to Swansea City in the Capital One Cup semifinal shows that much, with the threat of Oscar—drafted in mainly due to the absence of Moses at the Africa Cup of Nations—easily dealt with over two legs by the Swansea midfield.
Chelsea struggled to stretch their opponents in both games, whereas earlier in the campaign, many struggled to contain them. It’s frustrating for those on the terraces and equally for the neutral who has witnessed what he can achieve.
Recent performances aside, however, it has been a relatively successful start to his Chelsea career. It’s been one of ups and downs for sure, but Oscar's talent is without doubt, with him outscoring his teammates in the Champions League group stage.
As this Chelsea team evolves, so too will his role and position in it. In many ways, he is the embodiment of the Blues this season—so much promise, but not yet quite the finished article. Much like the club, if his talent and potential are nurtured correctly, he'll become a great of the European game.