Can Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard Fit into a Jose Mourinho Chelsea XI?
They say that technology is one of the fastest evolving aspects of the modern era, but some may argue that football is not far behind.
To ponder how the game has developed in terms of tactical decisions and the manner in which the game is analyzed is astonishing.
No longer can a defensive brute walk straight into the side as a 17-year-old and manage to clock up over 600 appearances without worrying about a lack of form or technical ability. Equally, midfielders are now expected to possess a certain combination of attacking prowess with a tendency to help out defenders.
Jose Mourinho's managerial style revolves around this philosophy, whereby players are not limited to just one function: defending or attacking. In which case, the players he has at his disposal must fit this ideology.
The backroom staff he has brought with him to Stamford Bridge—Rui Faria, Silvino Louro and Jose Morais—are key to implementing his successful workhorse strategy. Louro helps maintain the array of world-class goalkeeping talents at Stamford Bridge, Faria focuses more on the fitness and conditioning side of things and Morais is an all-round coach who is tasked with scouting the opposition.
What they will work on especially is a formation set which is set in stone. And this would include a favoured list of 11 players which Mourinho would prefer to field.
The million dollar question relates to whether Mourinho wants to include all three of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard in that lineup.
To answer that question, you'd need to ask the Portuguese tactician himself. Of course, the reason for that is because the 50-year-old sees everything we don't: the effort in training, relations off the pitch and other factors which are bound to have an impact on his team selection.
One should not forget that Mourinho is an extremely intelligent coach, one who can easily recognise quality, and would no doubt consult first-team coaches Steve Holland and Boudewijn Zenden about just how good the three were last season.
Even if Rafa Benitez was reluctant to consistently select the trio together last season, Mourinho has shown he is certainly not during his time at Real Madrid.
His most frequently used lineup was shaped as a 4-2-3-1, with Angel Di Maria drifting out to the right, Mesut Ozil in the centre and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo cutting in from the left. As a consequence, there's no suggestion that Mourinho would have any qualms about implementing a similar system at Chelsea.
If there was to be an alteration, perhaps, as a fan of natural wingers, his preference would be to have Kevin De Bruyne or Andre Schurrle on the right instead of Oscar. The German international is a player with a direct style, running with pace and agility, while Oscar prefers to play with a slower tempo, and shows he is more suited as centralised No.10.
While it appears likely that he will be happy with his current crop of players in midfield, there are several warning signs which suggest Mourinho may seek to abolish the 'Mazacar' combination.
In a surprising move, the Spanish media claim that the former Real Madrid boss could wield the axe on star playmaker Juan Mata, who has been voted Chelsea's Player of the Year for the past two seasons.
According to ESPN, the majestic Spaniard could be sacrificed to generate funds for more arrivals at Stamford Bridge this summer, with his former club Real Madrid said to be front-runners should he become available for transfer, per Metro.
It's strange, given the creative and attacking influence that Mata had on the team last year. Perhaps the rest of the squad may improve thanks to his methods, but with 25-year-old Mata, you get the feeling that he already has the fitness and motivation to improve on last year's achievements.
It could just be speculation, of course, but if Mourinho decides to let him go, he must be aware that the ex-Valencia star had a hand in 55 goals last season in 64 appearances.
To lose that sort of a player would be a big blow for the Blues, and only a player with the stature of Cristiano Ronaldo would be a sufficient replacement for him. Mourinho claims he is "loved" in the West quarters of London, per BBC Sport, but to give Mata the green light to leave could damage his popularity.
To justify the sale of the Spanish international, Mourinho would need to bring a player with such elegance and vision that he possesses, and only a select few—Mesut Ozil, Marek Hamsik or Claudio Marchisio—would fit the bill.
Even still, it's worth pointing out that, technically-speaking, none of the above are better than Mata. But the playmaker is not the only one whose place in the side could be under threat.
The £25 million purchase of Oscar from Internacional was without a doubt a gamble, given that the youngster had never played in Europe before. The move has certainly paid dividends, but even despite impressing in his debut season alongside Mata and Eden Hazard, the 21-year-old could find himself warming the bench in 2013-14.
Some will point out that the Portuguese language connection would prevent Oscar from being removed from the team, but as Mourinho indicated in a press conference, no players will be given preferential treatment.
And although he was a solid outlet on the right-hand side, the "Happy One"'s favoured approach to have forwards on the wings could see the talented Brazilian cut from the starting lineup, with £20 million man Schurrle coming as a possible replacement.
Hazard appears to be the only player who is secure in his spot on the left side of midfield. The Belgian gives the Blues an extra spark when he is on the field, and the return of 14 goals with 20 assists in his debut season proves that the £32 million investment was a wise one.
The bottom line is that no one is capable of reading Jose Mourinho's mind, and for all we know, he could send all three on their way out of Stamford Bridge.
Nevertheless, if Mata, Oscar and Hazard can emulate their success from the previous campaign, the 50-year-old will be more than happy to keep the free-flowing threesome in his side .
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