Juan Mata was recently reunited with his Chelsea teammates following a well-earned extended rest. There has been much speculation in both the British and Spanish press that the diminutive midfielder will be sold this summer, as he was not part of Mourinho’s blueprint for the future of Chelsea.
Fortunately, this has turned out to be complete nonsense. Sky Sports have reported that Mourinho feels that Mata’s strength on his left foot will be key for the Blues, although he will revert to his original role as a winger next season.
Mata began his Chelsea career playing on the left side of the attacking midfield, cutting in from his wide position to provide 12 goals and 20 assists. These numbers are impressive from a debutant, and the stylish way he went about reaching them led to him winning the Chelsea Player of the Year award for 2012.
The 2012-13 season saw him flourish as he played in the hole behind the striker more often. Supported by Eden Hazard and Oscar, Mata scored 20 goals and topped the Premier League assists table. Despite this success, Mourinho feels that the Spaniard will perform better out on the right of midfield.
Wingers have been key to the winning system that Mourinho has toured around Europe for the past 13 years. "The Special One's" Chelsea side of 2004-05 lined up in a 4-3-3 with Damien Duff and Arjen Robben drifting in from the wings to provide 18 goals and 15 assists between the two.
From what has been said so far, it appears that Mourinho is envisaging a similar partnership this time around, with Hazard on the left and Mata on the right.
Having a left-footed player out on the right would give Chelsea the width that they have lacked in recent years. "The Three Amigos" would still be able to weave their magic, and each would be able to play to their strengths.
Although Mata garnered much attention in the central role last season, whoscored.com rated his performances higher when he started on the right. His performance ratio is higher from that wing, too, with seven goals and nine assists in 14 appearances, compared to 10 goals and 13 assists in 25 starts in the hole.
The depth of the squad will allow for better rotation next season, and players who are strong in two or more positions will prove vital in the latter stages.
Mata fits this bill perfectly, and wherever he may be, he will once again be the key to Chelsea’s success in 2013-14.