Liverpool's Loan Bid for Juan Mata Highlights Need for Chelsea to Find His Role
Liverpool have been beaten to a few high-profile signings this summer, including Henrik Mkhitaryan, who signed for Borussia Dortmund, and Willian, who is signing for Chelsea, but it hasn't stopped them aiming high for new recruits.
The latest reports have surrounded the Anfield club making an audacious loan bid for Chelsea's Juan Mata, as reported by Warren Haughton of talkSPORT, and while the move might be doomed to failure, it highlights the need for the Blues to find Mata's role in the side sooner rather than later.
During the 2012-13 season, Mata was quite simply one of the best players in the entire Premier League, and he and the club should be a million miles away from even the merest possibility of him being the target of bids from other teams, especially on loan.
The fact that he isn't is indicative of new manager Jose Mourinho being seemingly unsure over where the Spaniard will fit into his plans, or if he will even have a key role in the side at all.
Having spent his first campaign at Stamford Bridge mainly playing from the right side of the Chelsea attack, cutting infield on his left foot to create chances and take shots at goal, Mata's last term figured in a more central role more often.
His quick acceleration, dribbling ability and natural attacking talent make him a perfect fit for an attacking central midfielder to break forward beyond the striker and be a goal threat, something which resulted in him scoring 19 goals in all competitions last season.
Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie seemed to generate more headlines than the classy Spaniard, but Mata is right up amongst that trio in terms of quality on the ball and in having a positive effect on matches.
While it is both admirable and exciting to look at the huge stores of riches that Mourinho has at his disposal for the attacking midfield roles, there is little to suggest that Mata should not remain top of the pile when the boss selects his starting XI each week.
Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Marco van Ginkel and now Willian—not to mention Victor Moses—are all exciting talents in their own right, but Mata is the most senior of the lot, experienced in both the Premier League to a greater extent and indeed in the wider world of winning major games, tournaments and competitions.
The Spain international, at 25 years old, should be capable of playing and winning matches twice every week with as little worry to his physical well-being as any player might have. His tactical progression has developed significantly during his time in England, naturally since he was still a young forward when he left Valencia, and his technical strengths have only gotten better.
To his already present acceleration, dribbling and versatility, he has added great end product and reliability since joining Chelsea.
What should Mata's role be?
It might be that Mourinho has decided he wants to heavily rotate his front three or four this season. Even then, though, there is ample reason to play Mata more often than most; he can play right the way along the attacking midfield line, left to right, and also featured as a central forward in his younger days. This is a player perfect for many styles and tactics in the game, being able to maintain possession and composure or attacking quickly, directly and aggressively.
There is no compelling reason for having left him on the bench for two of Chelsea's opening three league games, save for if Mourinho doesn't rate him enough or hasn't decided how to get the best out of him. The latter will only be found by giving him time on the pitch.
If Chelsea opt to sell, there will be no shortage of takers, but the mere fact he's even being spoken about as available is, quite plainly, a travesty for one of the Premier League's best players.
Even if it is to the eventual betterment of another rival side.
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