This consistent playing time is a far cry from his debut season in 2012-13. As Juan Mata jinked his way to his second consecutive Player of the Year award and Eden Hazard received plaudits from every pundit, much of Oscar's work went unnoticed.
The youngster made more tackles in 2012-13 than his attacking teammates combined with a total of 109, compared to Mata and Hazard’s 69 between them. He is on course to repeat that feat again, with his tally of 55 tackles so far to the other amigos’ 30.
It’s not just his defensive work that deserves praise. So far this season he has scored six goals and assisted a further four, having scored 10 and created six in 2012-13. His strike against Juventus in last season’s Champions League was voted as Chelsea’s goal of the season, for obvious reasons.
His passing accuracy of 81 percent is marginally lower than his 2012-13 total of 82.1 percent, but it certainly seems that he is finding his feet within the Chelsea squad.
Rafa Benitez preferred to work Mata into the ground rather than rotate him with Oscar in the No. 10 role last season. The Brazilian made most of his appearances in 2012-13 on the right of the attack, and he struggled to make an impact without drifting into the middle.
Since Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge, Oscar has played in his natural central role. The Special One came in for some criticism over the decision to move Mata out wide to accommodate Oscar, but his response in The Independent in September was perfect:
In this moment, Oscar is my number 10 and, if somebody tells me that Oscar is not Chelsea's best player since the beginning of the season, I'd have to disagree. I want to build with Oscar as my number 10. I want the other two players, from the side (wings), to adapt to that reality and to learn how to do things that they were not ready to do before.
This confidence from the manager has been reflected in Oscar’s work rate. An ankle injury sustained in the Premier League match with Southampton is the only thing that has kept him out of the matchday squad, in a season where competition for places at Chelsea is more intense than ever. The maturity his game exhibits far exceeds his 22 years, and it looks likely that he will continue to shine under Mourinho’s stewardship.
Although he has played in an advanced role for Chelsea, Oscar’s position in the Brazilian national team is a more central midfield role. With Frank Lampard heading towards retirement, the idea of Oscar taking over the mantle from the club’s all-time top goalscorer is not as far-fetched as it sounds.
He is almost guaranteed a place in Luis Felipe Scolari’s squad for next summer’s World Cup, and if he carries on at this rate he will quickly become a legend for club and country.
All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com
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