Juan Mata’s role at Stamford Bridge this season has been met with confusion and bewilderment as plenty of fans have been trying to work out why he’s not been playing regularly under Jose Mourinho.
The boss has made it clear he wants Mata to adapt, that he has a future at the club but he needs to start doing more than his normally lethal creative role in the current side.
There are a few ways that Mata can change and it’s encouraging for any admirers of the Spaniard that he’s going to take on the upheaval of changing his game so he can play more of a role.
The defensive side of Mata’s game is something that the Spaniard could seriously knuckle down and work on.
It may sound counter productive considering Mata is one of the most talented creative midfielders in the Premier League but there are certain areas and elements of defensive play which Mata could improve.
Tracking back is a very good example. Mata is a master of utilising and exploiting space in an attacking sense and his all round game would improve dramatically if he showed the same reading of the game in Chelsea’s defensive third.
It shouldn’t be a difficult thing for him to master because he has the mindset of the similar sort of player that Mourinho will be looking to him to help out, trying to contain.
Tackling and showing more aggression in the middle is another way that Mata can improve.
He’s a small man with a small physique so working hard, getting stronger and bulking out a little bit will be the hardest challenge for him.
He’s played in a Chelsea side where he hasn’t had to fly around the pitch, throwing in tackles because he’s been backed and protected by other players in that respect.
One of the striking features of Frank Lampard’s game is how well he plays as a holding player when Chelsea are under pressure despite the fact he’s obviously better going forward.
If Mata can become a stronger and physically more imposing player, he won’t just have a better chance of winning tackles against bigger opponents, he’ll have a better chance of picking up 50/50 balls all over the pitch.
It’s a challenge for him but one he should relish.
How do you think Mata can change?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald