Portuguese boss Jose Mourinho has certainly shaken things up at Stamford Bridge since re-joining the club in the summer.
At the beginning of the season, the self-proclaimed Special One opposed to the popular Juan Mata as a result of the Spaniard’s presumed lack of solidarity regarding defensive structure.
Oscar, Hazard and Mata were thought of as the three musketeers last season – a result of beautiful inter-changing displays between them. The summer arrival of Andre Schurrle added strength in depth and perhaps a more direct route – yet the German wasn’t ever likely to dislodge the stars who shone under Rafa Benitez.
Following the £32m deal however which saw Brazilian Willian arrive from Shakhtar Donetsk, it started the beginning of the end for Juan Mata.
The two-time Chelsea player of the year found himself relegated to the bench for the majority of autumn and early winter. After much speculation regarding Mata’s Chelsea future – the Spanish international was later sold in an astonishing £37m deal to Manchester United.
Was Jose Mourinho’s decision to replace Juan Mata with Willian the correct one? If statistics are said to be a decisive indicator, then the answer is yes.
Chelsea’s 25-year-old Brazilian has started ten games for the Blues this season – including games against Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United – and it’s a run which has seen Jose Mourinho’s side remain undefeated.
On the other hand Chelsea’s three defeats this season have come away from Stamford Bridge as the Blues came unstuck at Everton, Newcastle United and Stoke City – fixtures coinciding with Juan Mata starting in each game.
The team has acclaimed more points when Willian has started than when he has been left out, but what about individual statistics? In Willian’s 10 Premier League starts since joining the club, he has contributed to 35 key passes – 5 more than what Juan Mata achieved in his 11 Chelsea starts prior to his big move.
However, the most noticeable difference between the two stars is the defensive discipline – traits which Mourinho prides himself on. Willian has made 29 interceptions and 10 tackles so far this campaign, whereas Mata made just 14 tackles and three interceptions – thus arguably justifying Mou’s decision to replace Mata with the more conventional Willian.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald