Oscar the pivotal

Nothing definitive can be deduced and the tactical preferences of a coach not accurately forecast based on pre-season team and tactical selections. This perhaps is even truer when the manager in question is assessing a new squad of players and has the psychology professor-like aura of a certain Jose Mourinho. However, the fact Oscar returned from his post-Confederations Cup period of leave with the rest of the highly talented applicable CFC contingent and waltzed straight into a side performing extremely well for the recent International Champions Cup matches against Inter, AC Milan and Real Madrid surely says something.

Soccer - Chelsea Pre Season Training in America - Chelsea Training Session - Catholic University

Regardless of the formation Mourinho takes forward into the competitive season come August 18 he will have to disappoint a number of CFC’s creative attacking midfielders due to the sheer volume of talent we possess in that area of expertise. Even more so if the likes of Victor Moses, if his pre-season performances are any indication, add facets to their game and increase their level of skill thanks to Mourinho’s guidance. My initial thought was that Moses would go from a rotated starter under Rafael Benítez to being surplus to Mourinho’s requirements and potentially loaned away from Stamford Bridge. Moses’ virtuoso Robben-esque performances against the Milan sides especially suggest otherwise.

Despite Moses’ form, the acquisition of André Schürrle and the timely return of the impressive Kevin De Bruyne the first choice impetus in midfield offence should still reside with messrs Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and the boy from Brazil, Oscar.

Notoriously, as I have mentioned in a previous post, players coming directly from South America to the English game struggle to adapt to the football culture and seismic shift in general lifestyle. Therefore investing in Oscar and bringing the then 20-year old from Internacional to West London was a risky play not only for CFC but Oscar individually from a career perspective. Oscar’s return in terms of games played, goals scored and assisted during his first season for CFC vindicates his capture. The goals Oscar netted for CFC during the 2012/13 season were not only often emphatic exhibitions of his talent but were regularly scored at vital points of the campaign. The dazzling Champions League finishes against Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk all the way to the headed strikes at Anfield and against Tottenham Hotspur all contribute to this notion.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group E - Chelsea v Juventus - Stamford Bridge

Roberto Di Matteo’s first team blooding of Oscar upon arrival was of huge benefit to club and player. The fact Oscar was used predominantly in Champions League games early on last season was a very shrewd move on Di Matteo’s part. This allowed Oscar to acclimatise himself to life at CFC in the technical environment of Champions League football as opposed to throwing him in at the deep end in the frantic, high paced tempo of the Premier League into which he was eased as a substitute gradually at the start. Had Di Matteo not adopted this strategy the vast contrast between the Brazilian Serie A and the Premier League may have proved dangerous. Oscar’s languid style and incredible technique flourished in the early Champions League fixtures which allowed the player to develop and begin performing to the same level in the domestic games before long.

Oscar’s appearance could give some the false impression of youthful inexperience and potential immaturity given his slight frame and young visage, any misconceptions to this end have been eroding rapidly. Although still only 21 Oscar has maturity beyond his years. This can be explained by the variety of experiences Oscar has encountered thus far during his short but eventful playing career since making his debut for São Paulo aged just 17. Such experiences have not been limited to the field of play. The issue to which I refer being the contractual dispute between Oscar and São Paulo which saw the player miss three months of football – never good for an emerging young player.

Oscar has gone from strength to strength for his country officially announcing himself to the watching world by scoring a record setting hat-trick in the final of the Under-20 World Cup in 2011. Two years on CFC’s offensive magician is heralded and relied upon as a playmaker and a fixture in the Brazilian national setup. This is a tribute to Oscar’s ability and the perception of his quality in his home country.

Brazil Soccer Confed Cup Italy Brazil

With the success of Brazil waning since the heights of the 2002 World Cup victory and those responsible for the triumph no longer able to contribute to the national cause in such fashion a huge pressure is bestowed upon the likes of Oscar, Neymar Junior et al to recreate the effect the likes of Ronaldinho and Rivaldo once had on the international competition. This is far from an easy task, especially given the media glare in Brazil to which the performances of La Seleção are subjected.
The Confederations Cup and the performances of Oscar and his Brazilian cohorts were a needed tonic for a national in the midst of social unrest adding to the pressure the squad must have felt to deliver success to their fans. To prevail despite the furore that formed the backdrop to the competition must surely have made the victory all the more sweet. When travelling in South America I had the pleasure of spending time in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. While appreciating the vibrant and passionate society in unison with the extreme poverty that many experience in the region it was clear that football is both integral to and reflective of Brazilian culture. The eventual success of the Confederations Cup will have a hugely positive impact on the nation when the time comes for Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil Soccer Confed Cup Brazil Spain

Starting in the central attacking fulcrum role in all Mourinho managed friendlies for which Oscar has been available is an indication of how pivotal the Brazilian will be to CFC and Mourinho this coming season. In the games against Internazionale and AC Milan Oscar seemed to exude an air of confidence and control in a period of transition at CFC. The deft curled strike against Internazionale was an immediate reminder of what Oscar can produce on a whim.
Very much in the style of Mourinho’s remarkable transformation and improvement of Joe Cole during his first stint as CFC boss it appears The Special One intends to evolve Juan Mata’s role for CFC from a floating ‘number 10′ with a license to roam to a right sided attacker who will cut in off the wing with his preferred and classy left foot. If Juan Mata improves on his already awesome form and consistency for CFC the player will continue to be recognised as one of the best in the game.

Soccer - Guinness International Champions Cup 2013 - Chelsea v AC Milan - Metlife Stadium

In the same vein it seems Mourinho similarly has grand designs for young Marco van Ginkel. At first glance it looked as though Van Ginkel would be competing for spaces occupied by the likes of Oscar, Mata and Hazard but it appears the former Vitesse Arnhem starlet will be moulded by Mourinho into a deep lying orchestrator. It is rare managers have the ability to revolutionise the outlook of a player, especially with the trust of the player in question. Mourinho’s allure as a person and quality as a coach affords him this luxury.
With the added experience of his Brazilian summer and ever-increasing maturity Oscar will continue to excel and produce the on-pitch goods while showing the incoming and returning players the way forward and what it takes to command a starting berth for CFC. All of this proving he was the ideal candidate to inherit the now sacred number 11 shirt adorned by the immortal hero Didier Drogba. The two players are different but should both leave CFC having reached the same legendary status when all is said and done.

Thanks for reading and keep the blue flag flying high. Written by Dean Evans, you can follow him on Twitter here

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