Juan matters more this season

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Juan Mata has had a great year, guiding Chelsea towards the club’s first Champions League trophy and scoring the last goal that helped Spain lift this summer’s European Championship. The Spaniard’s contribution to his club was phenomenal last season, during which he scored 12 goals & assisted another 20, in all competitions. In the 2012/13 season, Mata carries on in great form, with 7 goals and 10 assists so far, most of which have been in the Premier League.

Although he may not win the same tournaments in 2013 that he did in 2012, Mata could still have a fantastic season. The midfielder reached new heights under his former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo, but there is no reason why he won’t do as well (or even better) under his newly appointed countryman, Rafael Benitez, who Mata has promptly hailed as a “great coach”.

EPL Index breaks down Mata’s figures of this season & the last, telling us how the midfielder is on track to do even better in the Premier League this time around.

It is an undeniable fact that Mata is one of the best players in the world, and the stats corroborate this. In his first full season with Chelsea, Mata created a total of 102 chances, including 13 assists and scored 6 goals. He created on average 3.6 chances per game and one chance every 25 minutes, with the likes of Lampard and Ramires creating 55 and 20 chances respectively. Mata, then, created 47 and 82 more chances in his first season than his Chelsea team-mates.

Overall, he was beaten by Manchester City’s David Silva, who was lauded as the most complete midfielder in the league, yet managed to create only 2 more chances and 3 more assists during the season than his compatriot at Chelsea. In addition, Mata ended the year having lifted the Champions League trophy, and added the fans’ player award and player’s player of the year award to his mantelpiece.

Last campaign represented a fantastic year for Mata, then, and presumably a very difficult one to surpass. Yet he seems set to repeat last year’s excellent performance after a fantastic start to the season. So what is allowing the Spanish maestro to be even better this season than he was last?

Mata already averages a total of 3.1 chances created per game in the 751 minutes he has played, compared to last season where in the same amount of games he averaged 2.6 chances per game.

In addition to this, Mata has created 6 assists, which is more than a third of the total amount of assists he created for the whole of the 2011-12 season.

He has also scored 4 goals, which is more than two thirds of his total for last season. Already Mata is on his way to surpass his total amount of goals scored and assists created, with only ten games played. Moreover, Mata only participated in 8.3 of these games.

One contributing factor which must be linked to Mata’s increase in form this season is Chelsea’s switch of formation. With a move into a more central role, Mata has been able to receive and use the ball in far more dangerous areas. When stuck out on the left-hand side, running at full backs, Mata does not pose the same dangerous threat that he does when allowed to ghost into the gaps between midfield and defense, unleashing the likes of Torres, Hazard, or Ramires.

The new players recruited by Chelsea this season have also had a massive impact on Mata’s performances. As suggested, the likes of Hazard gives a new dimension to Mata’s play, as he now has a top quality, intelligent player whom he can play into the space behind or switch positions with. This allows Mata to get in behind and score more freely.

However, probably the most important signing this season, for Chelsea and Mata, is Oscar. With Oscar dropping and dictating play from deep, Chelsea have a player who can consistently and effectively get the ball forward to the feet of Mata. For example, this season Oscar has an open-play pass completion rate of 86 per cent, a final third pass completion rate of 75 per cent, and an attacking zone pass completion of 78 per cent.

There are a number of contributing factors that may have allowed Mata to grow as a player this season, many of which are not measurable, such as confidence, maturity, and so on. However, it is absolutely clear that this season’s rise in quality is in major part down to a mixture of tactics and a freshness which has been brought to Chelsea from the new arrivals, especially in Mata’s case.

Earlier in the season, we covered Chelsea’s new attacking potential after the summer departure of the club’s talisman, Didier Drogba. After the shake-up at Stamford Bridge, it is possible that Mata has quickly become Chelsea’s most important player, writes Marc Baterman.

With the summer arrivals of Eden Hazard from Lille and the Brazilian wonderkid Oscar, there was much buzz around Stamford Bridge before a ball had even been kicked. And while both have showed signs of their undoubted talents, it has been the little Spaniard that has become the star of the show.

It’s remarkable to think that Mata was recently left out of the Spanish international squad, yet he seems to have an outstanding temperament and has reacted in the best possible way, producing an even better string of performances. Mata has outshone both his new colleagues and his contemporaries in the league, arguably being the player of the season to date

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Mata is vital to this flexibility as he is the least naturally suited to his starting position of the three. Hazard is comfortable running at a full-back on the left and Oscar is most naturally suited to the central area in which he starts, however Mata does not want to be restricted to the right hand side. His tendency to float across the pitch encourages the other two to do so, in order to find the space they desire.

Not only does Mata involve himself more in general play but his superior passing ability allows him to look forwards and open up defences. Whereas Moses tends to play more simple passes inside or backwards, since this is not his strength, Mata plays a vast number of balls directly forwards, into and around the penalty area. It goes without saying that this vastly increases the team’s ability to create goal scoring opportunites.

For the beauty of the competition (and success of our Fantasy teams), we hope that Mata can continue his outstanding form under the new Chelsea boss, Benitez. Do you think he can? Is Mata the most influential player at Chelsea? Do share your thoughts with us below.

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