Mata, Oscar, Cech, Torres – Interviews

Chelsea stars were speaking at the new adiads campain: “Its Blue, what else matters” – a preview to next year’s kit. It offers fans a chance to buy the kit without seeing it.

Mata, Cech, Oscar and Torres interviews.

Juan Mata: Midfielder is being compared to Gianfranco Zola and reaching the same heights is the aim of the Blues’ goal creator in chief.

(Getty)

(Getty)

Thankfully for Chelsea and, most likely, regrettably for Sunderland on Sunday, he remains constantly outstanding. It says everything about the impression the 24-year-old has made that when he is absent, like at Southampton last Saturday, the side feel diminished. Just as remarkable as the number of games is the impact he makes: he has 18 goals, which is eye-catching enough before it registers that his beautifully clipped cross, converted by Fernando Torres against Rubin Kazan on Thursday, was his 31st assist of the term. To offer some perspective, only six top-flight clubs – one of them being Chelsea – have scored more than the 49 goals to which Mata has contributed this season. There has been no second season syndrome, no hint it has clicked with opponents how to stamp out his threat. The Spaniard may not win the PFA’s player of the year award this season, presumably because Chelsea have not carried all before them as they had hoped, but he merits being in contention.

The comparisons with Gianfranco Zola, acknowledged as the club’s greatest player, are bold but justified. “He was so good, so talented, just magic to watch,” Mata says. “To be considered like him in any way makes me so happy. But Gianfranco Zola achieved a lot more than I’ve done so far in my career. What he did here, the reputation he has here, is something I’d like to try to emulate. Everything I do is about improvement. Last season went so well for me, my first at the club after changing everything: my life, my football, from the Spanish league to the Premier League. But it’s stepped up again since.

Regardless, it was inspired. Mata is clearly no flat track bully, either. He has scored against Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United this season, adding assists against all three as well as against Shakhtar Donetsk and Liverpool. He is arguably far more integral to the team than either of the veterans, John Terry or Frank Lampard. “I don’t know about that,” he says. “I wish I was Frank Lampard right now. He’s a legend at this club. But I just try to do my best. I don’t know if my game can influence the game of the team and how we play, but I just try to help with my football, for my team-mates and the club.”

But do Chelsea suffer as a result of their short-term managerial recruitment? “These things depend on the will of the club. You can stick with one manager and have no wins, no trophies, or you can have so many different managers and win a lot. It comes down to the players, to the desire, and the way the club likes to behave. Their philosophy. What is true is the kind of player we have here, in this squad and in this dressing room, has been and continues to be successful. They have won, and we have won, many important trophies over the years, like the Champions League last season. The club knows that.”

…The need to finish in the top four has been impressed on everyone at Stamford Bridge, but this mess of a season can still be transformed into a thing of beauty. Whatever happens, it will remain a stepping stone towards a future Premier League title challenge. “If we can finish in the top four, after ending sixth last year, that would mean we have more consistency and is a step forward,” Mata says. “We’ve learned from what happened last year [when only four of the last 10 league games were won as the cup competitions served as a distraction] and won’t make the same mistakes again. We know we have to be playing in next season’s Champions League.

“I look back on these two years happily. I know I said the first 12 months I had here were the best of my career but, since then, I have won the European Championship with Spain so it’s not been too bad. Everything has gone right so far: trophies, my life here in London, growing as a person. But this is only the start.”

Petr Cech: I’m a better goalkeeper now, five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to make Javier Hernandez save

(Getty)

(Getty)

…”Well, it was a great save,” he smiles. “It makes you feel great. The satisfaction that you did your job well, but more that we held to our target of getting through to the semi-final.”

“I was aware that he was there,” he says of Hernandez, who was standing no more than a couple of yards away as Danny Welbeck’s cross looped over the Chelsea defence. “If you know what’s around, you have a chance to react. I knew he was there, so as soon as the ball was going to the far post I knew I had to be quick, I had to be ready for every possibility in the way he headed it. If he headed it back, I had to have my arm ready.

“That’s what allowed me to make the save: I had all my energy going one way, but I kept my arm back for the possibility he headed it the other way. I was lucky enough to reach it.”

It was the kind of save, he says, he is more likely to pull off these days than when he first came to the club.

“I’m 100 per cent sure I’m better than five years ago,” he says. “Experience is everything. But in terms of athletic preparation, I feel better than five years ago. You work on things every day which improve you.”

The evidence of his preparation was in that save, the product of many hours of rehearsal.

“Yes, we had practised something like that,” he reveals. “When you train you try to replicate situations that might happen in a game. But the most important thing, you must have the coordination to get your body there, then it doesn’t really matter what you save it with, your arm, your head, your legs. The goalkeeper has to be agile. You can be technically fantastic but if you are slow, you will miss things.”

“The spirit of the team stays the same,” he says. “We never give up. You can be in a difficult situation, but we always find a way out of the trouble. I think it comes down to the dressing room. You have players who understand the importance of the club, of doing things right.”

And one of those things is seeing out the season before passing judgment. Perhaps for his own reasons, Benítez was keen to insist this week that Chelsea’s season has been a good one. Cech is not yet so sure.

“In my opinion, you cannot say until the end,” he says. “Last season looked as if it was going to be disastrous and looked what happened. So you have to play till the last minute, then you can judge. [This season] we have had ups and downs – the Champions League defence was not good – but we are still in contention for two trophies. At the end of the day, if we win both of them and finish fourth, you cannot say it is anything but a good season. But we are far from the end, so anything can happen. It could be very bad.”

Oscar: Chelsea are under pressure but it’s NOTHING compared to playing for Brazil

Getty

Getty

“Playing for Chelsea doesn’t compare to the pressure of playing for Brazil because we’ve won the World Cup five times.

“It’s not only a massive country but football is part of the culture. They always want you to win, so you can never have an off-day.”

Off-days are not entirely accepted at the Bridge either, although, as with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, the Chelsea fans seem keener to give the Brazilian latitude than the much-maligned Rafa Benitez.

Part of that, perhaps, comes from his talent. Part from his willingness to take a kick or two.

Oscar added: “If people want to say I seem too nice to be a footballer, that’s good. It’s just the way I am.

“Here in England, you do need to be firmer, harder on the pitch. That’s just the way it is.

“It’s not my style of play to mark players and stop them, or be threatening. But I am learning that at Chelsea. I will be more on top of it in that sense.

“In training, we learn. We also play a lot of games and we get fouled a lot. We’re learning to face up to the bullies.

“The league here is really strong. I have to up my game every time I play. But training is strong here too. I’m not aware if anyone’s been told to kick me in training – but they are doing it anyway! So I’m learning.”

“Religion is an important part of life and culture in Brazil, very important to us as Brazilians,” he added. “The difference is that Kaka is an Evangelical and I’m a Catholic.

“It is a personal thing but it does help me to focus and find calmness, as a person and a player. Before every game I pray, I find solace. It helps me to relax and prepare.”

Fernando Torres: Stick with me – Chelsea striker vows he’ll never give up the fight to regain top form

(Getty)

(Getty)

‘I want to do the things I used to do all my life,’ said Torres. ‘I did them at Atletico, I did them at Liverpool and I am not doing them at Chelsea. I am working on it. If I knew the reason, I would fix it in one minute. But the only way to fix these things is to work at it.

‘I am training every day and I will never, ever give up.’

‘I remember what people said when we first started playing with all the little ones,’ said Torres. ‘They said you cannot play this way. They are small, they are not strong. They said when you go to England or Germany, they will kill you. No-one believed in us — our own fans had their doubts too — and at the World Cup in 2006 we lost to France in the first knockout round. But it made us stronger.

‘We thought we could do something great and look what we did over time.’

‘But when Atletico Madrid won the league and went into the Champions League I went and watched the biggest teams in Europe. I was 13 years old and that was the first time I felt I wanted to win this trophy. Last year we did it and it was an amazing feeling. It didn’t  matter what had happened during the  season. Everything was worth it when Didier scored that penalty. To lift the trophy was a dream come true.’

It was an astonishing night in Munich as Petr Cech saved three times from the spot and Didier Drogba settled the penalty shoot-out. ‘It was our game,’ said Torres. ‘It was meant to be for us.’

Drogba’s winner was his last kick in a Chelsea shirt. Off went the hero to China and Turkey and Torres rejects the theory that he was glad to see the back of him. ‘We wanted to play more together,’ he said. ‘We did sometimes, particularly at the beginning with Carlo Ancelotti and we were fine. With a different manager we didn’t find a way to play together which was a pity for us. But there was competition because we both wanted to play.

‘I want to do the things I used to do. I did them at Atletico, I did them at Liverpool but I am not doing them at Chelsea. If I knew the reason, I would fix it in one minute. But the only way to fix these things is to work at them.

‘I will try my heart out for this club. There are too many things I have to give back to these people and I want to show my thanks to them. Hopefully this season we can give them two more trophies and next season we can fight again for the biggest ones, the Champions League and the Premier League.’

‘It was a pity and a really strange situation but when I knew it was Rafa, I was happy. I had some great times with him and I thought it was good for the team.’ Since signing Demba Ba from Newcastle, Benitez has alternated his strikers in an attempt to negotiate the congested fixture list without running his players into the ground.

Denying the manager treats him differently to other players, Torres said: ‘Our relationship is professional. I know we were together in the past but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give me special treatment. As you can see, he’s not. Many people say maybe he’s here because of me but that’s stupid.’

‘There are different ways to do it,’ said Torres. ‘Chelsea have won  trophies their way and Manchester United have won trophies keeping Sir Alex Ferguson in charge.  Chelsea have been winning trophies since before I came to England and they are still doing so.

‘We won the Champions League last season for the first time in the club’s history. Something is going right.’

Final Thoughts: These are the words of the three players on the managerial issue at Chelsea:

Mata: “These things depend on the will of the club. You can stick with one manager and have no wins, no trophies, or you can have so many different managers and win a lot. It comes down to the players, to the desire, and the way the club likes to behave. Their philosophy. What is true is the kind of player we have here, in this squad and in this dressing room, has been and continues to be successful. They have won, and we have won, many important trophies over the years, like the Champions League last season. The club knows that.”

Cech: “The spirit of the team stays the same,” he says. “We never give up. You can be in a difficult situation, but we always find a way out of the trouble. I think it comes down to the dressing room. You have players who understand the importance of the club, of doing things right.”

Torres: “Chelsea have won  trophies their way and Manchester United have won trophies keeping Sir Alex Ferguson in charge.  Chelsea have been winning trophies since before I came to England and they are still doing so. ‘We won the Champions League last season for the first time in the club’s history. Something is going right.”

 

 

 

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