A fully packed action week(end) full of thrills, groans, surprises and shocks just went by and you can’t really say that was a bad week or good but let’s say it was a week Mikel Obi scored a goal after 261 matches. It followed after we surrendered our lead to Basel FC at Stamford Bridge, a place where fortress had been built and you never imagined it will collapse under Jose who built it. Then ensued the “crisis” which some journalists were too quick to plunge us into. The Jamie Redknapps of this world and our own Ruud Gullit couldn’t give Jose a Breathing space. The issue of Mata not playing has become the single most talked about issue in England even more than the Syrian crisis. And Chelsea’s loss to Basel made the media brand us as the losers of the transfer market while they obviously lauded Manchester United’s signing of Fellaini and keeping Rooney as the best. Well, it took Manchester City just 50 minutes to remind people that there are other mini crisis ahead. Adieu to Paulo Di Canio, after his 5 months 22 days spell at Sunderland. He lasted far too long.
The Basel Loss
We never got into our rhythm, we were always struggling to keep the ball at the last third of the pitch. I never felt comfortable watching the game even after Oscar scored and kept us ahead undeservedly. The second half didn’t see much improvement and it was still a nervy moment when we lost the ball to a well composed Basel side but I kept on believing we could get into our rhythm. Well, it wasn’t meant to be, Sallah was always going to score and Strellar didn’t have any sympathy on us either. Willian put in a good performance for a debut, he chased the balls, held on to it and sent in good crosses. Oscar was undoubtedly our best player again and it is becoming no news either, since he has proven to be very comfortable playing as Number 10 and such good performances couldn’t have come any better time than when the manager has given him full confidence in a midst of all the talk. Hazard’s performance typified the performance of the whole team. It was an average show and it wasn’t the usual Hazard we know. In fact, we haven’t seen the Hazard we know this season and I hope it changes soon since he is a crucial part to our success And moving forward. The key issue happened to be the holding midfield, Lampard and Van Ginkel struggled to hold the threats they posed from the midfield. MVG and Lampard are far too similar players to be playing as holding midfielders, against a team, we expect to dominate, we can use them but Basel have shown that they are no walkovers and we paid for it. By the time Mikel came in to save the day, it was far too late and their confidence to score had risen above us and the defeat was just a matter of time. Eto’o has not scored but he puts in the performance you expect from a serious striker who can demolish any team when he gets enough supply at the right areas. And that happens to be the issue which will keep on ringing for the debate of Oscar-Mata. It’s no accident that Oscar plays to score and Mata plays to assist. You could see far too many that Eto’o got himself in the right positions but the simple “Mata” pass was not forthcoming and we delayed too much on the ball which made our opponents always covering before we get in there and we were always crowded. It is becoming a problem for us these days playing against teams who defend deep and spring up the counter attacks. Who sends in the intelligent through ball , the defense-splitting pass for our strikers to feed on to? I hope we soon find a solution to it and our strikers start doing their job.
The Mata-Oscar Dilemma
It’s one of the most talked about issues in town, the issue of Mata not playing. Many have still not come to terms with the fact that a-two-times best Chelsea player can be made to “prove” himself once more and be asked to “adapt” his game in order to get a good playing time. Jose has been unequivocal in his words that Oscar is his number 10 and that the rest of the team should adapt to that. Oscar on the other hand has been up to the task and shown why he deserves to be the number 10 with his personal performances. There is no doubt Oscar is a bonus to our team in terms of defense and closing in of players. Mata on the other hand has shown that his real weakness lies in his inability to defend and show more athleticism in his all round game. But how has Mata become a joy to watch and looking at all the backlash that Jose is facing with his decision it is clear not many are impressed seeing Mata out in the cold. Oscar dribbles his way out of trouble and will take his time on the ball to do that. Whiles Mata always like to pass the ball to someone in a better position quickly to get himself out of trouble. Whiles Oscar’s one key strength is to get himself in a good shooting position and able to take quick decision ahead of his opponents to surprise them with a good shot, Mata wants to always give that intelligent pass which will unlock the defense of opponents. A manifestation of this is why Oscar is quick on the score sheet and the good number of shots on goal he makes in a match. Mata’s is manifested in the good number of assists he makes and a classic one is the Demba Ba FA Cup assist against Manchester United. So when Mata on the field, it reduces the rate at which we get crowded in the half of our opponents when they defend deep. These days we seem to pass the ball squarely so much, to the right side, back to the left side and to the middle where they inevitably crowd and lose the ball with far too many one-two passes. This is why Mata is crucial to our play. He solves this issue. However, it doesn’t need to be at the expense of Oscar. We need them both on the pitch and it will be great for Jose to device a system to accommodate them. Mata has his strength and weakness but his strength is so great that we cannot do without him, just as Oscar. To me, Mata is the most intelligent player to see a good pass when on the ball. His vision always put his opponents in a state of surprise since he can give a pass at any time to cause a breakdown of formation. His passes defy defensive organization by opponents and he is the sort of player who can find Eto’o in the right places to feed him. We have striker to do good job and they need to be serviced. Mata, I know will prove himself once more
John Obi Mikel deserves a full Azonto Epistle piece for scoring his first goal since 2007. We congratulate him and we urge him to eye that Lampard record. If Mikel can actually score, then it means anything can happen including breaking the record of Lampard and Arsenal wining a trophy. Hey, and Ballotelli missed his first official penalty against Napoli. Strange things do happen you know.
They said we were in crisis, it Mikel to shut them up. Lets hope the talk of more crisis to waken the goal scoring threat in Mikel. On Sunday I watched the most One-sided derby match ever and it was Manchester City who walked through the park like they were having their usual training session with a group of reserve side. I hope the team I watched wasn’t the defending champions of EPL who are said to be having a good and peaceful times devoid of “crisis” under David Moyes.
We wait anxiously to see how Jamie Redknapp and his cohorts analyze the humiliating defeat of Manchester United at the other side of the divide and spare us of this “crisis” mantra.
Until then, KTBFFH!
By Seth Adusei (twitter @sethaadusei)