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Season Review: Juan Mata

Our Little Magician: Juan Manuel Mata

Juan Mata was signed from Valencia for a fee of around £23.5M in August 2011. And what a debut season it was for the Spanish international.Even though he arrived at the club for a hefty sum, no one expected Mata to be as good a signing as he turned out to be. One journalist even wrote an article titled “Why Stewart Downing Is A Better Signing Than Juan Mata” (Downing had just completed a £20 million move from Aston Villa to Liverpool). I’d love to meet that journalist now.

Mata made his debut against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge, coming on as a late substitute & scoring in injury time. During the beginning of his Chelsea career, he played mostly on the left side of midfield. He quickly gained a reputation of being Chelsea’s “creative spark” in midfield. However, there was a lot of pressure on the young Spaniard as he seemed to be the only one in the Chelsea midfield who could change the game with an assist & sometimes a goal. More often that not, Mata would find himself isolated on the left wing which meant that he couldn’t quite influence the game as much as he’d like to. As a result, Chelsea suffered.

Andre Villas-Boas flirted with the idea of playing him in a more central role, but he rarely ever started Mata as an attacking midfielder. The only time Mata would move into a central role was when another winger (say Florent Malouda) was brought on as a substitute, giving Mata the chance to roam.When Roberto Di Matteo was appointed caretaker manager, he changed the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 & played Mata in the hole behind the striker. The change worked wonders as Mata found it easier to create chances from a more central role.

He managed 12 goals & 26 assists in 2011-12. His most memorable goal was the volley he scored against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, even though the game ended in a 3-3 draw. Arguably his performance of the season was against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-finals where he scored 1 goal & created 2, helping us beat Spurs 5-1 & enter the finals of the FA Cup.

Juan Mata: Chelsea’s Player of the Year

The Spaniard had a memorable first season at the club, culminating with a Champions League & FA Cup victory. He also won Chelsea’s “Player of the Year” trophy, an amazing feat given the fact that this was his first full season at the club. Expect Juan Mata to be one of Chelsea’s key players for years to come.

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