Pitchside

Oscar killed off Mata’s Chelsea career – but should Blues drop him?

Pitchside

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The experts at Squawka.com look at whether Chelsea's Brazilian star Oscar should be in the side ahead of his compatriot Willian.

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Oscar is going through a slightly torrid phase at the moment. The Brazilian has not scored a Premier League goal since January 1, while he has won just 12 tackles since the turn of the year too.

The Brazilian's form is wavering at just the wrong time as the finishing line comes into sight for the title-chasing Blues, for whom Eden Hazard is stealing all the plaudits at the moment.

When Juan Mata departed Chelsea in a £37.5 million switch to Manchester United, even the most fervent of Blues fans - who normally swoon over Jose Mourinho - questioned the manager's wisdom in selling the club's best player across the last two seasons to a wounded rival.

There were even conspiracy theories about Mourinho's motives behind the deal. Chelsea had already played United twice, so was the Blues boss happy to strengthen the Red Devils, safe in the knowledge that Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City were all yet to visit Old Trafford? Then again, Mata's early form for United - harsh as it is to judge his efforts trying to rescue a failing team - suggests that the Chelsea manager knew exactly what he was doing after all.

In any case, one of the central presumptions about Mata's sale is that Mourinho simply preferred Oscar, who better fits the Special One's blueprint in the number 10 role.

His new-found standing in this team has seen him miss just two games this season, with only Hazard and Petr Cech making more appearances, and he has revelled in being tasked with defensive responsibility as well as supporting the Samuel Eto'o et al in attack.

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Chelsea stars' appearances

But after a blistering start to the season - when he struck five goals in 12 matches - Oscar has gone badly off the boil.

He also netted in the Champions League in a 2-1 home defeat to Basel in the autumn, but, ironically, his last telling contribution was when he replaced Mata to score and notch two assists in the 3-0 win at Southampton on New Year's Day.

While the now-departed Spaniard threw a tantrum at being replaced - ultimately the final nail in his Stamford Bridge coffin - Oscar shone, and showed why he is integral to Mourinho's plans with this team.

But his St Mary's strike is his only one of 2014 thus far and, when you exclude a virtuoso display against Stoke in the FA Cup, his loss of form has come at the worst possible time following Mata's exit.

While Hazard continues to wow fans up and down the country with his sumptuous skills and devilish delivery from wide positions, Oscar has failed to hit the same spectacular heights.

Hazard trumps Oscar in just about every area of his play, with the Brazilian only coming out on top when it comes to tackling, with a 52% success rate against his team-mate's 33%.

But, while his willingness to track back is admirable, Chelsea fans would be forgiven for demanding more from a player who is operating at the creative hub of this side - and the calls for Willian to be re-introduced to the team will grow louder if there are many more below-par outings.

This weekend's London derby with Tottenham will be a stern test of Chelsea's credentials and, with Hazard in the form of his life, there are only two openings and three players to fill them.

One of those spots must surely go to last weekend's matchwinner Andre Schuerrle after his stunning hat-trick saw off Fulham, and it seems improbable that Mourinho would drop a player after making such a critical impact.

But Schuerrle will likely take his place on the right flank, which may yet prove to be Oscar's saving grace.

This is mainly due to Willian appearing in the same station as Schuerrle could be expected to play - but which of the Brazilian duo deserves their chance to shine this weekend?

When you consider Willian also has just one goal to his name (and that also against the Saints) for this calendar year, it offers a hint at how closely matched they are.

His only other goal this season was a blockbuster of a strike at Norwich. While he's yet to find the net at Stamford Bridge this season, only half of Oscar's goals have come at home.

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It is interesting to note that both of Willian's goals have come in games where Oscar has been on the pitch at the same time, perhaps reflecting that they work best in tandem.

The stats suggest that Willian trumps Oscar in several key areas, not least in his shooting accuracy. Oscar has a 44% shooting accuracy from 36 shots attempted while Willian's return is stronger with 50%, although there is a caveat in that he has taken fewer shots (22), and played fewer games.

Hazard, incidentally, weighs in with an eye-catching 66% in shot accuracy, while Schuerrle is way down with 38%.

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As for making chances? Former Shakhtar Donetsk star Willian has created 39 of them this season. While it speaks volumes of Hazard's season that he has nearly double that with 77, Oscar has created just 36 - and that's despite making eight more appearances in the league.

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In addition, each of the three attackers in competition with Oscar for a spot in this weekend's contest boast better passing accuracy, something which comes as a surprise given his desire to drop deep and pick up the ball.

There is a natural expectation that he should fare better, given his effervescent movement and retention of the ball, but Willian, Schuerrle and Hazard all better his pass accuracy total of 82%.

As for duels, Willian also comes out on top in his average duel success - and, moreover, his tackling success of 53% narrowly beats that of Oscar's (52%), a part of his game the latter has been lauded for.

Oscar comes out on top when it comes to winning fouls and headed duels, but the other area most relevant to his position is in his take-on success - and that's an area where Willian prevails once more with a 55% success rate.

All in all, it's beginning to look as if the long slog of a Premier League season is beginning to take its toll on Oscar. It's time he was given a breather.

Hazard is embracing the challenge of keeping Chelsea's light burning bright ahead of the final throes of the season - and the energy, industry and craft of Willian could prove the perfect accompaniment to the Belgian's dazzling displays during the title run-in.

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