Now, even though I reckon I can appreciate a quality piece of sports writing as much as the next guy, I don’t consider myself particularly difficult to impress. I don’t like to read articles/reports with a critical eye, think what’s good or bad about them, or what I’d have done differently. Truth be told, some days I don’t care if I’m reading an award winning journalist’s beautiful crafted research piece on the influence of the Austro-Hungarian empire on Ukrainian football, or if I’m reading the shorthand of an 11 year old, more interested in players haircuts than technical attributes. I’m certainly not put off by the delusion of other fans, I think every fan has to be delusional to some extent; otherwise they aren’t really a fan.
The ONLY thing that really annoys me when reading football blogs is when fans pretend to be experts on a player or anything else, when their knowledge clearly goes no further than a 3 minute clip on YouTube and their UT on FIFA. It winds me up like you wouldn’t believe and it’s the one thing I’ve vowed several times that I’d never, ever do.
That being said, to avoid the stinging shame of hypocrisy, I feel the importance of pointing out at this stage, that I have seen Oscar play exactly eight football matches, which isn’t a lot, and it certainly doesn’t qualify me to write with any real conviction about how good he is. So just to be clear, the following 700 words are a series of impressions that a footballer has made on a relatively clueless fan, they are NOT the insights of a knowledgeable writer. OK?
So, I think Oscar is AMAZING. I think he is an absolute gem, a fantastic signing and as complete an attacking playmaker as a 20 year old can be. I’ve started to think about more and more the issue of how Chelsea are going to accommodate Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard in the same team and isn’t becoming any clearer, however, I have come to the conclusion that Oscar should be our #10 (play in the central position, behind the striker).
Mainly, this is because I think he has everything a great number 10 needs: vision, a change of pace, a near-perfect passing range, that South American flair and most importantly, I think he is one of the most intelligent players that I’ve seen – it’s like watching the brain of a 35 year old veteran control the body of a teenager! Never does he give the ball away cheaply and if possible, his passes are always progressive and constructive.
Even though he doesn’t share their position, Oscar reminds me of some of the great (more deep-set) playmakers in the Europe at the minute, i.e. Xabi Alonso, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Andrea Pirlo. More and more these days, the position of the traditional number 10 (trequartista) is becoming extinct. Managers seem to want their playmakers to be more agile and use their talents in a deeper role, rather than hang off the forward in the final third, the way Juan Roman Riquelme used to do.
I think what impresses me the most about Oscar is that he shares the ability of the Alonso’s and the Pirlo’s and the Schweinsteiger’s to be both economic and creative with his passing, whilst playing 10/20 yards further up the pitch, where he obviously going to be marked a lot more tightly. I think in that respect he is similar to Mesut Ozil, although the German tends to have a more passive role in games, floating round and popping up when needed, allowing Alonso and Khedira to dictate the pace of the game. Also unlike Ozil, Oscar always seems prepared to drop backwards and spray passes from deep as well, as against Korea last night. Apart from one badly over-hit diagonal ball to Rafael, I think his passes were pretty much spot-on the entire game.
Coming back to how he’ll fit in at Chelsea, I think the decision to play him centrally would be a no-brainer if not for the fact Juan Mata is also much stronger playing through the middle. Ultimately I think it’s going to come down to what sort of system does Di Matteo want to use, one with Mata holding a fixed position, spraying the passes forward and out wide or one with Oscar as the #10, which naturally will be more flexible and see more interchanging from the attacking players. Also, whilst both are strongest through the middle, I think Mata would be the better of the two playing as an inverted winger, with his slightly superior dribbling and finishing technique.
I also think that the other attacking midfielders in the squad would benefit from Oscar playing through the middle, as more so than Mata, I think he’d be able to compensate for the likes of Hazard and Ramires and Marin being ambitions with the ball, looking to take defenders on. Having the industrious and economic Oscar always close by I think would provide a much needed balance between penetration and ball retention in the final third.
In whichever position Di Matteo decides to use Oscar however, I’m sure he’ll be a success at Chelsea and that he’ll hit the ground running. Some may have reservations about how he’ll adapt to the Premier League coming straight from Brazil, which may be fair given the relatively slow starts made by our other Brazilians, Ramires and David Luiz. Looking at the sort of player Oscar is though I don’t imagine him really struggling. Small, quick playmakers are slowly becoming what the Premier League is all about, with the importance of having intelligent decision makers in the team becoming more apparent every year. Personally I think English football and Chelsea FC are ready for another intelligent decision maker to emerge.
Good luck to Oscar on Saturday, let’s hope he brings a Gold Medal to the Bridge.