Need for Mikel means Mata now almost forced to leave Chelsea
It is certainly interesting that the two Premier League clubs with title aspirations that have opted against a natural holding midfielder for the majority of their games this season are the pair with such huge discrepancies between their home and away form.
Manchester City and Chelsea would be first and second in the Premier League if only home form was taken into account, but no higher than ninth when looking solely at their away form.
City regularly pair Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in the deeper positions, while Jose Mourinho seemed to initially prefer Ramires and Frank Lampard.
This puts a pressure on either duo to interchange in the defensive role and the result has often meant too much space between the lines.
The big positive to these decisions was that it enabled three attacking playmakers to wreak havoc behind a lone striker, putting the desire for goals ahead of preventing them going in at the other end.
Mourinho has attempted to correct this lately by selecting John Obi Mikel as the deepest of his midfield trio, which in turn has resulted in Ramires being pushed into one of the three more advanced positions.
His greater zest for winning back possession and being better positioned defensively has taken some attacking edge from Chelsea and also meant that there is even more competition for places among the playmakers at the club.
The decision does have its benefits, with Mikel completing more passes than any teammate in the latest Premier League win over West Ham and owning a 96 per cent pass completion rate throughout the season.
What is also notable is that Mikel is keen to pass the ball forwards, with Chelsea having real issues this season in playing too many sideways passes to maintain possession, which in turn gives opposing defences ample to time to sort their shape.
With Oscar looking Mourinho’s favoured option in the number 10 role, the issue for Mata is that he is in a four-man tussle with Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle and Willian for the other playmaking slot.
The Spaniard has been an unused substitute in three of Chelsea’s last four games and managed over 17 minutes in the other. A player with his craft and guile certainly shouldn’t be reduced to such limited playing time.
Atletico Madrid have been one club linked with Mata’s signature, with Paris Saint-Germain another that has previously shown an interest.
But, it remains 1/2 that Mata is a Chelsea player at the end of the January transfer window, with 7/4 on offer that he has joined PSG and 14/1 that he has moved to Atletico Madrid.
Full market on Mata’s club at the end of January
Chelsea – 1/2
PSG – 7/4
Liverpool – 12/1
A Mad – 14/1
Arsenal – 20/1
MUFC – 20/1
Barcelona – 33/1
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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