Analysing Oscar's central midfield performance against West Ham
Antonio Conte made a huge call to leave out Cesc Fabregas on Monday night, but it paid off as Chelsea began their campaign with three points. They looked more organised than they were last season, which was always likely to be the case under Conte. West Ham created few chances and there is a good platform for Conte to build on for the rest of the season.
Although he has been linked with a move away all summer, Oscar was one of the best players on the pitch against West Ham and looks to have an important role to play this season. Conte played a 4-1-4-1 formation, to begin with, but it was fluid and gave the attackers freedom in the final third. Oscar played as the most advanced of three central midfielders. However, he was asked to work hard defensively and it was his contribution off-the-ball that was most impressive.
The Chelsea fans saw a new side to Oscar’s game on Monday with his work rate standing out. He won all six of his attempted tackles showing that he can win the ball back. As the most attacking of the three central midfielders, Oscar pressed high, which meant he often retrieved the ball in the opposition half. If he can continue to win the ball back in dangerous areas, it will lead to a lot of chances for Chelsea as the season progresses.
His creativity was on show against West Ham as well, as he created three chances, which was the joint highest in the game. The role he was given allowed him to be aggressive when Chelsea had possession. He was given the freedom to roam behind Diego Costa and encouraged to make late runs into the penalty area. The pace and dynamism was provided by Eden Hazard and Willian on the wings, but Oscar played an equally prominent role in the offence.
Throughout the game, Oscar impressed in all departments and looked a completely different player to the one on show last season. He looks to be energised under the new manager and he was influential in the final third. During the match, he completed three key passes and had two shots on goal. Oscar can create chances for others, but his shooting is his best attribute and he will score frequently for Chelsea this season. If he can consistently play at the level he showed on Monday, he could be set to have his best season for the Blues.
He displayed his ability to run with the ball at times on Monday night and was unlucky not to earn a penalty during the first half. The Brazilian was taken down by Winston Reid after an impressive burst of pace allowed him to beat the West Ham defender. Although the challenge from Reid was lazy, Oscar was theatrical in his fall, which created doubt in the mind of the referee.
Another reason why Oscar suits his new role is that he is excellent at relieving pressure. He was rarely dispossessed in the opening match of the season. Moreover, he is great at drawing fouls when he finds himself in a tight spot. Against West Ham, he was fouled three times and won Chelsea free kicks in dangerous areas.
There were a lot of unknowns about how Antonio Conte was going to set up this season and which players would be in his plans. Oscar, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa were three players linked with moves away this summer, but all looked revitalised in the opening match of the season and performed well. Conte chose to deploy Oscar as a box-to-box midfielder, which brought the best out of the Brazilian. He showed his battling qualities alongside his technical ability on the ball. It has only been one game, but if Conte can continue to get Oscar to perform as well as he did on Monday, Chelsea will reap the benefits.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Chelsea FC
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