How can Guus Hiddink maximise this Chelsea midfielder's potential?
Not many players are able to win the faith of an incoming manager so rapidly that they are prepared to sell a fan favourite and current club player of the year to a fierce rival just to accommodate them. And yet, despite the vote of confidence Jose Mourinho showed to Oscar in allowing Juan Mata to leave Chelsea for Manchester United in January 2014, there is a sense that the 24-year-old has failed to kick on in his Blues career.
Now in his fourth season in West London, Oscar’s time at Chelsea has fluctuated between explosions of talent and relative stagnation. His arrival at the club could not have begun better, instead of being intimidated by the £19m fee Chelsea payed Internacional for the then 20 year old in 2012, the Brazilian managed to circumnavigate the dangerous waters Stamford Bridge can represent for emerging talents. His first start for the club came on the 19th September in a Champions League group stage clash with Juventus in which he bagged two goals (including an absolute screamer) as well as the Man of the Match award.
Oscar must feel he owes a debt to Roberto Di Matteo (as would any Chelsea fan post-Munich), it was the Italian who gave Oscar the opportunity to force his way into a midfield recently crowned champions of Europe. This shouldn’t be underestimated; it is well documented the difficulties that face young players in breaking through at Chelsea, and Oscar could just as easily have went the way of other Brazilian imports to the club such as Lucas Piazon and more recently Nathan in becoming victim to the ruthless Chelsea loan machine. That he managed to remain a key member of an ever evolving first team squad for the next 4 years is indicative of his talent, and yet the feeling pervades that Oscar is yet to reach his full potential.
Perhaps his biggest barrier to reaching this potential is consistency. It may be a tad harsh, but Oscar seems to be one of those players who looks better in a YouTube compilation than in a statistical analysis of his season. Throughout his time at Chelsea there have been glimpses of the sublime; the aforementioned turn and curled shot against Juventus, his outside of the foot goal against QPR last season, his man of the match display as he ran the midfield away at Sunderland a few weeks ago. However these have been too far and few between, and punctuated with some rather average displays.
While Oscar and Mourinho’s relationship obviously began well, with the Portugese favouring the more energetic and tactically disciplined performances of Oscar over the mercurial talents of Juan Mata, like so many of Chelsea’s playing staff the relationship appeared to have soured as Mourinho drew closer to an exit from the club, a season that began with Mourinho praising Oscar’s abilities to make the crucial difference in tight games turning into one where Mourinho clearly felt Oscar needed to give more to the cause.
Whether the correct decision or not, Oscar must be heartened by the faith placed in him by Guus Hiddink. The interim coach has started Oscar in all of his 4 matches in charge and has reaped the reward with the midfielder scoring 2 goals and providing 1 assist. The disappointment is these are only his 3rd goal and 1st assist in the Premier League this season. If Hiddink wants Oscar’s form to continue or even improve then it is vital he allows him a run of starts without hooking him early if things aren’t going his way.
End product can be a problem for Oscar, in his four seasons at Chelsea he has managed to score ten goals in all competitions of a season only once in 2012/13. Likewise the most assists he has every registered in a campaign is 8 last season. While these numbers are not terrible, and a lot of the good work Oscar does is difficult to quantify in this way, an attacking midfielder at Chelsea should be looking to push these stats higher.
Another area where Oscar needs to improve is in his retention of the ball. As of this season, his 79% average pass accuracy is again by no means awful but when you compare it with his contempories it is a fair way off the mark. While it is hard to match up with the likes of Mesut Ozil this season there is no reason Oscar could not improve his pass accuracy to around 87%, especially when you consider the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Ross Barkely hover around there. Not to say these two are not good players but Oscar should be at least hoping to keep pace.
Oscar is not alone in underperforming at Chelsea this season. Whatever has occurred behind closed doors, whether or not any revolt against the leadership of Jose Mourinho took place, and what part the Brazilian had in it is at this point irrelevant. The last few games have displayed the undoubtable talent that he possesses, it is now up to Guus Hiddink to provide the direction needed to ensure this is not yet another cameo from Oscar.
Featured image: All rights reserved by toksuede
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