A lot has been made of Juan Mata's defensive capabilities, or lack of them according to Jose Mourinho, but putting this aside, what exactly does the Spanish playmaker bring to the Old Trafford table?
Firstly, I am going to look at the defensive side of Mata's game as this is the aspect which has been under scrutiny and is the reason he dropped down the Chelsea pecking order, apparently. I have only taken into account Premier League appearances, thanks to WhoScored.
Games Tackles Interceptions Fouls
2013/14 11 (2) 1.1 0.2 0.5
2012/13 31(4) 0.7 0.6 0.4
2011/12 29(5) 0.7 0.6 0.5
As you can see from the above statistics, Mata's tackles per game average has increased due to work ethic which Mourinho instils into his teams, but this has had a negative effect on his influences further up the pitch, which I will get to shortly.
I realise all managers are different and that Mourinho has a particular style of play which he expects his players to stick to, but when you have a player of Mata's obvious talents, why would you try to harness that? Mesut Ozil (0.8), Adnan Januzaj (0.9) and Wayne Rooney (0.8) all have lower tackles per game ratios this season. Would you ask any of these three to increase this particular statistic of their game which would negatively impact their main strengths?
Wayne Rooney in particular is renowned for his work ethic and the defensive work he gets through in a game, but his stat is lower than Mata's for this season and only slightly higher than the last two. In his first two seasons at Chelsea, his average was 0.7 tackles per game.
One of Mata's key strengths is his vision to see a pass and the ability to pick the pass out. They are two very different matters and there are few in the game who can do it to such a high and consistent level.
Games Avg Passes Pass Success Accurate Long Accurate through per game %age balls / game balls / game
13/14 11(2) 41.3 88.1 2.4 0.2
12/13 31(4) 52.5 85.2 2.8 0.2
11/12 29(5) 43.7 87.0 2.7 0.4
Although his passing accuracy is higher than it has been at Chelsea, the number of long balls he plays is down. The only Chelsea players with a better pass success percentage this season are John Terry (89.5%) and Ashley Cole (88.5%), which you would expect from defenders as they generally play the ball forward short distances to the more creative players in front of them.
Mata has a better passing accuracy this season then Rooney (80.2%), Ozil (87.6%) and David Silva (87.9%). He has attempted four through balls this season and three of them were accurate, providing two assists in total (see more stats below).
Games Goals Assists Shots Key Passes / game / game
13/14 11(2) 0 2 0.8 2.3
12/13 31(4) 12 12 2 2.7
11/12 29(5) 6 13 1.9 3
This season, all of the stats above are down for Mata and there is a simple explanation for this, he has been asked to change his game by Mourinho. As each of these stats are down, you can see why Mata hasn't been enjoying his football at Chelsea this season. His game time is down and his role in the team has been changed.
Juan Mata is a creative player, he enjoys time on the ball, he enjoys picking out a pass to his teammates and he enjoys scoring and creating goals for others. He is a typical Spanish footballer, excellent on the ball and likes a good pass.
If David Moyes utilises Mata's ability in the same way that Chelsea did before the arrival of The Special One, then I think the Old Trafford faithful will enjoy the best of Mata, much like Chelsea did in his first two years at the club.
So, in answer to the original question, it depends on how he is deployed. If he is given freedom, then he will produce the type of form which has seen him named Chelsea Player of the Year twice in succession, if you he isn't given that freedom then you won't.
It really is that simple.
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