Can Oscar maintain his first-team place under new Chelsea boss José Mourinho?
Chelsea's number 11 impressed in his first full season in England, particularly in Europe, but it remains to be seen if the youngster will continue to feature regularly under the Special One.
Mourinho inherited a Chelsea squad that possesses one of the best problems a manager can hope for: too many midfielder players. Chelsea currently have a vast array of holding midfielders: Frank Lampard, John Mikel Obi, Ramires, David Luiz, Oriol Romeu, youngster Nathan Aké, and the returning powerhouse Michael Essien.
Mourinho also took the reins of a squad that has a flurry of attacking midfielders, such as the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Victor Moses, Kevin de Bruyne, and of course Oscar.
The Special One has added to this already stellar contingent with the signings of Marco van Ginkel, who at 20 years old has already been touted as the 'new Lampard'. Granted, not all of these midfielders will score 203 goals in their respective Chelsea careers, but they are all capable of playing against the best sides in the world. The sheer depth of Chelsea's midfield Arsenal will provide great difficulties for Oscar to find consistent first-team football at Stamford Bridge.
There are other signs that point to Oscar's very short time in West London already coming to an end under the second coming of Mourinho. First, Mourinho has brought in young attacking midfielders who both play in the position where Oscar thrives. Oscar is a great number 10, and can even play on the right wing with a shifting front three. He was often deployed in this manner under former interim boss Rafa Benitez.
But the additions of Schurrle and Van Ginkel show that the Special One was not satisfied with the squad's talent in those positions. These acquisitions alone show that Mourinho may not have been impressed with the young Brazilian's inconsistent performances.
Oscar was also employed as a holding midfielder under Benitez's interim reign, but this is certainly not where his future will lie.
Foremost, Oscar is not strong enough to be the battler that Chelsea will need him to be in front of their defence, especially considering the troubles Chelsea had defending last season. The young Brazilian is too diminutive to play 50 matches as a defensive midfielder.
Furthermore, if we look back at Mourinho's past teams, he has always been a fan of strong, physical midfielders who do not shy away from tackles and are willing to drop and protect the back four. Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, and Claude Makélélé were all very tough and tall midfielders who could hold off defenders and get the ball forward, while also capable of making a crunching tackle. Oscar does not fit the Mourinho mold for a holding midfielder.
With Juan Mata establishing himself as Chelsea's key playmaker, and both wings already filled with both style and physical depth, Oscar must hope that Mourinho will see him as a replacement for Mata; one who can play directly behind the striker and create chances.
However, this is also very unlikely given the recent acquisition of Marco van Ginkel.
The young Dutch international has impressed with Vitesse Arnhem, and plays very much like Frank Lampard did under Mourinho in his first spell at the club. At 6'0", he is much taller than Oscar, and has shown that he is more than capable of holding off strong defenders. Van Ginkel also has a knact for timing his runs perfectly to fire home in the box (sound like any 35-year-old currently still on Chelsea's roster?).
All of these factors show that Oscar's brief stint with Chelsea is all but up unless he can develop strength and consistency to the extent needed to impress the Special One. Oscar is a very talented young midfielder with a bright future in the game. But he may not be the best fit for José Mourinho's Chelsea side. So do not be surprised if the Brazilian is deemed surplus throughout this next campaign.
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