One of the biggest stories in the Premier League this season has been Jose Mourinho's utter snubbing of Juan Mata in Chelsea's first team.
Today's 2-0 win over Norwich was no different. The 25-year-old Spaniard was forced to watch the match from the sidelines as an unused substitute as goal-scorers Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres took care of business to move the Blues to the top of the table.
As Chelsea climb the Premier League ladder and compete with Manchester City and Arsenal for the title, many believe that Mourinho has been right all along: maybe Chelsea don't need their number 10 any longer.
So what is to be done about Chelsea's forgotten back-to-back player of the year? How should Mourinho deal with his incredibly talented attacking midfielder who has undoubtedly been the spark of Chelsea's offence since his transfer from Valencia in the summer of 2011?
It's quite simple, really. Include him.
If you're to tell me that two players as talented as Mata and Hazard can not play together in beautiful football harmony, that's just foolish. Mata has always been effective from either wing, a highly valued position in Mourinho's strategical formation. and why bench a player that can both score and distribute at a high pace from a wide position? It simply doesn't compute.
Mourinho has said time and time again that Hazard has a guaranteed spot on the left wing for as long as he is lucky enough to manage him, and there's no arguing there. The 23-year-old Belgian has easily been Chelsea's best player this year, leading the team in both Premier League goals (9) and (5).
Oscar is playing very well through the center and is pressuring opposing back-lines like a possessed maniac, much to the delight of his manager. Willian has come into his own in the side, and Schurrle has proved all year that he deserves a real role in this team.
But where will they be come the middle of March? When the season starts to wear on their bodies and the numerous competitions start to pile up (providing they take care of Galatasaray in the Champions League round of 16)?
I'd like to have the man that has brought set-piece mastery, blazing speed, and selfless decisions to the pitch for the last two and a half years on my starting eleven.
After 135 appearances for Chelsea, Mata has 33 goals and 58 assists. In terms of age, he is in the prime of his career, a perfect balance between experience and a youthful cunning.
Mata can fit anywhere in any formation, from right mid to in behind the striker in a traditional number ten role, which makes him that much more valuable to a club with a recent history of counter-attacking. He's the ultimate flexible midfielder, and can ideally fit in any offensive scheme that Mourinho decides to go with, whether it be a one, two or three forward set.
Ultimately, from a Chelsea supporter's point of view, it would be a real shame, and frankly a waste, to see the fan-favorite leave Stamford Bridge this January.
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