In this moment, Oscar is my number 10. If somebody tells me that Oscar is not Chelsea’s best player since the beginning of the season, I’d have to disagree.
These were the words of Jose Mourinho in September 2013. It is Mourinho’s belief in Oscar that largely led to the departure of Juan Mata, who became deprived of regular first-team chances. Turn the clock to the present day and the Brazilian has not completed 90 minutes of football since January.
Chelsea have not suffered much in his absence, as they recently sealed the title after a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. The Blues are already backed at 11/8 in the 2015/16 Premier League title odds from Betfair.
Concerns about the future of Oscar at Chelsea, though, have been raised after the midfielder was left out of the Brazilian squad for the Copa America 2015. Brazil’s national team manager Dunga stated that the midfielder had suffered an injury while training with Chelsea. He has been left out of the squad after talks with Mourinho. Dunga expects this period of absence to help Oscar recover in time for the World Cup qualifiers after June.
Oscar was always going to be a member of the first-team despite his young age. He came to Chelsea aged just 20, but his transfer fee of almost £25 million suggested that he was a ready-made first-team player. It indeed proved to be the case after he announced his arrival to European football in style after stunning goals against Juventus in the Champions League.
He made a whopping 64 appearances on the way to seeing the blues lift a Europa League title. Since then, however, there have been concerns about burnout and it can be held as one of the reasons for a poor start to 2015.
Experienced players can deal with a regular run of games much better than young players. Perhaps, averaging more than 60 games per season in the last three years is starting to take its toll on Oscar’s ability to keep his high levels.
A return of just one assist in the last 15 appearances for Chelsea speaks volumes about his poor form and his last goal came in the 5-0 win over Swansea in February. He has featured in close to 200 games (for club and national team) since his move to Chelsea in the summer of 2012.
His absence in the Brazil squad has already caused a few concerns with the likes of Real Madrid defender Marcelo saying that the team will certainly miss the all-round abilities of the 23-year-old. Yet, there is little doubt that it will give Oscar some much needed breathing time, as he has been playing non-stop football for the last three years.
There have been suggestions that Oscar could be sold in the summer to make way for a big-money signing. It has been rumoured that he could be used to bring in Gareth Bale from Real Madrid.
However, it is highly unlikely that the confidence Mourinho had on Oscar only two years ago would have vanished into thin air. The Portuguese appears to be merely providing some recuperation time for the Brazilian in the hope that he returns in top form for next campaign.
The additions like Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas proved extremely influential in helping Chelsea reclaim the Premier League crown for the first time since 2010. However, Mourinho will realise that the number 10 position within the team can still be improved. The Portuguese demands more than just creating chances from his playmaker. Hence, a new arrival who is similar to Oscar cannot be ruled out.
It would not be highly surprising if Oscar was to miss the final two games of the season for Chelsea. For the next campaign, his target is likely to enter into double figures when it comes to league goals.
After having had great success with moulding Eden Hazard into a PFA Player of the Year, Mourinho will be targeting significant improvement from his playmaker next season. Oscar is two goals shy of meeting his last season’s tally of eight goals, but the 23-year-old has made eight assists compared to just two last season. Oscar is just two assists short of matching the tally of Angel di Maria, who cost an incredible £63 million.
Chelsea still have to play relegation threatened opponents like Sunderland. The north-east outfit are given odds of 4/6 by Betfair to get relegated this season. After having secured the title, Mourinho and the players can now afford to relax.
It would not be surprising to see some young names – like Ruben Loftus-Cheek – feature more in the remaining games. If the kids turn out to be a success, they could very well be fighting for a spot in first-team with Oscar.