Oscar the Conductor

May 30 • Featured, Joe Tweeds, Player Features • 28631 Views • 17 Comments

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The departure of the Interim One™ to Napoli has finally allowed some hope to seep back into Stamford Bridge. A season that delivered the minimum requirements albeit in rather surreal fashion can now be cast aside with a resurgent Chelsea looking to mount a serious title challenge next campaign. The usual caveats apply in this instance, but given the talent at our disposal and hopefully the right managerial appointment next year could be different.

While the foundations of such a young and talented squad are there for all to see, it is rather salient that we have lacked real technical quality in midfield. Certainly under Benitez the likes of Mikel, Ramires, Lampard and later Luiz failed to consistently exert authority when needed against a variety of opponents (dominated by City and outplayed by Benfica). While this may be attributed to tiredness in parts, there is a serious lack of technical ability in and out of possession.

Jonathan Wilson is at times unnecessarily convoluted in his tactical crusade. However, he did recently highlight the importance and growing trend of a creative deep-lying playmaker. While the likes of Andrea Pirlo have been acting like quarterbacks for what seems an eternity, it is the rise of the all action playmaking midfielder that has been most interesting. İlkay Gündoğan has been central to everything good about Borussia Dortmund this season. Blessed with a passing range few can call upon, he combines this with brilliant dribbling skills and link up play. Gündoğan is also disciplined enough to act as an effective screen for his back four when required and intelligently knows how to patrol space to minimise danger.

This trend may suggest the reason behind purported interest in Luka Modrić. While Chelsea gain a lot of energy by deploying Ramires in the pivot, there are too many times where he lacks the passing ability to really dominate teams when his boundless running is countered. John Obi Mikel is largely inconsistent and under Benitez regressed enormously from some decent performances under Di Matteo. Frank Lampard plays the role well, but will leave gaps defensively that above average sides pinpoint. David Luiz is without question a centre back. Having to play him in midfield because he remains the only person capable of playing a 20+ yard pass and making a tackle shows the criminal lack of depth at hand. Oriol Romeu remains an unknown quantity, hopefully he can provide a decent rotation option. The balance clearly is not quite there.

There is without question a need for someone to step in with the required quality to help dictate the flow of the game. Someone who can not only pick the correct pass out regularly, but do so quickly and precisely whether it is a five-yarder or a fifty-yarder. There is also the need for someone with exceptional touch, who can carry play between the lines and actually deliver an end product. Our midfield has a lot of grunt and application, but there is little finesse or consistent linking. In possession we fail to translate the ball quickly and as such often retain the ball in a stagnant manner.

It would be quite typical of Chelsea to go and spend a small fortune rectifying the issue. However, in this instance I would preach caution as the answer potentially already exists at the club. In Oscar Chelsea have arguably the perfect player to develop into a world class deep lying playmaker. Oscar’s tenacity, passing range and exquisite dribbling give him the foundation to drop slightly deeper and influence play to a greater degree.

Oscar’s season must largely be viewed as a success. He showed flashes of brilliance, while understandably appearing quiet at times. Let us not forget since signing for Chelsea Oscar has played an unbelievable number of games akin to almost two season’s worth of football. Moreover, Oscar is not a right winger contrary to popular belief. His decent debut season is therefore largely owed to the fact he is a phenomenally gifted footballer. His first touch in particular, evidenced most devastatingly against Andrea Pirlo, is as good as anything you are going to see.

The aspect of Oscar that is most intriguing in terms of moving him deeper is his dribbling skill. He lacks the blistering acceleration of Eden Hazard, but his close control allows him to similarly evade defenders. I believe it is this exceptional ball control that would make deploying him deeper a huge advantage. Oscar’s ability to glide past players would allow him to attack the opposition defence from deep. It increases his touches and therefore time on the ball and puts him in an area to cause more damage. I think of Dembélé at Spurs and how he floats through midfield – Oscar can easily cause similar if not greater problems.

The most pressing concern when it comes to our midfield play is the lack of consistent service from midfield to front four. Whether this is due to an inability to skilfully avoid an athletic/robust pressing game, lack of passing acumen or somewhere in between it has become a worryingly tangible feature. We are desperate for an intelligent upgrade here and shifting Oscar to an area of the pitch which increases his importance can only benefit those around him.

Too many players in our midfield are comfortable playing safe passes. This works if one player does it, but when both players adopt this approach the game is infuriatingly slow. Our passing game, particularly from deep, is something that Oscar will greatly benefit. He has frequently exhibited the ability to drop deep from his starting position to play exquisitely arrowed passes across field or to a striker. The overall intelligence, care and use of the ball when in possession is something that we sorely lack.

Oscar has the tenacity and work ethic to press the ball where required, but there will naturally be a learning curve if he is asked to operate from a deeper position on a regular basis. Gündoğan in particular benefits from having an exceedingly high work rate in midfield. He presses well, hassles and harries the opposition into mistakes and then capitalises on those errors quickly. The statistical comparison works favourably in Oscar’s favour. Considering his role the fact he makes 2.5 tackles a game and Gündoğan makes 2.3 is quite unusual (domestic stats only). Eden Hazard, by comparison, makes 0.8 tackles per game. Debating their true roles would take time, but merely illustrating the defensive appetite that Oscar has.

The reality presenting Oscar is that his favoured role is presently occupied by the best classic number ten in world football. While he certainly contributes from a wider role, he clearly is at his best deployed more centrally. Whether it his incisive passing or penetrative dribbling, Oscar needs to be on the ball more and this solves that issue. There remains an element of gym work that needs to be done to prepare him for a more physical role, but the benefits of a combative yet brilliantly intelligent and skilful playmaker far outweigh any negatives. The potential to develop what could prove to be an absolutely beast of a deep lying playmaker is clear. I just wonder if someone at the club has seen this as well.

You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeTweeds. Please let us know your thoughts on using Oscar deeper in the comments below. Alternatively, fire any views over to @PlainsOfAlmeria on Twitter.

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17 Responses to Oscar the Conductor

  1. Johhyn says:

    Oscar and an excellent first touch are two different things mate. Makes me wonder if you even watched Chelsea this season…

  2. DanAbnormal says:

    1. Well, maybe and surely there are problems in our midfield, but to say that we are being outplayed because of it, is wrong.
    The fact that our problem is the balance of the team. If you play with 4 attackers, and you leave two Midfielders alone, of course they’ll be outnumbered.
    Our 4231 looks more like a 424 and that’s the problem, we have attackers that don’t defend/press for multiple reasons. We are being outplayed there because when we field 2 players in the middle, other teams play 451 or 433 or a 4231 with pressing and defensive work from everyone !

    2. You say too many players in our midfield are comfortable playing safe passes, that’s not true. First, it’s wrong to think safe passes are a bad thing, it’s a good way to defend (Barça uses possession to defend more than to attack). We should play more safe passes. Lampard became with age a more speculative passer, Luiz has a low successful passes percentage (as you say, he’s a defender) Ramires was never your typical CM, more a player to play on the right side of the midfield in 433 or 442 diamond.
    Look how Mikel when he came in against United, played safe passes that made our team better, defending better, attacking better.
    Mourinho will use Mikel for the tempo and we need this, we need to have a CM who can pass, and is recycling play.

    3. Gündoğan is a creative player, he was a N°10 converted into the N°8 position. But he’s not a CM that presses, he moves forward and is a key-passer, but he can only do so because Bender is the one that has a remarkable workrate, and plays the Ramires role. Against Bayern, he made the most interceptions, he allows Gündoğan to be free and attack. Gündoğan doesn’t defend that much, he’s not the example for Oscar.
    Look how, when Borussia tired, we’ve seen less of Gündoğan. Without the hard work of Bender, he’s not influential and he’s poor defensively. (Borussia were totally outplayed by Bayern in the 2nd half).

    IMO, the most important thing is that Oscar plays centrally and is being rotated. Chelsea need to keep him fresh.
    N°10 is ok for Oscar, he was great there at the start of the season, when he was fresh, and he’s a hard working player that gives us more balance as he can be the third man in the midfielder so we’re not outnumbered anymore, as we’re when Mata plays there.

    • Sam says:

      Bayern and BVB played the exact same formation as we do. 4231. Both teams utilize very attacking wingers. The difference in the final was Bayern’s quality and BVB’s fatigue after all their running in the first half.

      Same system, just better quality
      Bastian > Gundogan (Note Bastian is a converted winger – no effect)
      Javi > Bender

      • DanAbnormal says:

        You clearly watch little of Bundesliga football to say this.

        Dortmund and Bayern both play 4231, but in very VERY different styles. BvB is all about pressing, they do it as much as they can, all the time.
        Bayern press alternatively, just 10-15 minutes in a half, the rest of the time, they are a possession team.

        That’s what won them the final, the game was very open, but Bayern controlled the midfield better in the 2nd half, by keeping the ball, which BvB was awful at.

        Bastian is a better player that Gundogan, that’s very clear. He’s better defensively most importantly.

        The thing is Bender did most of the hard work, than logically he tired, then, Gundogan didn’t show up, because he depends a lot on Bender’s work.
        Bastian can defend, and that’s the difference.

  3. Sam says:

    Also saying Mikel is our Midfield Saviour is just wrong! That ManU game is a one-off because it was already end to end/ haphazard – Mikel was the obvious solution in that game bearing in mind everyone else was already committed to a high tempo game, his addition would/did not stifle them, but brought a semblance of control.

    Starting him from the start just promises a slow, dull, muted attack/midfield.

    • DanAbnormal says:

      Oh so you’re one of those Mike haters that don’t understand a thing about his game.
      Go and read this, enlighten !

      Mikel’s entrance bought TOTAL control in the 2nd half, all the balls lost by our attackers, Mikel collected them to start other attacks. That’s what we need – midfielders that can collect, intercept (in Ramires fashion) but also distribute and dictate a tempo and recyclate attacks, that’s what Mikel does, and that’s why he’s been picked by the Mourinhos, Hiddinks etc.

      • Rodolphe Ganthier says:

        You are absolutely ON POINT on ALL YOUR arguments. I’ve been telling people how important Mikel is to Chelsea. They don’t see it. With the coming of Mourinho. You will see his importance. Very good and solid defensive midfielder

  4. Mickey Davey says:

    Been saying it to my mates at every home game , when they have played him there UTD in league Cup done well , agree with you 100 % and another thing , how good was Mr Luiz from December , out standing

  5. blue blood says:

    brilliant article if you ask me, but just to add, oscar played in that position early in the season when we were losing to reading and united in the capital 1 cup and our attacking play improved remarkably (we managed to turn the game around in our favour), even against city in the fa cup we started dominating man city in the final 15 mins only when oscar moved there but it was little to late as city held on. he played there four times this season and three times he excelled, i believe benitez should have given him a chance there instead of or along side luiz.
    if properly taught the deeplying playmaker role he would excel.

    • JoeTweeds says:

      There is a brilliant compilation floating about on YouTube of him playing there against Sunderland and dictating the game. It’s amazing what potential he has as a deep CM and you are right, how Benitez didn’t opt to try him there is baffling.

  6. Fantastic article. Absolutely spot on in every aspect . I’ve echoed everything you’ve said here, all season and I’ve been criticised for It . Oscars best is without doubt as a deep lying playmaker. If romeu becomes the player he looked under AVB I would love to see a 4-3-3 with Oscar playmaker, Romeu CDM and Mata at the tip with Hazard Lukaku and Schurle (preferably KDB) as a front 3. This would help us beat the best teams.

  7. Steve says:

    Absolutely fantastic article…Been sayin’ that we’ve got two fantastic players who can play in that deep-lying role for quite some time now…Oscar, and De Bruyne…Spot on with the insight and analysis there Joe..No lesser man than Joe Tweeds!

  8. Steve says:

    And you did comment about how baffling it was; that Benitez didn’t try him as a deep-lying playmaker more often…Is it really?…It’s Rafael Benitez we’re talkin’ about here Joe.

  9. ravi says:

    Excellent article. Good observations. Loved reading it as always. Read somewhere that Oscar has played 79 matches this season. That is too high a number and some of the poor touches displayed during the fag end of the season may be due to fatigue. I can remember that lovely pass by Mata in the final league game against Everton which Oscar missed due to a poor first touch. Would love to have Modric!!!

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