We are now 25 per cent into the new Premier League season and already there have been quite a few surprises.
Arsenal are top, Manchester City have lost three times away from home and Manchester United – Rooney and Van Persie aside – seem quite ordinary.
Former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in a new book that he would rather of shot Cristiano Ronaldo than let him go to Real Madrid, and if that were not distressing enough for the Portuguese playmaker, he had to endure unfavourable comments about his hair, made last Friday by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
However, it is the omission of Chelsea’s Juan Mata from Jose Mourinho’s preferred starting line-up that has shocked me the most. The gifted Spaniard scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday night to help see off Arsenal in the Capital One Cup, yet he is considered only good enough to start on the bench for Premier League matches.
This is the same Juan Mata that scored for Spain in their 2-0 win over Georgia in a World Cup qualifier only two weeks ago.
So the the big question is, if Mata is good enough for world and European champions Spain, why does Mourinho think that he is not good enough for Chelsea?
Trying to find a logical thinking process to The Special One’s mind is a bit like trying to find a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” (I thank Sir Winston Churchill for that particular paraphrase).
Maybe Mourinho is trying to show just how special he is, that he can win the league title without his best player. Maybe he feels intimidated by Mata’s attempt at a beard, as it resembles a similar line in apparent trendiness previously attired by Jose’s arch-rival Andre Villas-Boas.
The answer to the puzzle probably lies in the system that the Chelsea manager favours. If Juan takes a look at all of Chelsea’s nine Premier League matches to date, a trend that has nothing to do with facial hair can be observed.
Mata has actually started in four of those games, against Aston Villa, Cardiff, Everton and Norwich. However, he has been substituted in all four of those matches in the 65th, 59th, 57th and 81st minute respectively.
Against Fulham, Hull, Man City and Man United, Mata never figured. In the encounter with Tottenham, Mata came on in the second half and changed the course of the result by being instrumental in reversing a 1-0 half time defecit to a 1-1 draw.
In that match Mourinho started with his customary “park the bus” tactics that begins with two holding midfield players (Mikel and Lampard) and ends with all 11 on their own six-yard line.
A slight hyperbole perhaps, however it does illustrate that Jose prefers to have only one of either Hazard or Mata and not the two creative players together.
Quite simply, I do not understand this and the results suggest that Mourinho has it fundamentally wrong. We only need to analyse the results against the four top sides that Chelsea have played in the Premier League to verify this point (Everton, Man City, Man United and Tottenham).
Chelsea have won only one of those games, against Man City, and that was only due to another customary Joe Hart blunder.
In the aforementioned Tottenham game, Mata replaced holding midfielder John Obi Mikel, Lampard slipping into a lone holding role, which actually does not suit him, yet it did mean that both Hazard and Mata could weave their magic and Chelsea were a different team with the dynamic duo.
However, Mourinho has hardly opted for that scenario at all since then. Or maybe Mata is simply being saved for the final 75 per cent of the season.
Bob Morton has a first-class degree in Media and is the only person in history to win the Daily Mirror’s ‘You The Manager’ World Cup and Premier League Manager of the Month prizes back to back.