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Pivotal Oscar


Madmax

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19 minutes into last weekend's game against Sunderland saw the introduction of Oscar into the side in place of the injured Oriol Romeu. Having not started a game under Benitez in the band of three behind Torres, Oscar found himself stationed alongside fellow Brazilian Ramires right in the middle of the park. While many Chelsea fans held hopes that the young midfielder would eventually move to that position in later years, and technical director Michael Emenalo himself confirming the club's vision of doing exactly that, this represented the first occasion where we got to see him in said position for an extended period of time against reasonably good opposition.

Here's how he lined up after coming on -

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Having taken an early lead through Torres, Chelsea found themselves in a comanding position against an opponent in hapless form. Sunderland hadn't made any sort of impression going forwards in this game upto this point and Chelsea dominated possession and chances.

It is worth noting that the pivot were evidently instructed to mark zonally and in conjunction; one marking an opponent in possession straying central, the other marking space.

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Chelsea's double pivot take space and time out of the picture for Danny Rose.

Midway through the first half Sunderland decided to go to a more direct style, looking to exploit Connor Wickham's physical attributes and their wide players' skill on the ball. This lead to most of the play shifting to the flanks, the Chelsea central midfield being completely bypassed and their fullbacks pressed back into their respective defensive zones. This is when Chelsea's hurried and inaccurate clearances and passes heaped unnecessary pressure on the defensive play.

Illustration 1

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(1) Adam Johnson's byline cross isn't cleared effectively and Bardsley picks up the ball outside the Chelsea box with nobody closing him or Gardner down. Bardsley can pass to Gardner or shoot himself.

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(2) As Chelsea players rush out, Bardsley still posseses the ball. This delay has taken Gardner out of the picture as Ramires is well placed to block a shot. However, Oscar's confusion regarding his next course of action sees him stranded on the edge of the box with Bardsley about to fire away.

Fortunately for Chelsea, his shot is a wayward one that poses no threat to Cech's goal.

Illustration 2

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A long ball towards Wickham bypasses Oscar and Ramires. With Luiz occupying Wickham, Oscar is caught ball watching while Sessegnon is one-vs-one with Gary Cahill if the striker is able to nod it down for the Frenchman. He does, and Sessegnon strides forward a couple of yards before unleashing a shot that Cech scrambles to save. A chance out of nothing.

In these situations we see a young guy with excellent theoretical grasp of the responsibilities his role entails, but one who is not entirely aware about the phases of play that can develop in the next instant. He fails to recognise danger from two different situations in the space of a little more than a minute.

This is not to say that his entire first half performance was poor in it's defensive moments :

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Oscar's willingness to put in a tackle hasn't been lost on me even in games before this one, and the above screen provides a heartening example of his good reading of the game. He goes from marking space one instant to taking down a much bulkier and experienced opponent cleanly the other.

Old failings resurface

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(1) Torres' poor cutback sees Rose collect possession. Oscar, on one of his rare forward runs is starting to jog back towards his position.

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(2) 'Jog' back is the correct term after all. Rose's unchecked run has attracted Wickham deep to collect and lay off the ball. Cahill follows him. But that's okay, Oscar can handle Wickham's lay off, right?

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(3) Wrong. The Sunderland forward's intelligent play and Oscar's dozing on the job means Craig Gardner can run on to the ball 30 yards from goal. Oscar doesn't even realize what's happened until long after. Gardner has Sessegnon in support but chooses to unleash a ranger; a decision that proves daft as the ball sails into Row Z.

2nd Half

Oscar starts the second brightly, more energetic with his pressing and more attacking in his on the ball play. Benitez has clearly had a word with him at half time.

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With Mata looking for passing options from the left and other Chelsea players unavailable, the quick thinking Oscar sees an opportunity. He is wide open for a long stretch in front of goal and accelerates to get there. Mata spots his run and sends in a beautiful cross that only Oscar's poor first touch prevents from being converted into goal number 3.

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Old failings resurface v 2.0

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(1) A Sunderland counter sees Johnson on the ball and looking for a viable pass. Oscar is trudging back to cover for midfield runners.

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(2) Look behind you! Oscar's caught ball-watching again while Seb Larsson has drawn level and is about to go past him to collect Johnson's pass.

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(3) Still unaware, Oscar's actually starting to hold up while in the space of 4 seconds a possible counter for Sunderland has broken down simply because of the wrong weight on Johnson's pass. Cahill collects.

Old failings resurface v 3.0

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(1) and (2) Sessegnon's pass wide to McCleary has set him up well for a menacing cross into the Chelsea box. While the back four hold their shape well and Ramires shows up in support, and midfield runners for Sunderland can capitalize on a weak clearance/knock down. There is no-one defending the area in front of goal; Oscar's not even in the picture. What happens next?

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(3) McCleary's cross is too strong for Wickham; Cole heads it away for Bertrand to latch on to. Ultimately, no damage done. Against a better side, who knows?

This represented the last noteworthy incident for someone on Oscar Watch. Sunderland had a fair share of the ball but failed to genuinely trouble Chelsea from open play bar the freak goal and 2 freekick instances. At 78 minutes, Lampard came on for Hazard and this saw Chelsea's shape change to 4-3-3 for the rest of the game with Oscar as the most advanced of the midfield 3.

Stats (via thechels.co.uk and whoscored.com) :

6 successful tackles (highest in the game)

4 successful dribbles (highest in the game)

44 of 51 passes completed (completion rate 86.27%)

21 forward passes

12 backwards passes

11 sideways passes

3 long passes, 2 completed

1 key pass

2 tunovers initiated

3 shots, 0 on target

76 touches of the ball

Conclusion

As can be seen from the stats, Oscar was heavily involved in the game, second infact (3 touches less than Mata). His passing and offensive game remains solid as ever; the latter a little curtailed due to a change in role and responsibilities. He exhibited great knowledge and understanding of his new responsibilities and worked well in tandem with his partners around him. A quicker defensive reading of the game and the consequent awareness is required but for a young import into the league getting his first significant minutes in that crucial position, the cerebral Oscar holds much promise.

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Mate, I still have not read it yet, so I wont judge.

I just think you should have waited until he had a game alongside a proper DM...

EDIT:

You see, most of the time Rambo and Oscar did not know who should have been the DM and CM.

In Benitez Loserpool, one marked the opponents playmaker (CM, Xabi Alonso) and the other was the midfield space protector who stood in front of the center backs (DM, Mascherano). While attacking, Alonso played as a deep lying playmaker and Mascherano had a minor role, basically composing the midfield and providing help with short passes, runs and corner rebounds.

With our double pivot, Ramires and Oscar were incrediblely confused. Sometimes Ramires was the DM in the defensive end but the CM while attacking and vice-versa, with Oscar either. In the first half, it was a mess (see the difference between the first and second picture). In the second half it got a bit better, see how Rambo was more fixed and closer to Luiz/Cahill and Oscar was participating in the build up play with a lot more mobility. However, apart from their confused role and positioning, their individual performances were great and with good intensity (just look at the stats). Since it was more of an emergency, I think this wasnt the game to be judging both of them. I bet they didnt even trained together!

In the end, your observations were good though.

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With our double pivot, Ramires and Oscar were incrediblely confused. Sometimes Ramires was the DM in the defensive end but the CM while attacking and vice-versa, with Oscar either. In the first half, it was a mess (see the difference between the first and second picture). In the second half it got a bit better, see how Rambo was more fixed and closer to Luiz/Cahill and Oscar was participating in the build up play with a lot more mobility. However, apart from their confused role and positioning, their individual performances were great and with good intensity (just look at the stats). Since it was more of an emergency, I think this wasnt the game to be judging both of them. I bet they didnt even trained together!

Thanks for reading.

In the first half Ramires struck me as having a pretty poor game; not only with his plentiful misplaced passes/hurried clearances but also in terms of poor understanding of his responsibilities, like you mentioned. He was tracking runners deep one moment, pressuring aggressively into the Sunderland half the next. Oscar by comparison pretty much stuck to his task and marked space well on most occasions. In the second half, it was evident that Benitez had made their roles clear to them because they looked more composed and coherent as a pair even though Chelsea were losing the possession game for a considerable part of the half.

Throughout the game Oscar tended to switch off on turnovers and appeared lethargic/lackadaisical while tracking back. Overall he had a 7/10 game, imo.

Benitez hasn't started him in the 3 behind Torres unlike Robbie, so I doubt he'd just thrown him there once Romeu got injured. It seemed to me he was second in line for an appearance there after Lampard, who could be seen warming up as Romeu was stretchered off but didn't actually come on (maybe because 20 minutes was too early for him). It seemed pre-planned, else Luiz would have slotted in, especially after he was given some time there against Nordsjaelland.

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I think by having Oscar we have every CM's last resort when a team is struggling(not always) i.e Rip a long ranger! We had that with Lampard and other ppl but so often when we play Mikel and Rami neither of them can hit a long ranger. Our future lies in Oscar when we have possession Mikel stutters with the ball at his feet and Rami can't really pick a pass so we need a good passer in that midfield so we can quickly play the ball into our front 3. That was really our success in counter attacking earlier this season we got the ball quickly to Mazacar and they provided the quality attacking.

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Excellent work Jai, good read.

A minor note is about Oscar's tackling. He may have had the most successful tackles, but I distinctly remember him making 3-4 unsuccessful ones. Tbh, I never understood why tackling was a good thing especially for central midfielders. If you are a CM and have to go to ground, it means that the player has gotten away from you. Ramires and Oscar however seem to go to ground way too often and needlessly so. And if the tackle misses then the player is free to move into the dreaded 'hole' forcing the back four out of position and causing big trouble.

The main job of the double pivot, imo, is not retaining the ball but rather containing the opposition and closing down space and passing angles.

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Oscar has played many times a center mid and does well in that position.

For the BPL he'd be still too lightweight, but if he can improve physically (aka bulk up a bit) he may yet become an amazing CM. He will always be a more attacking minded, possession type of player, but he could very well be the long-term replacement for Lampard IMO.

yeah, great initial post btw!

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Excellent work Jai, good read.

A minor note is about Oscar's tackling. He may have had the most successful tackles, but I distinctly remember him making 3-4 unsuccessful ones. Tbh, I never understood why tackling was a good thing especially for central midfielders. If you are a CM and have to go to ground, it means that the player has gotten away from you. Ramires and Oscar however seem to go to ground way too often and needlessly so. And if the tackle misses then the player is free to move into the dreaded 'hole' forcing the back four out of position and causing big trouble.

The main job of the double pivot, imo, is not retaining the ball but rather containing the opposition and closing down space and passing angles.

Tackling includes standing tackles, which makes it very important for a player in any defensive role imo.

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Perfect analysis of the match. You watched the match and didn't just pull out statistics.

To be fair on oscar, he didn't train with ramires before the match so he was basically thrown in there.

He can only develop his defensive positioning with experience.

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Tackling includes standing tackles, which makes it very important for a player in any defensive role imo.

Still, if you commit yourself to a tackle and don't get the ball, you either give a foul away or worse, let a player past you. Any defensive player should be able to tackle but only as a last resort. The first thing any coach teaches the children about defending is "DON'T commit yourself, don't go to ground unless absolutely necessary"

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Good piece. Generally, I thought Oscar was quite poor in the pivot but as I said elsewhere, it's not fair to judge him on one performance especially one where he isn't playing with a DM. Oscar and Ramires are both similar defenders in that they both press a lot, both ball chase too much, and are both aggressive in tackling. You need to have one player who is more positionally aware, is less aggressive, and doesn't go forward much.

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