Juan Mata could be forgiven for wanting a rest. 53 games for Chelsea last season, ended with a Euro 2012 campaign with Spain, before jetting back to England, only to compete in the Olympic Games for Spain’s football team as well.
He was our player of the season last year, with 23 assists, and 12 goals, completing a fantastic debut season since his £24m move from Valencia.
After understandably starting the season quite tired, and playing just 74 minutes of the Community Shield defeat to Man City, he was given a two-week break, to recover from his marathon season in 2011/2012.
The introduction of Victor Moses, and Eden Hazard, have taken some of the creative pressure off him, add Oscar into that mix too. However, many skeptics were keen to doubt whether Mata could replicate his great first season in Premier League football.
He came back into the mix versus Stoke. A poor game with little chances, but it was Juan Mata who came up trumps and delivered a killer blow, setting up Ashley Cole’s winner late on.
Four goals and four assists in the four games since he has been back, and after Eden Hazard’s electric start, Mata was keen to show that he wasn’t here as a passenger, in a season that Chelsea want to push for as many trophies as possible.
Juan Mata could easily be the catalyst for these trophies should they end up at Stamford Bridge, he is often overlooked and under-rated by many, as he has struggled to break into a Spain side that rarely use players in his position, but has managed six goals in the 19 caps he has taken, including one in the Euro 2012 Final annihilation of Italy.
You only have to look at the top players such as Santi Cazorla, and Jesus Navas, who as out-and-out wingers, will struggle to break into the Spanish side, but will perform to their peak at club level.
It will be interesting to see whether Cazorla can replicate Mata’s first season in the Premier League, but just as Arsenal are likely to be in Chelsea’s shadow, Mata will want Cazorla, firmly in his.
By Brad Smith