Chelsea won their opening game of the 2013/14 Premier League season with a 2-0 win over Hull City.
Named on the substitute’s bench was last season’s Player of the Year nominee Juan Mata – who was also named in the PFA Team of the Year.
The Spanish attacking-midfielder failed to feature in the game, but striker Romelu Lukaku, attacking midfielder Marco Van Ginkel, and left-sided forward Andre Schurrle all came on from the bench instead of him.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho lined his players up in a 4-2-3-1 formation – four defenders, two central midfielders, two wide players, one attacking midfielder, and one striker. The attacking quartet are given license to roam. It’s the same setup Chelsea were playing under former manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Being a natural attacking midfielder, favouring a more central position, the tactic is seemingly perfect for Juan Mata, but questions are being asked as to why he failed to feature. After scoring 12 goals and making as many assists during the 2012/13 league campaign, the 25-year old has become the best player in the Chelsea squad.
However, he now faces stiff competition for a starting place, with Marco Van Ginkel and Oscar competing for a central attacking-midfield slot. Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne are going head-to-head for the left-sided forward position, which makes it even harder for Mata to force his way into the side.
While not featuring in the side’s first Premier League game against a side tipped for relegation may not be time to panic and speculate, it’s not as if Mourinho hasn’t dropped subtle hints earlier this summer that the Spaniard was potentially expendable to the club.
Chelsea will play host to Aston Villa on Wednesday the 21st of August. Should Juan Mata once again fail to get any minutes under his belt, many will begin to worry, and exit talk will surface.