In July of 2016, Chelsea FC announced the signing of then-promising Brazilian starlet Oscar Emboaba Junior.
The youngster arrived at the Bridge surrounded by much excitement, paired with uncertainty over what to expect.
True, Oscar had starred for Brazil at under 23 level, but he was at the time still far from being a household name.
Four years on, the feeling amongst the majority of Chelsea fans is that the Brazilian playmaker has flattered to deceive and failed to fulfill his potential.
Many by now have given up on Oscar and are asking for him to be sold.
I believe I belong in the minority of fans who view Oscar as a naturally gifted, tactically intelligent, well rounded player who has been misused, and needs appropriate coaching to unlock his amazing potential.
Since arriving at the Bridge, Oscar has been playing mostly as a number ten, expected to unlock defenses with dazzling skills and killer passes.
Playing just behind the striker, his performances will invariably be measured by fans and pundits in number of goals and assists he provides.
The underlying issue is that Oscar is not a number ten; at least not as we’re accustomed to the role. Oscar is a well rounded footballer, capable of playing any position in midfield.
He focuses on his attacking as well as defending responsibilities, which earned him Jose Mourinho’s trust over Juan Mata, upon his return to Stamford Bridge three seasons ago.
Oscar’s greatest gift and possibly greatest curse is that he doesn’t easily stand out, however, his teams tend to play better with than without him.
Don’t get me wrong, he is a gifted creative footballer with the ability to decide a game on his own. However, more often than not, his main asset is the ability to improve the players around him.
Oscar just makes a midfield tick. In the build up phase, he is capable of dropping deep and collecting the ball under pressure, move into space and receive the ball between the lines, and finally make late runs into the box.
In the defensive phase, he will often be pressing from the front, denying the opposition space to move into, filling defensive gaps left by attacking wingers, fullbacks or midfielders, and he has the nous to commit the tactical foul which will break up a lethal counter attack.
Upon the Special One’s return to the bridge, he was the one player who gave Mourinho the tactical flexibility to switch effortlessly from a 4-2-3-1 shape in defensive phase, to a 4-3-3 formation in the attacking process.
I like to compare Oscar to Luka Modric. The Croat is obviously a better midfielder at this point — he is without a doubt one of the best midfielders on the planet.
However, what they have in common in my opinion is that similarly to Oscar, Modric’s contribution to a game can’t be measured in terms of assists or goals.
Last season, Oscar registered eight goals and five assists for Chelsea in all competitions. Contrast that to Modric’s three goals and five assists for Real Madrid. In fact, over the last eight seasons, whether as a Real Madrid or Tottenham player, Luka has never exceeded four goals overall in a domestic campaign.
This is further proof that it is flawed to judge this sort of players in terms of goals and assists.
Similarly to the Madrid midfielder, Oscar is one of those players who just makes a midfield tick. He just happens to be playing further up the pitch than he should be.
Antonio Conte has a habit of playing two strikers without a number ten.
Should he keep the young Brazilian around, I believe we’ll see him deployed in a deeper, two-way midfield role which should get the best out of him.
Here is to Conte providing Oscar a platform to thrive on.
Written by Charles Codo
Follow Charles on Twitter @soccerCrave
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