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Oscar’s Chelsea career is one that is difficult to sum up. The Brazilian has been a regular feature in the side for four seasons now without ever truly graduating into a genuine stand-out performer.
There have been great goals and the odd sprinkling of star performances, but Oscar has struggled to maintain that level on a consistent basis and remains a somewhat divisive figure with fans at Stamford Bridge.
You only have to look to last weekend and his first-half FA Cup hat-trick at MK Dons to see what Oscar is capable of on his day. It was one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt and reminded fans of the player they thought they’d got when Oscar scored both goals in a 2-2 draw on his full debut against much more illustrious opposition in the shape of Juventus in the Champions League in 2012.
His second goal was a moment of pure magic as with one touch he took the ball out of the reach of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Pirlo before curling a 25 yard shot brilliantly past the diving Gianluigi Buffon.
In a couple of seconds, Oscar made two legends of the game look a little foolish and the Shed End had a new hero. That came just a couple of months after his £19.35 million move from Internacional and Oscar, who had only just turned 21, appeared to have the world at his feet and the natural ability to go right to the very top.
However, over three years on, and Oscar’s Chelsea career feels more like it has stagnated than hit the heights that many had predicted. That’s not entirely all down to him and it is no coincidence that his impressive early performances came under the stewardship of Roberto Di Matteo, the most attack-minded of his Chelsea bosses.
Di Matteo was happy to let the dynamic creative trio of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard go out and play together with a degree of freedom that certainly wasn’t granted by either Rafa Benitez or Jose Mourinho.
While Oscar was a fairly regular starter for both men, the impression was never given that either had complete faith in the Brazilian, certainly not enough to build their team around the man who filled the pivotal number 10 role.
Despite the odd dazzling display, he was often the fall guy when it came to the big games and he got to know the Stamford Bridge substitutes bench a little better than he would have liked.
Those magic moments became increasingly rare, but there were still glimpses of his class. Oscar put in a match-winning performance in a 3-0 win at Southampton in the 2013-14 season and scored twice against Arsenal later in the campaign.
His bright start to the following season earned him a new contract as Chelsea went on to win the title with Oscar making 26 Premier League starts, more than he’d managed in either of the previous years.
Lack of faith
However, Mourinho’s perceived lack of faith in Oscar was once again raised when he substituted the midfielder, who had scored the opening goal on the opening day of this season against Swansea, following the dismissal of Thibaut Courtois.
His subsequent slump in form was mirrored by the team and the lowest point of his Chelsea career came when he was subjected to boos following the dismissal of the Portuguese boss, which some Blues fans blamed on Oscar along with teammates Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas.
Re-invigoration under Hiddink
It certainly doesn’t seem a coincidence that the departure of Mourinho and arrival of Guus Hiddink has helped re-invigorate Oscar’s season. The Dutchman has simplified things and freed Oscar from the shackles that perhaps held him back under his former boss.
The number 10 role is key to any top team and Oscar now has the remainder of the season to produce more performances of the caliber that he displayed against MK Dons and prove that he is the man for the job going forward.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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