Tactic Talk: Mata pulls strings in Chelsea win

Chelsea ended a five-year hoodoo in home league fixtures against Everton with a 3-1 victory over The Toffees at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. As the hosts kept up their pursuit of Manchester United and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, summer signing Juan Mata continued to shine for Andre Villas-Boas’ side. The Spanish international put in another productive performance as he made key contributions to two of his side’s three goals.

Starting on the left of a three-pronged attack, Mata was afforded the freedom to move infield. In a side criticised last season for lacking creativity in the final third, the former Valencia man was instrumental as the Blues looked to break the deadlock. Receiving the ball centrally, Mata’s lofted pass was met by an advancing Ashley Cole, whose deft chip found the head of Daniel Sturridge who netted Chelsea’s opener and his fourth of the season.

The hosts doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time through captain John Terry and began the second half looking to build on their advantage. Having seen title rivals Manchester United drop points away to Liverpool in the earlier fixture, Villas-Boas’ side looked to seal the three points at the Bridge. Mata again played a pivotal role in Chelsea’s third as he traded passes with Blues forward Didier Drogba, before driving down the left flank and executing a pinpoint cross to Ramires, who converted after one of his trademark bursts from midfield.

As Chelsea completed a satisfactory afternoon at Stamford Bridge, the performance of Mata was key to the hosts establishing a level of dominance comparable to that seen in recent years when the Blues have challenged for honours. Villas-Boas was looking to introduce a faster pace and more pressure higher up the pitch, and Mata’s contribution typified this approach. His 28 successful passes in the attacking third were more than any other player for either side. Having had a crucial involvement in both of Chelsea’s goals scored in open play, Mata’s form should make him an important figure in a Blues side looking to bounce back from a barren campaign in 2010/11.

While much of the pre-match build up was focussed on Daniel Sturridge’s England credentials, his combination with fellow wide man Mata, either side of Drogba in the Chelsea front line, saw the Blues seal a comfortable win at Stamford Bridge. Having impressed with his individual performance, Mata is quickly looking to prove his importance to his new side as they look to pursue honours once again. The Spaniard has been praised publicly by his teammates in recent weeks and would appear to have already established himself as a key figure in Villas-Boas’ Chelsea revolution. With a wealth of attacking options available to the Blues boss, Mata continues to set the benchmark for his colleagues in West London.

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