Juan Mata should trust Jose Mourinho, says Chelsea coach
Juan Mata has been urged to remain patient and trust Jose Mourinho, despite struggling to force his way into the Chelsea first team this season.
Steve Holland, who works as an assistant to Mourinho, has pointed to the example of Cristiano Ronaldo as a sign of how the Special One's style can help improve players.
Soon after Mourinho's appointment, rumours emerged he was not a fan of the Spanish playmaker's style of play. That appears to have been confirmed, with Mata's opportunities limited, so much so last season's player of the year failed to even be included among the substitutes for Chelsea's victory over Fulham at the weekend.
Mata will have a chance to impress tomorrow when the Blues take on Swindon in the Capital One Cup. However, Holland believes the Spain international may be able to take his game further under Mourinho, pointing to the example of Ronaldo, with whom Mourinho worked at Real Madrid.
"He (Mourinho) is always pushing, pushing the players to the maximum every day," Holland said.
"That's evident not just in his teams, but in the individuals he's worked with.
"If you look Jose's three-year period working with Ronaldo, he's really evolved as an individual. He's not just a talented dribbler and runner with the ball who can score goals.
"He has become a top-level match-winner who wants to run in behind, make runs, threaten the goal.
"I don't think that just happens. That comes with pushing, even if it's the best.
"On a day-to-day basis he (Mourinho) will be pushing for signs of improvement, working to progress the individual but ultimately for the benefit of the team."
Mourinho has spoken of a dislike of Chelsea's recent playing style and the project of adapting it.
With Oscar Mourinho's preferred playmaking number 10, the left-footed Mata is tasked with a wide right role which necessitates tracking back in defence.
Holland referred to Mata performing a similar role under Andre Villas-Boas in his first season at Chelsea following his signing from Valencia, before he was made the attacking lynch-pin under Roberto Di Matteo, a role he continued last term under Rafael Benitez.
"Having to adapt - and Jose has used that phrase - is nothing particularly new here," Holland added.
"It's another adaptation that is required. Juan has shown in his time here that he's more than capable of doing that. And I'm sure that will be the case this time."
As part of the style overhaul, Mourinho must manage a host of attacking talent in three strikers - Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba - and six attack-minded midfielders players - Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, Andre Schurrle and Kevin de Bruyne.
When Mourinho brought Inter Milan to Stamford Bridge en route to winning the 2010 Champions League, Holland recalls an attacking quartet of Goran Pandev, Diego Milito, Eto'o and Wesley Sneijder who worked like "Trojans" defensively.
More recently at Real Madrid, Mourinho had a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal, too.
"The challenge, when the balance is loaded offensively like that, is that you don't just play with the ball, you have to play without the ball as well," Holland said.
"That's a challenge he (Mourinho) clearly managed to do (at Real Madrid), given the results that he had.
"He's quite clear in his mind, given the success he's had, what is his recipe for success. I'm quite sure that can be achieved here as well."
Belfast Telegraph Digital