As the new Premier League season fast approaches, so too does the annual collective clamour to finalise your Fantasy Football squads. If the “kid on Christmas Eve” cliché aptly personifies the feeling one will have come Friday night, the concluding of ones wittily named squad can be likened to the completing of ones list for Santa. One would think constant changing of the mind is at its most frequent when a five year old is asked to choose a few new toys once a year, but this isn’t the case. Indecisiveness is at its optimum when choosing your fantasy football squad – as evidenced by the sleepless nights and countless drafts thereafter.
Ironically, just like Christmas, monetary restrictions play a major role in intensifying the level of hesitation and uncertainty. Just as parents may balk at the price of an action man that will no doubt end up lost or broke after ten days anyway, I flinch at the fact that Sturridge is priced at £11.5m, especially when you take into consideration he may very well realise the same fate – lost or broken.
Just like in the game, value for money is currently hard to come by in the real world, need verification? Luiz £50m, McCormack £11m, Mangala £32m and lets not forget Fellaini £27.5m. One fee that represents good value through both facets of fact and fiction was/is £37m for Mata who is respectively priced at just £9 million in the mythical game.
With Luis Van Gaal set to play 3-5-2 Juan Mata will be given the green light to conduct the Dutchman’s orchestra in his favoured position, just behind a front two paring of Rooney and Van Perise. While Mata can adeptly play as a modern wing forward, as was the case for the majority of last season under Moyes, his finest performances haven always been I his preferred no. 10 role. The dynamic Spaniard is a self-professed connoisseur of the trequartista role only recently publicly applying for a more central role this season.
“If I play behind the two strikers it’s a good position (for me)….”I can look for the ball, I can try to assist or score, so I will try my best.”
Mata’s application was duly noted and his wish was granted with him playing and impressing in his favoured central role throughout the successful pre-season tour of the US scoring where he scored two goals in five appearances. It is no surprise to see Mata prosper in a more central role. Having played as a 10 under both Villas-Boas and then Di Matteo he collected Chelsea’s player of the year award for two consecutive seasons as well as being nominated for the inaugural Premier League player of the year in 2013. So good was Mata at Chelsea that it would have been unfathomable to think he could end up at United prior to Mourinho’s return to the Bridge.
Nonetheless, Mourinho and his anti-football philosophy deemed Mata surplus to requirements seemingly having no role for a number 10 in his preferred 4-4-3 formation. While Mourinho studied and worked under Van Gaal at Barca, both have conflicting views on how the beautiful game (or not so beautiful under Mourinho) should be played. Mourinho’s game-plan is inherently associated with negative tactics often focusing on counter attacking as the most offensive form of attack, while Van Gaal favours a more controlled style of play based on possession, passing and movement.
So, while Mata found a foe in Mourinho he has most certainly found a friend in Van Gaal. Having been an advocate of 4-3-3 for the majority of his managerial career, Van Gaal has elected to change, first, his Netherlands side and now United to a 3-5-2. What remains consistent in both systems is his propensity to favour a no. 10 ala Sneijder who is not solely based on pace, but more technique, control and vision.
Mata will undoubtedly be one of the first names on the team-sheet under Van Gaal with the 3-5-2 formation almost being systematically set up to cater him Rooney and Van Persie together in their favoured positions. Having now had 8 months to settle in, along with the reuniting of a former friend in Herrera to complete the “three amigos” with De Gea, I fully expect Mata to kick on and build on his impressive return of 6 goals and 4 assists in just 14 appearances last season.
Mata will be afforded the luxury of space playing in between the lines and with the shackles of defensive duties slightly less stringent he will prosper in his favoured central role. The dynamic Spanish schemer has the potential to unlock the most barricaded of back lines with his subtle touch, majestic movement and precision passing, a trait so evidently absent last season.
Having been played in an unfavoured inverted wing forward position under Moyes last season, it is drastic to suggest that Mata’s aforementioned return will not be significantly improved upon. With the mouth watering prospect of forming a formidable partnership with Rooney and Van Perise it is with genuine Christmas like excitement that I look forward to the new season – Mata is the main reason behind this – Mata is my modern day action man.
At £9 million Mata is a snip, in fact, at £37m Mata is value for money. Mata in the middle is a must. If we are to be anyway successful this season (“successful” being highly subjective) Mata will be central, and not just in his position but his performance.
No prizes for guessing who is skipper of my Fantasy Football team??