His creative abilities resulted in Mata winning Chelsea’s player of the season award for the last two campaigns. His passing accuracy didn’t see much change (although he did see more of the ball overall and in the final third, as can be seen on his player card, which also highlights his lack of defensive contribution). But last season was different for Mata in terms of goals – reaching double figures in the Premier League:
Juan Mata: Goals & Shots
Inside the Box
09/10 8 0.29 6.63 1.92 43.40% 71.70%
10/11 8 0.28 8.50 2.37 38.24% 70.59%
11/12 6 0.21 10.83 2.31 36.92% 58.46%
12/13 12 0.39 5.83 2.30 34.29% 54.29%
13/14 0 0.00 NA 1.19 9.09% 54.55%
Mata attempted a similar number of shots in comparison to the prior two seasons and hit the target with less frequency – so a drop should have been expected even before factoring in his infrequent use. Nonetheless, he was one of just 14 players across Europe’s top five leagues to reach double figures in both goals and assists, joining some of European football’s elite in this regard. There were four players in the Premier League that reached double figures in both categories (Mata, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney), four in La Liga (Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo), three in the Bundesliga (Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller and Jakub Blaszczykowski) and two in Serie A (Marek Hamsik and Francesco Totti), with Dimitri Payet the lone figure in Ligue 1 with the attacking statistical ‘double-double’. Manchester United will therefore own two of these players, with Wayne Rooney also looking set to repeat this feat this term.
Mata was also one of just three players to reach double figures in goals and combine this with creating 2.50 chances or more per 90 minutes in the Premier League last season – with the other two being Luis Suarez and Santi Cazorla – and only 14 players scored more than five goals and averaged more than 2.00 shot assists per 90. Therefore, even if Manchester United are overpaying for the player, Mata’s dual goal and creative threat has been rare in the Premier League.
What Juan Mata will require from David Moyes is a tactical re-adjustment, at least when players are returning to fitness – something that he has been unable to do with Shinji Kagawa. Moyes has favoured the 4-2-3-1 formation, so the main question will be whether Mata or Rooney would sit in behind van Persie. However, this is more of a good problem to have rather than a major issue, especially when Manchester United’s aim to improve its inventive ways, albeit with the caveat that Mata is unlikely to track back with frequency.
The club have scored fewer goals this season (1.63 goals per match this term compared to 2.26 goals per match last season) as they have shot with less frequency, attempting an average of 13.2 shots per match – compared to their 14.8 shots per match from last season. They have also seen a reduced conversion rate (15.3% to 12.4%). The obvious hope is that Mata will be able to assist (pardon the pun) the club in turning this around – and one of the key factors will be chance quality.
Manchester United led the league in clear-cut chance creation last season with 2.29 per match; however this season this has dropped to 1.05 big chances created per match – ranking 12th in the Premier League with just 23 big chances created. Comparing this season to the big teams in the league, as well as the teams ahead of Manchester United, highlights how much can be done in this department, with Liverpool (51), Man City (50), Arsenal (42), Spurs (37), WBA (26), Villa, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham (25), Fulham and Stoke (24) all creating more big chances than United.
This again highlights where Mata will have value. Aside from creating more big chances than all but eight Premier League players since the start of the 2011/12 season, he has also created more big chances than every Manchester United player since the start of last season – with his 17 ranking just ahead of van Persie (16) and Rooney (15) – as he also created more chances than Rooney’s 2.30 per 90 minutes over this period (United’s top creative player).
Whether Juan Mata will be enough for Manchester United to ensure a top four finish and, therefore, Champions League qualification for 2014/15 remains to be seen. The club are just six points off fourth; however the BSports Projections show that they have just an 18.7% chance at finishing in a Champions League spot – currently projected to finish sixth in the Premier League. Nonetheless, he’ll be just 26 in April so this isn’t exactly a panic buy – he’s a player in his prime that should have an impact both this season and beyond if utilised correctly.
For our take on Chelsea’s side of the Mata deal, click here.
The January transfer window is open and BSports will be tracking every Premier League transfer. For stats and analysis on moves this month, please visit the Stats Insights Transfer Centre.
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