Antonio Conte’s appointment has given Chelsea fans renewed hope of having a good 2016-17 campaign, as they hope the Italian will lead them into a year that includes a serious fight for the Premier League title.
The 2015-16 season was a disaster for the Blues, resulting in one of the worst title defences in history and their lowest ever finish (10th) in the hugely successful Roman Abramovich era.
The Chelsea owner is not a man who accepts failures and has acted swiftly by changing the management staff and backing his new head coach Antonio Conte in the transfer market with the signings of N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi.
Aside from the new arrivals, however, an old member of the squad is facing an equal need for a ‘fresh start’. That man is Oscar, and the Brazilian will hope to be, and has the potential to be, an essential part of the Antonio Conte juggernaut.
Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior, simply known as Oscar, has been a hugely frustrating figure at Stamford Bridge. His talent and skills are undeniable, but there is a strong feeling among the Chelsea faithful that he hasn’t fulfilled his immense potential, and the player has received heavy criticism from many in the stands as a result.
His career in SW6 has been plagued with inconsistency, as we have seen significant spells of frustration and profligacy with flashes of sheer brilliance in between.
So obvious are his talents that Jose Mourinho was willing to sell Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne in order to make Oscar the club’s undisputed number 10. He simply hasn’t lived up to the high expectations, but this could all change under Antonio Conte.
The arriving manager is a master tactician who appreciates a player’s versatility. Oscar can offer him exactly that.
It has been widely reported and also proven in pre-season games that Chelsea’s formation of choice under Antonio Conte will be a 4-2-4/4-4-2 hybrid, and Oscar could play in a variety of positions within this structure.
The 24-year-old would be competent in a two man central midfield if paired with a defensive midfielder like Kante or Matic against teams who sit deep and an attacking impetus is required, while against stronger sides he is also capable of playing alongside a target man striker, to drop deep and link play with the midfield.
On top of this flexibility and versatility in a single formation, Oscar also provides Conte with the option to switch to a 4-2-3-1 where he could play in his preferred position as a no. 10 or as a wide midfielder.
Even if playing a 4-3-3, there are roles Oscar can fulfil. The Brazil international would act as a traditional no. 8 in a three-man midfield or as a wide forward in the front-line. Very few attacking players in the world offer such versatility and flexibility, giving Oscar a big advantage in this Chelsea squad, while Conte is renowned for getting the best out of each of his players.
Oscar may not be a guaranteed first team starter at the start of the season, but with his qualities, he will surely have an increasing influence on the team as the season goes on.
Despite his inconsistencies in previous years, the player remains an indispensable member of the squad and a key figure in Chelsea’s challenge for the title.