Brazil 2014: Oscar's poor form for Chelsea becoming a real concern
Chelsea's 2-1 home defeat to the lowly Sunderland on Saturday pushed the Blues into the psychological abyss, with their title aspirations taking heavy damage, and Jose Mourinho's proud 78-game unbeaten run obliterated by former striker Fabio Borini's late, contentious penalty.
It was the climax of a particularly poor patch of results for the Champions League semi-finalists, and was another in a long line of sub-par performances from first choice number 10, Oscar.
The 22-year-old has barely had an impact on his Chelsea team for months, and has only completed the 90 minutes seven times all season in the Premier League. Considered by most world cup betting previews and tips to be a key component of Brazil's push for their 6th World Cup, it is evident that the former Internacional man has lost the magic.
Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari has already come out in defence of both Neymar and Paulinho concerning their club form this week, but considering there are only 51 days left until this summer's World Cup kicks off, the Seleção's secret weapon, Oscar, is worryingly become an ineffective one.
Many will point to the amount of football he has played over the past two seasons, with the attacker playing a part in 110 club matches for the Blues in just two years, and they would have a point. At 22, he is susceptible to burnout, something that would certainly go some way in explaining his lack of form.
But Belgian winger Eden Hazard has only played two games less than his Brazilian teammate, and has gone from strength to strength, being compared to the likes of Crisitano Ronaldo and Leo Messi this year. The 23-year-old has taken the step up to the next level, while Oscar seems stuck in first gear.
The match against Sunderland was a good example of this, as in the absence of Hazard, the Blues looked to Oscar to unlock the stubborn Black Cats defence; but this he failed to do.
Not for a lack of time and space did Oscar not provide the answer for the desperate Blues, with the midfielder picking the ball up in the final third on numerous occasions, but choosing the wrong option, or trying an ill-conceived shot from too far out. He did not take the game by the scruff of the neck, and provide the much-needed cutting edge, and was hauled off on the 58 minute mark for Demba Ba as Mourinho went for battering ram, with his silenced pistol perennially jammed.
Oscar has only three goals to his name in the league since the turn of the year and, even more worryingly, just three assists. He will be looked to to provide the killer pass in the two-legged Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid this month, and Chelsea will be praying for a return to prominence from their little maestro. The same goes for Scolari and Brazil, who will need their secret weapon back to his best as soon as possible.
Article by Tom Gatehouse.