Juan Mata played a starring role in our 2-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday, and the diminutive Spaniard believes his impressive form of late is largely down to the rest he was given during the recent international break.
It was from Mata’s free-kick that Fernando Torres volleyed us into a first-half lead at the Emirates, and after Gervinho had drawn the hosts level shortly before the break, last season’s Player of the Year scored the decisive goal, curling another free-kick beyond Vito Mannone.
Having played at least some part in almost all of our matches last season, Mata’s summer was taken up representing Spain at both the European Championships and London Olympics, ensuring the two-week break he was given by Roberto Di Matteo was long overdue.
‘It was a nice break for me,’ he said. ‘I had two weeks resting, trying to get away from football, and it worked well because of a good run for the team, where we went top of the league.
‘It was nice just to spend some time with my friends and family. Before the rest I didn’t feel bad, but it’s a long season with so many games, so it will be good for me.’
Since returning, the playmaker has looked revitalised, while his relationship and understanding with Eden Hazard and Oscar appears to be growing by the game.
However, while he is enjoying his role in what is a new-look side, particularly from an attacking perspective, in terms of our objectives, very little has changed.
‘I like to play with people like Oscar and Hazard,’ he explained. ‘They like to play football the same way as me, we understand each other well and hopefully we can do even better.
‘I like to play with the ball, with freedom and to try to get some assists. It’s what we are trying to do and we are having some good results.
‘The main aim for us is to win, and if we can do that with a good performance it’s even better for the team and the supporters.’
Much was made of the free-kick which saw us bring an end to Arsenal’s unbeaten start to the campaign, and whether or not Mata’s delivery had taken a touch off Laurent Koscielny.
The 24-year-old, though, was simply pleased to have played his part, while also paying tribute to the performance of Torres.
‘I tried to aim to the second post because it’s difficult for the goalkeeper, but it doesn’t matter who scores, the most important thing is that we win,’ said Mata.
‘I love to play with Fernando, for me he’s one of the best strikers, he’s doing very well at the moment and he’s going to be very important for us and score a lot of goals.’