Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic: Version 2.0 of the defensive-midfielder position 0

Just quickly, because there’s nothing original in noting just how influential Nemanja Matic is on Chelsea.

Nemanja Matic: Touches vs Stoke.

Nemanja Matic: Touches vs Stoke.

Prior to Monday Night Football, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville gleefully took apart the midfield performance from the Liverpool/Arsenal game twenty-fours earlier - and didn’t that provide the most perfect context to Matic’s performance?

In an area in which Mathieu Flamini et al had been so flimsy a day before, Matic was imperious against Stoke City.  The Serbian’s size gets mentioned a lot, but his overall ability doesn’t and his passing-range probably isn’t given the deference that it’s owed.

Nemanja Matic: Passing vs Stoke (88%).

Nemanja Matic: Passing vs Stoke (88%).

The key point ingredient in Chelsea’s success this season is not individual talent - relevant though it is - but the cohesiveness with which the side operates.  The front-five are given a steady platform of possession to work from and the defensive five are very rarely put under sustained pressure by anybody.

No, Nemanja Matic isn’t the sole reason for that, but he is the mid-point of this side and he is equally important to Jose Mourinho in both directions.   More specifically, does anybody believe that Cesc Fabregas would be playing with such freedom if Matic wasn’t securing the areas behind him?

The belief used to be that every side needed a Claude Makelele-type in deep-midfield, but that’s no longer really true - or, at least, contemporary managers don’t reserve a spot in their team for a purely reductive player anymore .  Matic represents the 2.0 of that footballer: he has all the destructive, screening qualities, but he’s also technically broad enough to be in active part of the attacking phases.

He isn’t the first, but he’s one of the finest examples of this new breed of player.

Because he began his career as a more attack-orientated player, he does sometimes exhibit positional naivety (Liverpool away, for example), but on an attribute-by-attribute basis there’s really nothing he does badly.

(Graphics via Squawka)

For Squawka: Why Michael Carrick is the most polarising player in English football.

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