Football

Nemanja Matic signing could be a tactical masterstroke

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Chelsea signed Nemanja Matic back in 2009 for a solitary fee of £1.5m from MFK Kosice.

This week, after exchanging him plus £26m for David Luiz with Benfica in 2011, the Blues have re-signed, for £22m, a midfielder who left the Bridge as a fairly anonymous make-weight but returns as one of the outstanding midfield players of this season.

More than that though, he is precisely the kind of holding midfield player Chelsea's midfield need. 

In the 4-2-3-1 system, with three forward midfielders behind the lone striker, the two defensive, or holding, midfield players must be both capable in the art of defence, especially in terms of positioning and awareness, but also in the quick recycling of possession to the forward line. 

Although it also suits possession football, the 4-2-3-1 system is designed primarily a counter-attacking system, best suited to team with fast, direct forwards who aim to turn defensive into attack with a few simple passes and runs, rotating around the lone forward who acts as a pivot. With the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Juan Mata, and Andre Schurrle, operating behind the lone striker, Chelsea have an abundance of players who can do just this.

What they have lacked is players consistently quickly recycling possession from the defensive line up to the forward players, in order to take full advantage of their speed on the counter attack.

Hazard and Oscar in particular thrive on having the ball, after being won by a defender, quickly zipped into their feet in the wide areas, where they act as inside forwards leading the attack by cutting inside with incisive runs and dribbling skills.

This is the kind of football Mourinho wants Chelsea to play, and other managers using the same system have before him, and it is when playing this style of football that Chelsea always look at their most exciting best.

However, too often Chelsea do not recycle possession quick enough once won in defence, dwell and labour in possession, and end up passing the ball around their defensive line with little or no penetration for the best part of minutes. Nemanja Matic is a player who can change all of that. 

As well as being an astute defender, particularly in his tough tackling and excellent reading of the game, Matic is also an excellent passer of the ball - both short and long. In six Champions League appearances this season for Benfica, Matic has a passing accuracy of 83%.

Crucially from a tactical point of view, 70% of those 258 successful passes in the competition have been forward passes. This is significantly higher than regular defensive midfield Chelsea starters Frank Lampard (54%) Ramires (65%), and John Obi Mikel (56%) in the Champions League this season. Further Matic has launched 24 successful long balls in his six games for Benfica in the competition this season, a statistic that from the Chelsea team only Lampard can better (42).

What those statistics indicate is that Matic is a player who is highly capable of consistently receiving or winning the ball, and getting it accurately forward up the pitch.  A player who can turn and launch counter attacks with accuracy and consistently, driving Chelsea onto the front foot in an instant with more frequency than any of the current crop of holding midfielders do. 

What this £22m (re-)signing will bring to this Chelsea side is a player who has all the defensive qualities needed to play a holding role in Chelsea's 4-2-3-1 system, but also a player who can recycle possession and distribute the ball quickly to Chelsea's world-class forwards and take full advantage of their counter-attacking abilities to really make their system work.

It is an astute tactical buy from Chelsea, who's accountants will no doubt be wishing that the club weren't quite so quick to let Nemanja Matic leave in 2011. 


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Topics:
Nemanja Matic
Premier League
Chelsea
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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