There can be little argument regarding the fact Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic was one of the best midfielders in the league last season.
PFA Player of The Year Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and club captain John Terry were all pivotal in the Blues' domestic success, with the Serbian powerhouse often overlooked for his contributions.
Matic formed a deadly partnership with Fabregas in the middle of the park, and while his teammates scored goals and enjoyed the limelight, he was more than content with playing a back seat role, preventing the opposition from exercising much influence.
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The Serb was right at the heart of Stamford Bridge and his commandeering, physical presence was one of the main reasons Chelsea had such a great season.
Terry was hailed excellent for his defensive responsibilites - but it could be argued Matic had a role to play in his captain's rejuvenation.
Seldom did players get past him - his defensive ability and strength was immense. Although Fabregas, his partner in Chelsea's two-man holding midfield, got much more attention, Matic was arguably the better midfielder, certainly the more consistent.
The 27-year-old enjoyed the greatest season of his career last year; this campaign, in contrast, he is having one of his worst.
His positional awareness looks sloppy when compared to his sharpness last season; his tackles are forced and clumsy, unlike his calculated and strong challenges of past. The Serb, simply, is a shadow of his former self.
A red card against West Ham in October, when Chelsea desperately needed a win, epitomised his dier campaign.
It's no coincidence that the fall in form of the west Londoner's Serbian enforcer coincides with their worst ever start to a season. Although most of their stars are misfiring, one can argue Chelsea miss the defensive presence of Matic most.
Three games unbeaten prior to their capitulation against Bournemouth on Sunday suggested Jose Mourinho's side are on the mend, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
However, their 2-0 win over Porto on Wednesday night to secure their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League hints at a revival yet, with Matic back to his solid self against the Portuguese side. Fans will only hope this marked his return to midfield dominance.
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