With a strong squad under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea has had great stability in terms of performance in all competitions this season.
The Blues are now leading in the Barclays Premier League, as well as have comfortably cruised into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as the winner of group G. Chelsea has also booked a place in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup after beating Derby County.
Many have been admiring the depth of Chelsea’s current squad, inclusive of world-class players on the bench and some even suggest that no one is irreplaceable within Chelsea’s starting line-up at this stage. However, in my opinion, there is only one player in the squad who is irreplaceable. He is neither the top-scorer Diego Costa nor the player with the most number of assists (Cesc Fabregas). Instead, he is the unsung hero of the team: Nemanja Matic.
The team has played 25 games in this season until now. Matic has started in 22 of them and came on as a substitute in 2 of them. The only game that he missed was the league game against Newcastle at St. James’ Park, due to suspension, in which we suffered the only loss of the season with a 2-1 defeat. Featuring in almost every game this season, it is shown that Matic has occupied a vital position in midfield under Jose’s plans.
Being described as a “giant” by Mourinho, he can win headers in midfield. He also does dirty jobs for the team’s benefit, as shown by the total of 35 fouls committed by him this season, more than any other players in the team. As shown in the defeat against Newcastle, the midfield without Matic is unable to provide a strong protection line in front of the back four and unable to act as a linkage between the back and the front.
Matic does not only contribute on the defensive side as he has already scored three goals for the team this season. Similar is the goal tally of Fabregas and is more than any other player playing as a defensive midfielder. Although the team has a number of players who can play as defensive midfielders, no one can provide such an all-rounded performance as Matic.
Matic’s main competitors include Mikel and Ramires. Mikel can provide fair performance in defensive terms, yet most of his passes are back-passes and they lack creativity, slowing down the team’s counter attacks in various cases. Ramires is a quick player with good stamina, yet his form has been fluctuating recently due to injury and he is unable to win headers in the midfield and mark his presence. It is not optimistic that they are able to take over Matic’s role in defensive midfield.
All in all, Matic is proved to be an irreplaceable player in the Chelsea midfield. On the road of title challenge, it is vital that he stays healthy, injury free and maintains good form. With the presence of Matic, Fabregas can go forward and help in attacking without worrying too much about defensive issues.
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Edited By: Harshal Ahire