The Puzzling Story of Matić
THE PUZZLING STORY OF MATIC
Not long ago, Matić was a dead man; he was no longer the same they said. I was struck by his sudden fall from grace. I could have understood if he was labled as average, but a liability? I couldn’t take that. From the best central midfielder to the most underperforming midfielder, surely not even Mourinho’s mojo deteriorated that quickly.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
If you look back at our title-winning season, Matić was ever-present in that midfield and did the donkey work solely. Cesc was tidy in position and when he messed up, Maticć was equal to the task. I thought he was burning slowly. After that red card against Burnley, he was never the same. The signs were coming as Chelsea were playing badly and Fábregas had fallen prey to the December syndrome (terrible form) which hammered more on his midfield combo partner who was burning as well. In short, I thought he got burnt out covering the magic hat who had lost shape and couldn’t withstand the intensity Mourinho demanded. Aside from being burnt out, the atmosphere at the club got to him as well. It’s like he lost the recipe on how to play football… he was devoid of confidence and that pushed him to overdo things. There was no remedy when the confidence never came back and there were only two solutions: sell him or give him a chance under new tutorage.
WHAT HAS CHANGED NOW
At the start of the season, he looked the same unrecognizable player who was struggling to blend in again. Now that we’ve switched to a new formation (3-4-3) it has allowed pressing from the front and not sitting deep like in other seasons before, he’s looked like the Matić of old. The arrival of Kanté has liberated him and he’s playing with freedom and responsibility. Him and Kanté have brought the dynamism to our midfield because they know when to cover for each other and when to thwart the opponent from the front. When we have the ball, we mostly have a 4-man midfield that helps in fluidity and generally stretching our play. This gives Matić many options to pass the ball to the front three with their movements giving him more options to pass the ball quickly. The sort of movement by the wingbacks and our front three has also exposed us to the other side of him: he’s being a vital player when he drives forward. As much as we’ve raved about his renaissance, there is also a new dimension to his game (assists). The beast is back and we hope he sustains his form and pushes us to higher heights.
Author: DAVIES JR LUKONDE, @LUKONDE_JR