How Valuable Is Matic To Conte’s Plans For Next Season

Antonio Conte has taken charge of Chelsea just a few days after his Italian team was knocked out of the European championship by World Champions Germany. He will take over a side completely shattered after the horrific last season where they spent more time hovering over the drop zone then competing at the top. It was only after Guus Hiddink was brought in to replace Jose Mourinho that the ship steadied a bit but even for the Dutchman it was too late, although he did manage to get Chelsea in the top half, a big achievement given where they were after a couple of months.

Conte’s Chelsea lost their first pre-season game against Rapid Vienna 2-0 on 16th July, however, they bounced back with a 3-0 victory over RZ Pellets recently. They will now take on Liverpool next Thursday. Conte will be a worried man, given how poorly someone of the Chelsea players performed last season. Players like Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic were a shadow of themselves from the 2014-2015 title winning season. Matic who was a rock in central midfield in his debut season for the Blues, he looked sluggish and lacked the energy needed to screen the back four.

The arrival of French midfielder N’Golo Kante from Leicester this week has thrown Matic’s future in further doubt. There are reports circulating in the media that if Juventus sell Pogba to Manchester United, they will mark Matic as their primary replacement for the French superstar. Due to the doubts surrounding the formation, Conte is going to use next season, one feels the Italian will like to keep the Serb as he still has a lot to offer to the team.

It’s very likely that we will see the combination of Kante and Fabregas as the central defensive partnership. While Matic is an excellent ball player, there are still doubts regarding his ball retrieving abilities. Looking at last season’s stats we see that Kante made 156 interceptions compared to 67 made by Matic. The former Leicester City midfielder also won an impressive 125 tackles, comfortably beating Matic’s total of 63.

Keeping Matic will only help Conte keep the competition alive in central midfield. The Serbian was one of the standout players during the 2014-2015 season and could still return to his best form under the management of Antonio Conte. However if Pogba does move to Manchester United, Juventus will come calling with a big offer, which might just be too difficult to refuse. Matic will be worried regarding his place in the team and with Kante arriving, those concerns would have just increased many folds.

If Conte can afford to keep him, then he should try his level best because having two solid defensive midfielders in the squad will be very helpful when shutting out opponents and keeping things tight in the middle. He will have the option of playing both Kante and Matic together when the tide is against them.

Written by Anurag Singh

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