Nemanja Mati a s performances last season may not be the ones that resulted in many goals but without doubt they were the ones that helped Chelsea FC win its first Premier League title in 5 years. The Great Wall of Chelsea may not be a goal scorer but he is a crucial team player who forms the connecting link between the defence and the attack. His unswerving performances last season mean that he has the unwavering trust of Jose Mourinho. Matic is as eminent a part of the Chelsea side as Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, John Terry or Branislav Ivanovi . The Serbian star in his second homecoming to Chelsea has truly justified his presence as an important cog in Mourinhoa s title winning team.

Nemanja Matic first signed for Chelsea as a 21 year old midfielder from KoA?ice, a Slovak football club, in 2009 for A?1.5m and was then loaned out to Dutch feeder club Vitesse Arnhem in 2010. He failed to cut ice with the Chelsea management and found his way out to Portuguese giants Benfica in a swap deal that brought David Luiz to Chelsea. Matic discovered his real self at Benfica under the tutelage of manager Jorge Jesus, who turned Mati from a playmaker into a defensive midfielder. His form at Benfica made him the top target for Mourinho during the January 2014 transfer window, when he rejoined Chelsea for a fee of A?21m. Since then there has been no looking back for him.

Mati a s comeback to Stamford Bridge has been very advantageous for the team. He has become the spine of the defensive front of the team and acts as a tall barrier for anyone who dares to come close to Chelsea’s first third. Mati played 49 matches in the last season for the domestic double winning side.

Nemanja Matic is the player on whom the team can truly depend. He provides that defensive edge and can swiftly break the oppositiona s attack. His tall figure gives him the edge in winning the ball in the air and can accurately provide long passes without much ado. He is a man of great stamina as he played for full 90 minutes in 33 out of 36 matches in the Premier League. Matic made his absence felt in the team when they lost 2-1 at Newcastle United and his presence felt well with the only goal for the team he made this season against Stoke city giving Chelsea its much needed goal at that time.

Matic tirelessly led Chelseaa s Premiership winning campaign as the Premier Leaguea s best defensive midfielder in the 2014-15 season. If we take a look at the statistics, he made 129 clearances at 3.6 per game, 73 interceptions at 2 per game, and 101 tackles at 2.8 per game along with creating 24 chances for Chelsea, the best for a defensive midfielder in the Premier League last season. In comparison, Southamptona s Morgan Schneiderlin (who was another one of the best defensive midfielders of the last Premier League season) made 47 clearances at 1.8 per game, 63 interceptions at 2.4 per game, 79 tackles at 3 per game and created 20 chances for his team.

Chelsea vs Manchester United .

Nemanja Mati was not only the Premier Leaguea s best defensive midfielder, but his performances rate him as the best defensive midfielder in Europe as well. If we compare Mati with other defensive midfielders in Europe and their performances in their respective leagues, then in the last season, Mati played the most number of matches among all of them. The Serb played 36 matches in the Premier League, Sergio Busquets of Barcelona being the next who played 33 and Yaya Toure of Manchester City played 29 matches. Mati completed 86% of the passes which is close to Philipp Lahm of Bayern Munich completing 89% passes and De Rossi of Roma with 88%. The Chelsea midfielder won 51% duels on an average, bettered only by Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano of Barcelona who both have 54% as average duels won. If we compare the headed duels then with 64%, Mati is the best in Europe. He has impressive 129 clearances as compared to 83 of Daniele De Rossi of Roma and 48 of Javier Mascherano of Barcelona. Matic has 73 interceptions to his name with Daniele De Rossi being the next best with 64 and Sergio Busquets with 50. Mati made 101 tackles as against 74 of Arturo Vidal of Juventus and 69 of Sergio Busquets. This statistical comparison clearly makes him the best defensive midfielder in the world.

Arsenal v Chelsea

Nemanja Mati a s ultimate prize for his outstanding performances came in the form of Chelsea dominating the Professional Footballera s Associationa s Premier League Team Of the Year and with Matica s inclusion in the team with the likes of Eden Hazard, Alexis SA?nchez and Philippe Coutinho. Mourinho believes in the Serbiana s talents so much that he once told the reporters that he would have never let Mati leave had he been Chelseaa s manager in 2011. However, Mati a s season also had some moments to forget like the one where he pushed Ashley Barnes to the turf that led to his suspension for two games. Mourinhoa s rotation policy took a toll on Mati as well, as his performances dipped along with Chelseaa s as the season reached towards its end. He was visibly tired as Chelsea pushed itself over the finishing line. To get the best out of him, Mourinho has to give Mati much needed rest between the crucial matches and keep him fresh for the important ones. Nemanja Mati undoubtedly will hold the key for Chelseaa s title defence and pursuit towards Champions League glory as well.

By Dr. Sanya Singh