Radja Nainggolan’s performances this season for Roma have resulted in him being linked with a move to Chelsea. He is reportedly one of incoming manager Antonio Conte’s top targets as he looks to take the fallen champions back to the summit of the Premier League.
Tenacious, passionate, technical and hard. Four words that come closest to describing the kind of players Conte loves to have in his team. The Belgian hardman is as close as they come to a Conte player. Radja Nainggolan does bear some similarities to the incoming Chelsea manager as well, like their ‘never say die’ attitude and their mentality of fighting till the very end. Nainggolan has almost everything that any manager would look for in a midfielder.
His exploits at Roma haven’t gone unnoticed by the Chelsea board, and reports suggest that a deal has already been agreed. If that is really the case, the Chelsea midfield will see an upgrade in quality. Nainggolan’s skill set doesn’t just involve the odd crunching tackle – the Belgian is a skilled technical player with superb vision and an eye for a pass. He also scores the occasional goal, when he decides to bomb forward.
Nainggolan is a ball winner, and a very good one at that. His ability to win the battle in midfield and his versatility makes him an asset to any team. After the way things have gone this season, Nainggolan can be assured of a place in Chelsea’s midfield.
Nainggolan’s role in Chelsea
Fabregas is the creator of this team. He builds the attacks from deep and sets moves into motion. He (along with most others) have had an abysmal season at Stamford Bridge. Ceesc hasn’t been able to weave his magic as he did last year. Long balls, through balls and starting counter attacks all began with Fabregas. However, one of the key reasons that allowed the Spaniard to produce such great performances last year was the presence of Nemaja Matic beside him.
Last season, he was one of Chelsea’s best players. The season before, probably the best. The big Serb did most of the ‘dirty work’. For every beautiful pass by Fabregas, there was a crunching tackle or a small battle fought by Matic to regain and retain possession of the ball. His lack of pace would often go unnoticed because of his fantastic reading of the game. Needless to say, this season had been terrible, one marred with inconsistency and injuries. His defensive frailties caused the Chelsea defence a lot of problems early in the season, and it is yet to be seen whether he will stay on under Conte.
The role Matic had played so well last season will be the one Nainggolan will be expected to play next season. Here are three ways that Nainggolan may be used in Conte’s Chelsea squad.
3-5-2: Nainggolan partners Loftus Cheek
The 3-5-2 formation is one which Conte has used to great success at Juventus. It is likely he will use the same on his arrival at Chelsea, given his preference for a deep lying play maker flanked by two energetic midfielders adept in both attack and defence.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been earmarked for great things by Chelsea, will likely play the same role that Pogba did for Conte at Juventus. He and Nainggolan will be assigned the task to cover up after Fabregas, make space for him and assist the wingers on their respective flanks. Nainggolan will also have to push forward from defensive positions.
4-2-4: First line of defence
Conte has also been known to adopt a 4-2-4 formation in some cases. This type of formation would see Nainggolan be used more as a defensive midfielder. He can also be deployed on the left side, also knows as the ‘mezzala’ position, which means ‘half winger’.
This formation would see Fabregas and Nainggolan pairing up in the center of midfield, with Nainggolan focusing on playing the same kind of role which Matic and Mikel play for Chelsea. He will act as the first line of defence for Chelsea. He can also play long passes higher up the pitch and make late runs into the box. If the fullbacks were to bombard forward, he would just slip in between the centre-backs and secure the defence by pushing them out wide.
4-4-2: Box-to-Box midfielder
In this traditional formation, Nainaggolan will have more of a box to box midfielder role where he will be expected to be involved in both attacking and defensive aspects of the game. The 28-year-old will be extremely useful in this role, having performed the role excellently for Roma and Belgium in recent seasons. He will have to launch counter attacks, push upwards from deep defensive positions and take the game forward. When Chelsea aren’t in posession of the ball, he will have to get on the defensive and act as a shield to the back four, looking to break up the play of the opposition.