How Chelsea's £21m signing compares to Paulinho, Lucas, Flamini

Nemanja Matic

Chelsea have confirmed the capture of Benfica's battler, but how does he compare to Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool & Arsenal's destroyers?

Tenacious midfielder Nemanja Matic, 25, has returned to a club he has unfinished business with - Chelsea - after exiting Stamford Bridge in 2011 in a player-plus £21m swap-deal that saw Brazilian defender David Luiz come the other way from Benfica.

Three years on, with a reported £21m fee (again) heading to the Estadio da Luz, the Blues secure the player's signature for a second time - with Jose Mourinho cited by Matic to Benfica TV to have been the main influencing factor in the first major Premier League acquisition of the mid-season market.

On his winter window recruit, Mourinho is quoted by the club's official website to have said: 'I am very pleased that Nemanja is returning to Chelsea. He has grown as a player in Portugal and has become a fantastic all-round midfielder. I am sure he will become a very important member of the squad and help us to achieve our ambitions.'

Because of Matic's performances in Portugal and in Europe, many began to covet his services, including Manchester United but, now that he is a Blue, how does his form from this season compare to others in the role he will be playing? Namely; Arsenal's terrier Mathieu Flamini, Liverpool defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva and Tottenham Hotspur's summer signing Paulinho?

On looks alone, Matic has an edge. Physically, he is an impressive footballer and considering his height; 6ft 4in, weight; 13 stones and natural muscular strength, it is easy to see why Mourinho, a coach renowned for his admiration of imposing and powerful athletes, was such an admirer.

He also towers over his rivals: Flamini (5ft 8in, 10 stone and five pounds), Lucas (5ft 10in, 11 stones and seven pounds) and Paulinho (5ft 11in, 11 stones and eight pounds) would all lose out when it comes to physical tussles, however, football is not played on brutish behaviour alone.

PlayerGamesMinsFoul conTackleYel/RedAerialPass lngPass AccAvg pass
Matic 6 (CL) 540 10 16 1/0 8/20 18m 83% 52
Flamini 16 (PL) 963 16 28 6/0 14/23 17m 92% 42
Lucas 18 (PL) 1,532 36 74 5/0 46/75 17m 91% 63
Paulinho 17 (PL) 1,444 17 39 4/1 9/41 16m 85% 46

It is important to differentiate between the quality of the data obtained. For the three Premier League participants, figures were used that were gleaned from that respective league, but in the case of Matic, Champions League football data has been used, where the level of competition is arguably higher - particularly in the case of Benfica, who were drawn with Paris Saint Germain, Anderlecht and Olympiacos in the group stage.

Despite this gulf, Matic still registered comparable statistics to those we see in England from a handful of elite operators in his position. There is little to separate their average passing length, Matic has a passing accuracy that is similar to Paulinho's but far behind that of Flamini and Lucas, yet attempts the second most amount of passes, after Liverpool's Brazilian.

Interestingly, Lucas also dominates the tackles attempted category, with an average of one every 20 minutes, Matic completes a challenge once every 33 minutes, Paulinho is once every 37 minutes, while Flamini is once per 60 minutes.

On top of this, Matic also completes an interception, on average, 1.7 times every game, clears the ball effectively once every match and, offensively, creates a goal-scoring chance 0.7 times every 90 minutes.

PlayerInterceptionEff ClearanceChances
Mathieu Flamini 1.44 2.13 0.31
PlayerInterceptionEff ClearanceChances
   Lucas Leiva    2.67 2.61 0.61
PlayerInterceptionEff ClearanceChances
      Paulinho      1.06 1.12 1.00

It is clear that Matic belongs in the highest echelons of football in a top domestic league having excelled when afforded regular first-team football, but in order to recreate his form in Portugal's Liga Sagres and the Champions League this year, he must feature on a week-by-week basis for Mourinho - as he likely will do considering his price-tag.

image: © Yoca91

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