Why this midfielder is the key cog in Chelsea's title charge

Champions League Pitch

Nemanja Matic's arrival in January has coincided with a more cohesive Chelsea midfield unit and also provided more assurance at the back.

 

Chelsea's crushing 6-0 demolition job of Arsenal was born out of Jose Mourinho's counter attacking principles, carried out to perfection in picking off the Gunners' flimsy backline.

The pace and precision of every hurtle towards the Arsenal end of the pitch was met with a string of clinical finishes to turn Arsene Wenger's 1000th match in charge, designed as the chance to stake a claim in the title race, into nothing more than a damaging ordeal for the Frenchman and his charges.

The plaudits rightly fell at the feet of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schürrle for their flair and finesse in the final third, but the real reason Arsenal were put to the sword with such comfort at the weekend owed primarily to a man further back.

For since Nemanja Matic's arrival, his second coming at Chelsea lest we forget, the Blues have looked peerless in both departments on the field.

The Serb's ability to break up play and make intelligent passes is an understated quality in a Chelsea side who previously seemed slightly imbalanced with Frank Lampard and Ramires working from the base of the midfield.

It seems even more staggering that Matic was deemed second-rate, and decidedly so, during his first spell at the club.

It reached the point where he acted as a 'makeweight' in the deal which brought David Luiz from Benfica to west London. It was a label which had come to act as a burden around his neck but it was to be a costly error from the Blues, recognised before it was too late, arguably, when they purchased him once more in a £21m deal from the Portuguese.

In a weird twist of fate, Luiz - who Mourinho claimed would remain at centre half and not the defensive midfield slot former Blues manager Rafael Benitez earmarked for him - lined up alongside Matic on Saturday and the duo were combative but fair to suppress Arsenal's fragile midfield.

Matic pressed, tackled and passed. It seemed so simplistic and yet was carried out to near perfection, making a difficult task look so incredibly easy.

It is a theme which he has replicated ever since Mourinho prised him back to Stamford Bridge and provides a sturdy platform upon which Hazard, Oscar et al are able to strut their stuff.

There remains a consensus that Mourinho is still not overly content with the make-up of his squad and seems likely to request a striker and possibly a left-back this summer to complete his transformation of a previously ailing Chelsea side when it came to the title race.

Mourinho has instilled a winning mentality at Chelsea, one strengthened by the inclusion of Matic which has also hardened up a defence which has conceded just four goals in the 12 matches the Serb has been involved in.

With such deadly firepower and a resistance against even the best attacks in the country, Chelsea are flying. Supporters and manager will revel in how the Blues have sharpened up at both ends of the pitch to keep the Blue light burning bright in this tightest of title challenges. 

They should also recognise the significance of a man sat directly between the two ends in improving those fortunes. The signing of Matic could be the moment Chelsea realised their Premier League title destiny once again.

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