Why Matt Miazga will prove a shrewd signing for Chelsea

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The 20-year-old American centre-back joined the Blues from the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, signing a four-and-a-half-year deal.

When news initially broke of Matt Miazga’s move to Chelsea last week, it is fair to say that reaction to his signing was somewhat mixed.

After all, the club already have a whole host of promising young centre-backs on their books, such as Andreas Christensen, Tomas Kalas and Kenneth Omeruo, while the former New York Red Bulls product arrives at Stamford Bridge with just one full season as a starter in MLS under his belt.

For a player with such little experience at the top level, there is certainly some reason to be sceptical about his Premier League potential, but the US international’s meteoric rise over the past 12 months suggests that he has just as much chance of making the grade as his aforementioned counterparts.

2015 MLS TeamGoalsAssistsTotal TacklesTackle AccuracyTotal ClearancesHeaders WonHeader SuccessInterceptionPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Matt Miazga Red Bulls 1 1 67 83% 209 136 67% 101 74.3% 30 2,488

A Red Bulls academy graduate, Miazga originally signed a homegrown player contract with the club in 2013 and went on to make eight appearances during his first two seasons in MLS before seeing his reputation soar during a breakout 2015 campaign.

The 20-year-old not only established himself in the starting XI over the injury-hit Ronald Zubar but also proved instrumental in helping Jesse Marsch’s men win the Supporters’ Shield title as the team with the best regular season record, making 30 league appearances and scoring once.

His impressive performances saw Jurgen Klinsmann hand him his senior international debut in the USA’s opening World Cup qualifier against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in November, and speculation was soon rife that he could be set for a move overseas.

The New Jersey native, who holds dual citizenship with Poland, was later linked with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool during the final week of the transfer window [h/t Daily Mail], but it was Chelsea who managed to win the race to his signature in the end for a reported £3.5 million fee.

The overriding question now is just how much first-team action Miazga can hope to see with the Blues in the immediate future, with most expecting him to be shipped out on loan at some stage.

Manager Guus Hiddink indicated last week that he would remain with the club for the rest of the season before a decision is made on what would be best for his development, but the general consensus is that his game time over the coming months will be limited.

Realistically, he is a long-term project who is not quite ready to be thrown in at the deep end, but there is also little doubt that Chelsea have got their hands on a special talent.

At nearly 6ft 4in, Miazga is an imposing figure who can certainly handle the physicality of the English top-flight, winning the third-most aerial duels in MLS during the 2015 regular season with 113, despite missing a month’s worth of action while competing at the Under-20 World Cup.

His impressive agility and recovery speed also allows him to pull off plenty of crucial last-ditch tackles, while he made huge strides with his reading of the game over the course of last term and became a vocal presence on the backline, often seen barking out orders to his more experienced teammates.

Arguably his best display of campaign came in June’s 3-1 derby win over New York City FC, when he managed to keep David Villa in check for the full 90 minutes along with bagging his first senior goal, and it was performances like that which helped him finish fourth in the voting for the league’s Defender of the Year award.

Calm and collected on the ball, he will have few problems slotting into a team that wants to press high and dominate possession, and while it remains to be seen who his manager will be next season, that should make him a perfect fit for a Chelsea side which is often forced to get on the front foot.

At the same time, though, Miazga does have some clear flaws which need to be ironed out of his game before he can challenge for a place in the Blues first-team.

The youngster still has a slight tendency to switch off, as demonstrated by his goal-gifting error within the opening 10 seconds of the 2-0 Eastern Conference Championship first-leg defeat to Columbus Crew SC in November, while he is also prone to the odd reckless tackle or moment of ill-discipline.

Nevertheless, his attitude and ability to learn was frequently praised by the Red Bulls coaching staff, and given his rapid progress last season, it would not be a surprise to see the one-time capped American turning out for Chelsea much quicker than anticipated.

With John Terry announcing his impending departure on Sunday and Gary Cahill recently linked with a move away, talk has turned to revamping the squad at Stamford Bridge, and those discussions include earmarking the long-term centre-back partner for Kurt Zouma.

Is Miazga ready to be that man at the very start of next season? More than likely not. But after witnessing his growth in 2015, it would be foolish to think he does not have a chance of carving out a successful career for himself in west London going forward.

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