Talking Numbers: Nemanja Matic Has Been Struggling

When Nemanja Matic was signed from Chelsea for £40.23m in the summer of 2017, many Man United fans were happy with the deal. Even though he was about to turn 29 and the fee was not a small one, there was a feeling of a minor victory over Chelsea, for taking one of their important players over the previous few years.

Even though his first season was not a bad one, it was not as strikingly good as some campaigns he had at Stamford Bridge. Part of that was probably down to Man United not being an inspiring side in that season, finishing 19 points behind Man City and losing to Sevilla in Champions League round of 16. But then again, this season has been a poor one for the Serbian midfielder.

Former Chelsea man had some really bad spells this year and in between he had some decent runs of matches, too. But overall, it was not pretty, but then again it was not pretty for any Man United player this season.

Decent In Possession, Slow Off The Ball

Nemanja Matic has always been reliable in possession. He is smooth with his left foot, his long legs and good posture often give him enough time on the ball to keep it safe before laying it off and his pass success rate of 87.9 is a decent measure of that. Important thing to note here is that Matic rarely makes risky passes and rarely breaks the lines with his passing from deep. He is mostly good for recycling possession and moving it sideways. The numbers truly show that, as Matic’s expected assists is just 0.56 for the whole Premier League season. His progression of the ball is not great with his dribbling either, but his 0.70 successful dribbles per 90 are not something the managers really expect of him.

Winning The Ball Versus Losing The Ball

Matic was always decent in winning the possession, but right now his numbers are at most okay. A simple ‘meh’. It is not bad per se, but his possession-adjusted tackles of 2.09 per 90 and possession-adjusted interceptions of 1.28 per 90 are not impressive either. With Man United not being a dominant team in possession, allowing plenty of shots and goals, those numbers needed to be better. Often Matic was unable to shield the back four in a more solid manner and that is why Man United’s “underbelly” often looked to be too soft – teams could simply attack through the middle too, not just the wings.

The Serbia international has been winning 0.70 fouls per 90, not something that will bring much difference, but he has been making 2.30 turnovers per 90. For a central midfielder, that is a high number. What will all this mean for his future, remains to be seen. With Man United being expected to bring in many new players and already heavily lacking with men in the middle of the pitch, Matic will stay at Old Trafford for another year and right now it looks unlikely that he will not be a starter.

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