Kante and Matic laying base for Chelsea attack
In the fourth part of Adrian Clarke’s look at the Premier League’s brightest combinations of 2016/17, his focus falls on two players who have been a major factor behind Chelsea’s fine form.
In the past five matches Chelsea have won five, scored 16, conceded none.
There are several reasons why their new 3-4-2-1 shape has been such a success, but at the top of the list has to be the influence of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic.
As an all-round box-to-box midfield pairing, they are the best combination in the Premier League and their ability helps Antonio Conte’s system work so successfully.
In particular, their athleticism transforms Chelsea’s formation into an attacking one.
Without two players who can get around the pitch with so much speed, stamina and intelligence, Chelsea’s wing-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso would not be able to show as much adventure.
Safe in the knowledge that Kante and Matic have things covered, Moses and Alonso have less trepidation to fly forward.
As shown in the two tables below, Chelsea’s central midfielders cover enormous amounts of ground, at a tempo that is hard for opponents to live with.
There is a fine balance to the way they operate: when one pushes forward, the other sits in, and they tend to rotate that duty evenly throughout matches.
Stationed to the right of centre Kante star feeds the wide players closest to him, while Matic does the same job on the left.
They are disciplined too, with neither leaving the other stranded too often.
Working between the parameters of both penalty boxes, they are excellent at dominating the middle ground and laying the foundation for Chelsea’s forwards to thrive.
While many managers feel they need a third man to bolster their central midfield, Conte knows Kante and Matic will suffice.
They link up well together – only five non-defender pairings in the PL have passed to each other on more occasions – and they are both superb at regaining possession.
Among the side’s most prolific and accurate passers, they also chip in with attacking contributions.
The 3-4-2-1 system is perfectly suited to Kante and Matic’s attributes. I strongly suspect that without their combined presence, it would not function anywhere near as smoothly.