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A lot has been said about Chelsea’s decision to sell star midfielder Nemanja Matic to their title rivals Manchester United this summer. The Blues allowed the 29-year old Serb to move to Jose Mourinho’s side, for a fee of £40million, and then went out and brought in two new central midfielders before the transfer deadline day.
Tiemoue Bakayoko was signed from AS Monaco, for the same amount that Chelsea received for Matic, and on the deadline day, the current English champions shelled out £35million for the services of Danny Drinkwater. The 27-year old, signed from Leicester City, was a key member of the Foxes’ side that won the Premier League title in 2015/16 and struck up a wonderful partnership alongside N’Golo Kante during his time there. Antonio Conte will be hoping to see the same magic get recreated at the Stamford Bridge this season.
However, will he be an upgrade on Matic? Or were Chelsea better off with their giant Serb? Let’s take a closer look at the duo’s numbers from last season and see how they match up against each other.
Matic featured on 35 (30 starts) occasions for Chelsea last season in which he managed a solitary goal and 7 assists, while Drinkwater played 29 games (27 starts), missing a run of games in the middle and at the end of the season, due to injuries. He produced returns of a single goal and an assist. The 29-year old former Chelsea man created a total of 27 goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates, compared to just 15 by Drinkwater.
The giant Serb fared far better than the Englishman in terms of shot accuracy, as he had an accuracy of 54% (7 on target from 13), while Drinkwater had a paltry 17% (3 on target from 18). Their passing stats too reflected a similar outcome as Matic enjoyed a pass success-rate of 88% (1602 off 1826 passes) with an average pass length of 18m, while Drinkwater had 78% accuracy (1312 off 1692 passes) with an average pass length of 17m.
Matic attempted more take-ons (31 success, 47 attempts) than Drinkwater (22 success, 29 attempts), but the England international had a better success-rate than the former Chelsea man. The 27-year old attempted way more tackles in the midfield than the Serbian, challenging for the ball on 159 occasions, coming out on top 55 times (35% accuracy), compared to 99 tackle attempts by Matic, in which he was successful 37 times (37% accuracy).
The Serbian comes out on top in the aerial battles too, not surprisingly, given his superior physical frame. Matic won 38 out of his 63 attempted headed duels (60% success), compared to 38 wins out of 79 attempts for Drinkwater (48% success). He also gave away just 33 fouls, compared to 44 given away by Drinkwater.
The England international averaged 4 defensive actions per game last season with 60 clearances, 40 interceptions and 13 blocks throughout the campaign, whereas Matic stood at 3 defensive actions per game, completing lesser clearances (49) and blocks (8) than Drinkwater, but affecting more interceptions (55). The Manchester United man also committed two defensive errors last season with Chelsea, compared to just one by Drinkwater.
Going by the numbers of the previous season, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Matic was the superior of the two midfielders. He has started off on a similar note in the ongoing campaign as well, with United. Drinkwater, on the other hand, had a below par campaign last time around, and hasn’t played a single game this season so far, as he was recovering from an injury. However, a reunion with Kante could possibly lead to us seeing the best of the former Leicester man once again.