Like most people I’ve often thought about what it would be like to have Ryan Gosling eat wafer-thin ham off my face. But that’s generally about as far as my thinking goes in terms of a man-crush. The world of football takes a rather more erratic approach and consequently rarely a week goes by without someone or other becoming the latest object of the footballing public’s slobbering affections.
The current subject of this unseemly splattering of admiration is the, admittedly much deserving, Nemanja Matic. Standing at nearly 2 meters tall and built like a powerful cyborg, he is the imposing, dominating midfielder that makes us modern Premier League fans feel funny in our pants.
Matic is also relentlessly praised in the media. Yes, Diego Costa’s 10 league goals and Cesc Fabregas’s 9 assists have chewed through Chelsea opposition like Edwina Currie will undoubtedly soon be gnawing through some kind of lizard anus. But not a single discussion of Chelsea’s dominance this season can be concluded without the obligatory praise for Matic. It might actually now be illegal to say Chelsea are good and not mention him.
A ‘manja Amongst Men
And even it wasn’t illegal, I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to assess anything about Chelsea’s dramatic improvement without putting Matic towards the centre of the conversation. So far this season he has played every minute of the Premier League campaign, protecting the defense and providing a muscularity to the midfield that must make Arsene Wenger weep softly into his croissant. In comparison to Matic, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini might as well be made out of goats cheese.
But Matic’s impact is about far more than being the big man in front of the (equally big men) in Chelsea’ back four. In terms of tackling he actually sits behind the likes of Mile Jedinak, Mo Diame and Craig Gardner in the stats. But it is the quality, assurance and dependability he brings to that anchor role that makes him stand out against the scrambling, hacking stereotype of the position. The fact that in 19 appearances this season he has picked up just 3 bookings tells us just how in control he is.
— Bham Mail West Brom (@WestBromNews) December 2, 2014
And as important as the fact that Chelsea have a big slab of Matic is that the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United – and to an extent Manchester City – have barely a sliver. In most other departments all of those clubs can offer comparable opponents, but in that protective midfield role none can really compete.
That in itself must be a slight concern for Chelsea. Players in such a high-contact position tend not to go whole seasons without injury or suspension. And while Jon Obi Mikel isn’t quite the pile of bent coat-hangers that people make him out to be, he’s no substitute for a player who appears largely unique in the whole division.
But until that becomes Chelsea’s problem, Matic’s dominance will remain everyone else’s problem. And if, as it appears, he drives Chelsea towards an unassailable title push then the football world might well explode in a gush of adulation, pant sweat and, of course, wafer-thin ham.