In the shape of Nemanja Matic, Roma are welcoming a new midfielder thought to be the most defensive of the department he will become part of.
Finding a player with defensive qualities in the centre of the pitch has been a priority for Jose Mourinho for more than a year. Now, he is bringing in someone he knows well – his former Chelsea and Manchester United pupil Matic.
But, to either back up or play down the preconceptions, what do the statistics show Matic will bring?
Here, Giallorossi Yorkshire has compared Matic to Bryan Cristante, Sergio Oliveira and Jordan Veretout – the three Roma midfielders most accustomed to playing in the deeper roles in 2021-22 – for their stats last season. The data takes into account league matches only – including Oliveira’s exertions in the Portuguese Primeira Liga before his January loan arrival – and are judged per 90 minutes.
Let’s start with what should be most important about the new arrival: defensive qualities.
As shown, Matic is the best at interceptions and blocks – traits that will not go amiss for Mourinho. In addition, he is the second best – behind Cristante and Veretout respectively – for clearances and the fewest counts of being dribbled past.
However, on the flipside, Matic concedes more fouls than the existing three Roma midfielders, while only Veretout averages fewer tackles.
Clearly, duels can go either way. In terms of those in the air, the 1.94m Matic wins triple the number of duels as Veretout, double those of Oliveira, but surprisingly fewer than Cristante.
Turning the focus back to the ground – and switching to the attacking phase – Matic comes out strongly for his passing. Indeed, he is the player with the highest rate of accurate short passes.
In contrast, Cristante and Veretout play more accurate long balls than him. Perhaps if Matic was to play alongside Cristante – given Veretout is linked with an exit – their passing styles could complement each other.
One bolt against Matic’s record, though, is that he is the worst for being dispossessed. Maybe that is a side-effect of his data being from the supposedly more dynamic Premier League, in his defence – or it should be cause for concern.
On the other hand, Matic surprisingly rates as the best for successful dribbles. His method of carrying the ball could be useful when the likes of Veretout in particular (the lowest in this aspect) have struggled with it.
The most important traits Roma will rely on Matic for, though, are the defensive ones and his passing. In both of those cases, there are some positive signs; this player, despite his age, should be useful.
But maybe one more new face is still required in the midfield to fill in further gaps and complete the balance in such a key department.