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Keep, Sell, Loan: Nemanja Matic's 2015-16 season in review

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Taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each and every Chelsea player's season. Next up, Nemanja Matic, once the most glorious and exalted SPIDERBEAST.

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Appearances: 35 starts (+8 as substitute).
Minutes: 2418 in Premier League; 288 in domestic cups; 377 in Champions League.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 58.62 passes attempted (88% completed); 2.34 tackles won (44.3% success rate); 2.49 interceptions.

First and foremost, it should be made clear that Nemanja Matic wasn't the only player or person responsible for the crumbling of the foundation Chelsea had built over the previous two seasons. But his poor form on the pitch was most certainly a big factor and was a key reason for our poor results and defensive woes this season.

When Matic returned to Chelsea in January 2014 from (what turned out to be) a glorified loan to Benfica, he was hailed as our midfield saviour.  Following in the footsteps of Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia at the Portuguese club, Matic was converted from a pure playmaker to a more defensive player, his physicality combined with ball-skills creating a dominant force in the center of midfield.  A true midfield general, calm and strong in defense, useful in attack.  Paired with Fabregas last season, he was the base that allowed Chelsea to press and attack at will.

For whatever reason, Matic has struggled more than anybody on the team to reproduce last season's results.  Even if we claim that January 2014 to January 2015 were the best 12 months of Matic's career, his regression from his peak has been extreme, sudden, and devastating.  His lack of pace was suddenly a tremendous hindrance, he was routinely beaten on tackles and 50-50 balls, and he seemed to be playing without an ounce of confidence.

Whether it was the Ashley Barnes leg-breaking attempt, or something that un-clicked over the summer, or just a snowball effect of poor results and various controversies, Matic was a shadow of his former self.  And when that former self was perhaps not nearly as great as we had imagined, especially in terms of being a defensive midfielder, it left us with a player who was more of a hindrance than an asset.

And yet he continued to start and play, under both managers.  "Ruben Loftus-Cheek!", cried out the masses, and Mourinho said, "No".  Interim manager Guus Hiddink even went to the extreme of pairing him with Mikel several times -- possibly the slowest midfield you'll have seen in recent Chelsea history.

There's no doubt that this frustrated Matic as much as anyone else.  His games for Serbia have not offered much reprieve either.  He's struck an unhappy figure for many months now, especially after Hiddink had chosen to leave him out for a few games.

Like a few others, Matic had shown a few signs of life in the last couple games of the season, giving hope that after a summer of change, he could rediscover his previous form.  We shall see...

The Good: In addition to the aforementioned improvement in late-season form, Matic did score one of the best goals of the season, albeit in a losing effort, with his wallop against Everton.

The Bad: The Mikel-Matic pairing.

The Ugly: The 28-minute cameo vs. Southampton when Matic entered the pitch at half-time for Ramires, saw Chelsea concede twice, and then was subbed off for Rémy.

Verdict: Unlike Fàbregas, Matic isn't supposed to be a "luxury player" in our squad. A midfielder with defensive nous and good passing skills from short and long range, he had an unfortunate year but there's maybe hope that he can be a great player once again under Antonio Conte. In theory, the 27-year-old is at the peak of his physical ability and his technical skills shouldn't be forgotten. He faced a great challenge in terms of his mental fortitude this season, but hopefully this will only make him stronger going forward.

Matic's contract ends in 2019 and while there have been a few stray transfer rumors, it's looking far more likely that he will see out the end of that deal.  You never know for sure in football though...