Roma, Matic e la difesa posizionale di Mourinho: la coesistenza con Cristante e l'eredità di Mkhitaryan

Matic arrives in Trigoria for ‘family reunification’. In the sense that between him and Mou there is almost a relationship of kinship, so much is strong mutual esteem, gained in the years of London and Manchester. Finally the Portuguese coach has his midfield prop here in Italy as well. A good-footed wardrobe, which does not even need to be mounted. You put two or three concepts on it and it works, because it doesn’t lack of experience and personality. It will be interesting to understand how Mourinho, always in order not to leave the metaphor, will want to complete the ‘furnishings’ of the Giallorossi midfield 22/23, considering that just lost Mkhitaryan, the Armenian who covered a lot of space and illuminated a lot. And since Mou appreciates Cristante so much, it will also be worth asking if some form of coexistence is foreseen between the newly acquired Serbian giant and the Italian midfielder known for his flexibility, but so far used by José in only one way.

THE LAST YEAR OF MATIC – In his last year at Manchester United, Matic has accumulated 23 appearances in the Premier, of which 16 as a starter, while in the Champions 8, of which only one in the top eleven (the last of Group F, against the Young Boys, namely the less important). In the European competition, in fact, there is the main decrease in employment compared to even just the previous year, which at these levels is always a clue. In any case, we are certainly not talking about ‘someone who did not play’. Especially in the league, indeed, we have also seen him protagonist in the Rangnick period, such as in the 3 to 2 victory against Conte’s Tottenham.

In this image we see a development of the 4-2-3-1 of the German coach, where in addition to admiring a nice left-handed throw for Sancho (Matic is left-handed) from which the CR7 goal will be generated, we can observe how among the three midfielders of the Red Devils is the Serbian to act as the most backward reference. It’s a 4-2-3-1 that can easily take on the appearance of a 4-3-3, when Fred just unhooks and climbs in the manner of a right-footed midfielder. At that point Matic remains guarding the defense, as if it were a low summit. This is followed by certain directing tasks: in the same game, instead, here is an extreme defensive crumple, where even all the Manchester forwards, including Ronaldo, collaborate, and only Pogba remains ‘out’. Matic is well placed inside the area and linked to his teammate Fred (this division of duties between the three midfielders should be emphasized).

Look at the shadow cone that is ideally able to cast Matic behind him under these circumstances. It is essential to have tall and big players, if you plan to take advantage of long phases of positional defense over the course of a game. And we know Mourinho likes all of this. It is one thing to defend low or even in your own area with Villar, it is another thing to do it with Matic, it goes without saying. In this sense, both the transfer of the Spaniard during the year and the purchase of the Serbian today are extremely consistent with the Portuguese coach’s vision of football.

The risk, however, is to suffer the rapidity and triangulations in the strait of technical and fast little guys, although Matic with his big feet and his big legs is a wizard of the intercept. Above I report an example taken this time from Arsenal-Manchester (3-1), in which the Serbian is seen slightly late and caught in the middle by a triangulation between Saka and Odegaard. In this match, the mate of the department of the giant Matic is the Scotsman McTominay. Always a more dynamic companion, as Fred was before. Below Matic, ready to cross with his left-handed, is about to give CR7 an assist. At the end of the year there will be 4 in all.

PLANE PLAY – I was talking a little while ago about shadow cone and centimeters in the defensive phase, but it is clear that Matic’s one and ninety-four will also be felt on inactive balls in attack, a fundamental that is already well interpreted by Mourinho’s Roma with his many jumpers. Just against Arsenal, in that same match, the Red Devils earned a penalty thanks to a tower of the Serbian at the far post, stopped irregularly by a high arm. Just an example …

MATIC AND / OR CRISTANTE? – We can conclude by trying to give some answers to the initial question about Cristante: what will become of him, with the arrival of Matic? We know of his importance in the Rome that Mourinho has built so far. Just think of the starting line-up of the Conference final: on the bench there were people like Oliveira and Veretout.

In short, having left Mkhitaryan, Matic does not arrive to carry that function that has just been lost, this is clear. He is not the dynamic player who links the two phases with the panache of the Armenian, of course. So it is legitimate to ask what will become of Cristante the median. He does not escape from the following three perspectives. Hypothesis one: Roma will completely redo the midfield, buying a technical invader (Frattesi or a more important name) to be placed alongside Matic (with Cristante in the rotations or sold). Hypothesis two: Roma will use Matic and Cristante as two well-blocked pillars, to protect the defensive line and thus able to support a trident or the four typical offensives of the 4-2-3-1 that Mou had in mind at the beginning of the season . Third hypothesis, Cristante, always alongside Matic, will recover his past as an invader at Atalanta (he was even an attacking midfielder, if you remember) and will be ‘freed’ from the presence of the Serbian.

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