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Mateo Kovačić – The Midfield Maestro

Frank Lampard is a name that stars on every list of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the beautiful game. Playing primarily as a ...



Frank Lampard is a name that stars on every list of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the beautiful game. Playing primarily as a box-to-box midfielder for most of his career, he has also been deployed as a trequartista and a deep-lying playmaker at the dawn of his career. Naturally, as a manager, Lampard has ameliorated Chelsea’s game in the middle third of the field. From playing a quick positive passing system to retaining ball possession, from stifling half spaces to winning the ball back through intense pressing, from scoring goals to defending balls, Lampard’s midfield can do it all. 

Lampard has a versatile roster of midfield players. He focuses on training his players to play in multiple positions. Mateo Kovačić has been a standout performer this season for Chelsea. Both the player and the manager have a similar fighting spirit. In February when Chelsea’s struggling side faced our former Special One’s Spurs, Kovačić was tasked to marshal the midfield and he did it with finesse. The 26-year-old completed 69 passes at 94.8 percent, with 42 of those coming inside the visitors’ half (at 90.5 percent). Thriving in his responsibility to break the lines of Tottenham’s rigid set-up, he pulled off 5 dribbles, 2 key passes, and a through ball. He didn’t neglect the grubbier side of the game either, reclaiming possession on a game-high 15 occasions. 

Kovačić started his professional football career at Dynamo Zagreb winning 3 league titles in three years before moving on to Inter Milan. He became an instant fan favorite at San Siro upon his arrival. The then Inter manager Andrea Stramaccioni hailed his performances on several occasions, describing him as a "star for the future". One of his most memorable performances came in the 2013-14 season when he registered a hattrick of assists in a 4-1 win over Lazio. Kovačić fell down the pecking order at Real Madrid when Zinedine Zidane took over as manager and found himself donning the Chelsea shirt 3 seasons later. The versatile midfielder was heavily relied upon by Maurizio Sarri as he tried to establish Sarriball. 

Lampard has been a great admirer of Kovačić. In the pre-season of 2019-20, he had praised Mateo as a player and had said how he is looking forward to coach him. After a 2-1 win over Barcelona in July, Lampard had said “I thought he was outstanding in the first half. I really liked Kovačić last year and I watched him a lot. When you say he had a difficult season I kind of get that, but at the same time I saw lots of things in his game that I really like. What I found here on the tour from the first day he turned up is a hungry attitude, desire to work, and incredible talent on the ball. I want to work with him and I want to help him to improve and improve. There's so much talent there. I really like him.”
Mateo himself also looks up to Lampard as a role model. He has been trying to get his goals tally up and who can be a better guide than Frank Lampard himself.

Kovačić has been the go-to-guy for Frank and has played 37 games this season with 29 starts out of them. He has played a total of 2594 minutes. Lampard likes to play a 4-3-3 formation or a 4-2-3-1 formation where Kovačić is usually deployed as of the two double pivot or a box-to-box midfielder mostly operating from the left side. But due to his versatility, Kovačić has also played as the deep-lying playmaker as well as the attacking midfielder ahead of the double pivot. Because of his dynamic talent and adaptability, he has featured as a prominent starter even when Lampard changes formations from a back four to a back three. 

Lampard likes to instill a fight or die attitude within his players. He expects his players to be valiant and perspicacious on the field. We saw the fighting right till the final whistle attitude against Ajax in a 4-4 draw this season when Kovačić played full 87 minutes, justifying Lampard’s faith in him. Kovačić has attempted a total of 1903 passes and completed 1708 of them at a successful pass completion rate of 89.8%. This highlights one of the main characteristics of Lampard’s system which revolves around keeping possession and moving the ball around quickly. Mateo is comfortable on the ball and forms great partnerships with his teammates to create passing channels. He is very formidable under pressure and takes the ball out of risky positions to create dangerous chances for us to make the best out of. He has 37 key passes to his name and 183 successful passes in the final third of the field. He has 69 shot-creating actions this season and 2.82 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes. One of the most striking features of Kovačić is his technical ability on the ball. Lampard likes his players to take risks to beat opposition players on 1v1. Kovačić is considered to be a fine dribbler of the ball. He has attempted 101 dribbles so far this season completing 74 of them at a success rate of 73.3%. He has 1774 carries to his name and has covered a total distance of 10575 yards or 9.7 Kilometers. 

His defensive work is commendable. Out 73 players tackled, he has won 58 tackles at 79.4% success rate (27 in the defensive third, 41 in middle third, 5 in attacking third). Being an intelligent presser, he fits perfectly in the intense pressing regime of Lampard. He has pressed a total of 588 players this season out of which 197 has successfully resulted in winning back possession (169 in the defensive third, 316 in middle third, 103 in attacking third). He has 31 blocks, 28 interceptions, and 17 clearances to his name. He has also recovered possession 261 times and has drawn 50 fouls for his team this season. Chelsea has earned 1.68 points on an average in every game that Kovačić has played with scoring 49 goals when he was on the field. 

Mateo Kovačić has been arguably the best performer for the young Chelsea side this season. It is surprising that he is the only player this season who has not had a single bad day at the office. Even in our nightmare match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Lampard singled out Kovačić as the only player to put in a good performance. It wouldn’t be a shock to anyone if the marvelous Croatian is deemed Chelsea’s Player of the Year this time around. He is a great player and fits perfectly in the dressing room with Lampard praising his attitude with other players and going to lengths while talking about how he has given his 100% in training sessions. His technical ability, dynamic adaptability, and fighting spirit make him the best midfielder in the current squad, and with Frank Lampard as his mentor, he can touch great heights and take Chelsea to the very top. 


Written by - Supratik Das
Twitter - @Supratik_Das
Pic Edit by - @Miz9Rahman 

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