Mateo Kovacic is a player that divides opinion among the Chelsea fan base, and with Sarri talking up a permanent transfer, pending our ban, is signing the Croatian the right move?
Kovacic has predominantly played as the LCM in Maurizio Sarri’s 433 system, often rotating the role with Ross Barkley. It’s clear that Kovacic is a very technical player with his dribbling and ability to keep the ball probably only being bested by Eden Hazard. It’s his attacking output from that position that is a real worry, having not scored for Chelsea yet and registering only 2 assists in all competitions. That wouldn’t be as big of a worry as it is if Chelsea had enough players across the squad that contributed to goals, but that isn’t the case. The midfielder’s lack of goals is concerning.
But are we actually seeing the best of Kovacic?
I would argue no. If you analyse him as a player, his strengths are his work rate and his ability to dribble with and keep the ball in tight situations. That’s not what’s really needed as the most forward thinking midfielder in the team, with goals and attacking output more key. In my opinion, Kovacic has spent much of the season playing in the wrong position, which has really damaged his reputation among many Chelsea fans.
After the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Monaco in January, Kovacic has seen much more game time playing deeper as the ‘regista’ in Sarri’s system, especially in the Europa League.
“In my opinion, Kovacic could become a very good central midfielder. Of course, he is not a defensive midfielder but, as you know, in that position I prefer a very technical player. In the last match, Jorginho touched 161 balls. So, for us, it’s very important for us to have big quality in that position. Big quality not for the last pass, but big quality in terms of moving the ball. No [I don’t want to buy another midfielder], I want to try with Kovacic.”Sarri, when asked about keeping Kovacic beyond the 2018-19 season
So, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Maurizio Sarri sees Kovacic’s future not as a LCM, but in the Jorginho role or as a backup to Kante, where he has played this season as well. The Italian’s recent comments on Loftus-Cheek, calling him complete, cements the idea, that Ruben and for now, Barkley, will challenge each other for the LCM role, with Kovacic used elsewhere in midfield.
So, should we sign Kovacic?
If Sarri’s recent comments are to be believed, Kovacic will see very little game time in the LCM role that he’s been used to and be used more as a ‘defensive’ player. The Croatian is very technical so would fit the role and his desire to move away from Real Madrid makes this transfer likely.
He’d be a fantastic signing and I’m sure we’d see the best of him after a year in the Premier League. A very underrated but potentially crucial player.