Matija Nastasic is a Serbian center back. The 19 year old is currently a Manchester City player, but has played for Fiorentina before his move to Manchester. He stands tall at 1.87m and is a graduate of Partizan Belgrade’s youth academy.
On what was probably the biggest night of his career so far, Nastasic was handed his debut by coach Mancini at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League group stage clash. In a first half dominated by the home side, Nastasic showed defensive discipline and neat on the ball technique. He very rarely ventured out of his marking zone, and was content enough to do his job well. However, there were a few high points and low points in his performance. In what can be attributed to a lack of understanding between the center backs, Nastisic pushed up at a time when Kompany dropped deep. This was especially dangerous at the point because the Madrid right back, Alvaro Arbeloa had maneuvered himself into a decent crossing position. The mistake could’ve been costly had Arbeloa’s cross found it’s target.
Matija Nastasic featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was ay #9 in our list of defenders. View the entire list here.
He showed some nerves as well and almost botched a back pass in the 26th minute while under pressure from Gonzalo Higuain.
Over the night, he made 3 errors due to a lack of concentration at that point. Firstly, he was caught ball watching in the 20th minute, when a chipped pass allowed Gonzalo Higuain to get in behind the City defence, and create a chance. Secondly, a break in concentration in the 79th minute allowed a cross to reach Mesut Ozil’s head, who in turn missed the chance. Finally, a bit of poor marking, and attention to detail in the 87th minute proved fatal for City, as Karim Benzema hit the back of the net.
As those last three images show, after failing to mark him, Benzema was able to turn Nastasic with considerable ease before getting his shot away. There was a desperate attempt to get a block off but the Frenchman found the target.
His very obvious inexperience was also on show in the 29th minute, when he was drawn out of position to challenge for a 50-50 ball that he ended up losing.
Apart from the negatives though, Nastasic showed a lot of promise as well. Young players often tend to get carried away and try to close down too quickly, or attack too much, but Nastasic stayed cool and composed throughout the match, and stayed in his position, venturing out very rarely.
He also showed great tactical maturity. He fitted into both the 4-3-3, and the 3-5-2 that were deployed by Mancini seamlessly. Even as a part of the 3-5-2, he looked very comfortable on the left, right, and center of the defensive trio. He also displayed good awareness when after making a mistake to let Higuain get through, he covered his keeper quickly by getting on the line. This is a quality that isn’t noticed very often, but is a sign of a thinking defender.
He seemed to be an organizational head within the defence, commanding others despite being a debutante. Nastasic comes across as a very reliable, and efficient cog of the wheel, unlike his captain, Vincent Kompany, who is almost a one-man defence at times.
Nastasic put in 3 tackles in the game, a fairly small return for a defender playing for a team that was constantly pegged back. He made no interceptions but effectively cleared the ball 2 times. In addition to this he also blocked 2 shots.
He played 42 passes, and has a 83% pass completion rate to his name. He also attempted 3 long balls from the back, out of which only 1 was accurate.
Technique: Nastasic doubtlessly possesses good technique on the ball, and is a neat passer, but stopping at that would be doing a disservice to his abilities. Nastasic is excellent even defensively, and executes tackles perfectly. His heading is also perfect, and his body position while trying to stop players getting past him is impeccable. This was aptly demonstrated in the 63rd minute, when he tackled Cristiano Ronaldo in a 1 v 1 situation. This is something even his captain, Vincent Kompany, had failed to do earlier on in the game.
Tactical Astuteness: Nastasic showed a level of maturity and awareness that belies his years. He marked his areas effectively, and was comfortable during all positional rotations of the 3-5-2 as well. Apart from his direct personal influence on the game, he was excellent as an on field organizer, and kept his midfielders alert about deep runs from the Real’s midfielders. This rendered Sami Khedira ineffective for large parts of the game.
Concentration: Nastasic tended to suffer from losses of concentration all too often during the game. While he is young, and inexperienced at this level, he cannot be excused for schoolboy errors like a drop in concentration. Fortunately for him and City, Higuain didn’t take full advantage of his opportunity in the first half, but Karim Benzema showed no such kindness as he slotted home from an opening that was caused by Nastasic’s failure to mark him down tightly enough. This also indicates a lack of mental stamina on his part, and he will have to work hard with Mancini to sort out this aspect of his game.
As far as transfer prospects are concerned, nil would be the correct term because he’s just joined City. Overall, it would be accurate to say that as far as the short term is concerned, Nastasic is definitely an improvement on what City previously had i.e. Stefan Savic. In the long run, Mastasic may grow to blossom into a world class center back, provided he can sort out some of the flaws currently plaguing his game, and pick up some invaluable match experience.
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