Nastasic Is Best Of Premier League Kids

According to our friends at WhoScored.com, Matija Nastasic has been the season's most impressive performer under the age of 21. He's only made one error leading to a chance...

Last Updated: 17/04/13 at 19:40 Post Comment

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It is a signal of Roberto Mancini's trust in his youthful centre-back Matija Nastasic - rather than a distrust for England international Joleon Lescott or the multi-Premier League title winning Kolo Toure - that the Serbian is now the preferred choice alongside Vincent Kompany at the heart of the City defence.

Nastasic has made the position his own, and was present for both recent wins at Manchester United and against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final at Wembley.

Having been brought to Eastlands as part of a swap deal plus cash for the much-maligned Stefan Savic last summer, it seems now that City got the rub of the green in that deal, as WhoScored.com can profess.

Savic has become a seasoned regular at Fiorentina since his move to Italy, so the deal has worked out for everyone.

For City though, they have relinquished a player who was particularly error-prone, making three mistakes leading to a goalscoring chance in just seven Premier League or Champions League starts last season.

Savic has been replaced by a defender who shows a maturity way beyond his years. Nastasic is as calm and collected in possession as any defender you'll find, and certainly more so than you might expect of a man who is only just out of his teens.

In 24 starts in the English top flight or the Champions League, Nastasic has only once made an error leading to a chance, and that was an unconverted shot in a 2-0 win at Wigan, early on in his Manchester City career, when nerves could certainly be excused.

The Serb's rising confidence was plain to see as City made it into the FA Cup final on Sunday afternoon, as he and Kompany so nearly kept Chelsea at bay for the full 90 minutes.

His unflappable style was portrayed at its finest on such a huge stage, as he completed 97% of his passes - by far the best of any player on the field (longer than three minutes).

He also won all of his aerial battles that he faced that day. His 6.83 WhoScored rating was decent, but down on his average rating in the Premier League this season of 7.00.

That ranks him 9th in the Manchester City squad, but given the superstars in their team it is not surprising that he ranks behind the likes of David Silva, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero in terms of rating.

However, of those Premier League players under the age of 21, Nastasic has the best rating in the whole league. It is due to his quality and consistency of performance that he is one of the most trusted youngsters in the league, having played 1643 minutes this term.

In the 19 games he has featured in this season, he has started them all, and only been withdrawn on two occasions.

Of the players under the age of 21 in the Premier League, Nastasic is behind only Newcastle's Gael Birigama (who has played only 408 minutes) and Liverpool's Andre Wisdom (970 minutes) in terms of pass success rate, having successfully completed 86.3% of his passes.

He does not have such a good completion rate solely as a result of playing his passes short to either Kompany or the likes of Gareth Barry to then move the ball up the pitch, but also due to his success when playing the ball long. His average of four accurate long balls per game is by far the best of the Premier League's under 21 players, and behind only Yaya Toure and Kompany in the City squad.

Furthermore, his long ball success rate of 76.7% is superior to that of his captain (73%) and partner at the back.

Nastasic also excels in the air. At 6"2, he is not the tallest player in the league, and it would not be unfair to call him slight for a centre-back. The fact, then, that he wins 3.2 aerial duels per game - more than any other regular Manchester City player this season - is credit to his positioning and reading of the game. At such a young age, he is only going to get better, and that he is already such a mature player bodes well for his future at the current champions of England.

It is rare for a 20-year-old to break through and become a mainstay in the first team for any Premier League club. Even rarer is it to find a centre-back that does it, and yet even less common is it for that to happen at one of the country's leading sides, where money is of little object and there is thus the finances to pick and choose from a large portion of the world's finest talent. Nastasic has begun his career in the top flight of English football with aplomb and could well go on to become one of the league's leading defenders.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

Follow Ali Tweedale on Twitter at @alitweedale</a>

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