Welcome to part two of my summer preseason battle preview. A few weeks ago in part one, I previewed Antonee Robinson’s road to the first team at Everton. This week, we’re going to take a look at another American trying to make it in the Premier League – Matt Miazga.
Miazga was purchased by Chelsea FC in January 2016 after developing in MLS with the New York Red Bulls. After appearing briefly in the Spring of 2016 for Chelsea’s first team, he was sent out on the last two seasons to play for Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie. After a slow start in 2016/17, Miazga won the starting job in February 2017. He went on to help Vitesse qualify for the Europa League group stage. Last summer Miazga was sent back to Vitesse for a second season. He was a fixture in the starting lineup all year, even appearing six times in the Europa League (Vitesse were eliminated in the group stage). Altogether, Miazga appeared 43 times in all competitions this season totaling 3,659 minutes. He also scored four goals, which speaks to his outstanding ability to win in the air. This season, Miazga showed outstanding growth in confidence with his ability to pass out of the back. While he still has to improve his ability to recognize runners and deal with danger, this season saw him make great strides defensively as well. After two solid loan spells, Miazga has planted himself into the discussion for a starting spot on the back line for the USMNT.
This summer Miazga has a major task ahead of him. With his loan now over, he returns to Chelsea looking to win a spot with the Premier League giants. Rumors are swirling that manager Antonio Conte is going to be replaced soon. Whether or not Miazga has a new manager to impress likely will not make his chances of winning a spot any easier. Conte largely features a formation featuring three center backs which obviously poses the need to have more center backs on the roster. If Conte is replaced by a manager who likes to play a more traditional 4-man backline, then Miazga’s chances could be further diminished.
Miazga will also have to show that he’s better than the other center backs on their roster. That’s much easier said than done. David Luiz is rumored to be on the move, but when healthy is a dynamite performer. He had his season cut short by injuries last year. Englishman Gary Cahill is starting to get to an advanced age but still figures to have a couple more years playing at a high level. Andreas Christensen was a fixture in the lineup last season as he showed that he can be one of the building blocks along the back line. He also has the versatility to play as a defensive midfielder or at fullback in an emergency. Germany International Antonio Rudiger was a regular rotation player last season after transferring from AS Roma. Kurt Zouma is another player with versatility who may stand in Miazga’s path. He spent last season on loan at Stoke City as they were relegated. He also is the subject of transfer rumors so he may not be there. Tomas Kalas returns from his loan at Fulham where he often partnered American Tim Ream in the English Championship. Jamaican Michael Hector also returns from his loan at Hull City. Needless to say, Chelsea has a plethora of talent at Miazga’s position. That doesn’t even take into consideration that Chelsea could potentially splash the cash for even more talent there.
Miazga has stated that he believes he’s ready to take the next step in his career, telling goal.com:
“I’m confident in my abilities. I’m for sure ready for the next level. Every time I have a chance, every time I have an opportunity to play, try to make an impact, try to impress and play well, and try to win football games.”
Personally, I have my doubts about Miazga winning a job at Chelsea next season. While he has certainly shown that he is ready for a much higher level, I think it’s far more likely that he’s loaned out to a lower level Premier League club or possibly to another top five league. Rumors will undoubtedly run rampant around the 22-year-old (he turns 23 in July) this summer until his immediate future is determined. After his strong season on loan as well as a fine outing against World Cup favorite France, look for Miazga to be on the move to a much higher level before the summer transfer deadline.
Please hit the comments section to discuss what you think about Miazga’s chances at Chelsea or any possible loan or permanent transfer destinations.