In my time covering the Norwich City academy, Alex Matos has always been portrayed as one of its top talents. This was also the case at Luton Town where he always played with older age groups prior to joining Norwich.
But not only was he seen as one of City’s brightest prospects, England thought highly of him too as he represented his country at youth level.
Throughout his younger academy years at Norwich, he and Ken Aboh were rated as two of the most promising talents in the country, which underlines the talent that Norwich have at their disposal.
Matos first arrived on the Under-18s scene in the 2020-21 season, where he played a healthy volume of minutes in the second half of that season. In terms of goal contributions, it was a positive first season for him as he scored six goals, and assisted on five occasions in his 11 games.
In the 2021-22 season, Matos found goal contributions harder to come by – only netting twice and assisting once. A contextual point that needs adding is that Matos was injured for a month at the start of the season, so momentum was hard to gain. The team struggled too, finishing last in their division with a dismal return of 10 points from their 26 games.
Matos also made six Under-21 appearances last season, albeit he failed to provide any goals or assists.
Alex Matos is poised to join Chelsea, according to reports.
It was during his U18s appearances in his first two seasons that Matos really excelled, where he was a massive threat in the attacking front line. He predominantly played on the left wing in those two seasons but was utilised in other positions too, such as right-wing, striker, and attacking midfield.
He is without a doubt an exciting prospect, who has a wide range of abilities. His success at beating defenders one-on-one is second to none, as well as his pace and strength. Moreover, his ability to dribble both ways makes it hard for defenders to read him.
Matos combined effectively with his U18s teammates too and had a good understanding with one player in particular – the promising Aboh. This partnership has been evident for a number of seasons now, as they’ve combined for a huge volume of goals.
However, this season turned saw a different approach for Alex, with him appearing in central midfield.
Norwich have always recognised that Matos has a promising future – hence why they have always left the door open on the possibility of him signing a second professional contract – and while they supported his desire to move to central midfield, it’s unknown if they would have preferred him to continue playing out wide.
But due to the level of interest that has surrounded Matos in his academy years, the power dynamic always seemed to be in the favour of Matos and his representatives, with them knowing there was always the chance of a better move elsewhere.
It has been an interesting case study to observe.
To start with, Matos has been deployed as a defensive midfielder this season, as well as a conventional box-to-box midfielder. His minutes have been shared across U18s and U21s.
If we start with the positive attributes of his game in midfield, he uses his body well to protect the ball and keep attacks flowing. He is also able to bring his wide midfielder traits into central midfield, where he has a tendency to dribble past players and get out of opposition-pressing situations.
Also, he’s impressive at winning duels due to his strength and physicality.
His passing game is tidy and he’s capable of being involved in clear and intricate passing patterns. In addition, he’s confident using his head, as he has been positioned as the first man in the penalty box for defensive free-kick and corner situations.
Finally, an obvious strength is his ability to cover ground across 90+ minutes, which would be important with Chelsea’s high standards.
However, a few weaknesses have been evident in his game this season, one of which is his consistency to perform and join in on high-pressing situations. Although there was a clip of him winning back the ball against Charlton U21s from a press last Friday, it’s an area he can improve. There are occasions when the attacking line starts to press an opponent in a tricky situation but have escaped the press because Alex failed to get tight quickly enough.
His concentration could improve too, especially in defensive scenarios, whether that’s blocking passing lanes or tackling late.
But these weaknesses are really just about consistency. Just two examples of his game that, if improved, could take him to a stronger place in his development.
And to put it into context, this is Alex’s first full season playing in midfield so he still has loads to learn and polish.
My understanding of why Norwich are letting him go on a free is limited, but I get the impression a fee up to a £1million could have been realistic due to a number of factors, including his pedigree at a young age, the financial power of Chelsea, and, most importantly, the potential of the player.
To add to that, it wasn’t long ago when Chelsea bought 17-year-old Jimmy Jay Morgan from Southampton for a reported fee of £6million.
Over recent months, Chelsea have hired some reputable names in their academy setup, so would have been well aware of Matos’s pedigree and potential.
My conclusion is that Alex Matos needed a new start to re-discover himself. In the U21s side, he failed to really kick on and get near the first team – something which both parties would have expected after he signed his first professional contract with City.
This doesn’t mean he was a bad performer for the U21s, there was just a general feeling he would evolve more quickly.
If the Chelsea move goes through as reported, then it’s a fabulous opportunity for him to find his best form. In addition, Chelsea pay their young players extremely well, so this would give Matos some financial security for the future.
Whether or not he makes the first team setup in the future for Chelsea is another topic for another day, but he’ll certainly get the attention and profile at Chelsea, which might open a corridor for a first-team opportunity elsewhere.
From a Norwich perspective, the free transfer isn’t an ideal scenario as there have been opportunities for them in the past to sell him for good money.
However, I don’t see this as a massive blow for City as the midfield area is stacked in the academy at the minute. Throughout this season, Matos has been competing against Harry Brooke, Ben Watt, Joe Duffy and Fin Welch, so it hasn’t been a situation of him playing consistently.
In my opinion, there are players ahead of Matos at the minute in midfield, albeit that’s understandable as he’s only played a handful of games in that role compared to, say, Joe Duffy who has played midfield for the entirety of his academy career.
As the saying goes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I do wonder how good Matos could have been as a winger as when he played there he was a different breed.
One thing is for sure, Matos and his representatives won’t have the same control over him at Chelsea as they did at Norwich, so to see him playing out wide again wouldn’t be a massive surprise.
If this move does go through, then I wish him all the best in his future career. We were very lucky to watch him at his best.