Antonio Conte likes Luca Marrone. I like Luca Marrone. A lot of regular people around these parts like Luca Marrone. And because of this, he's clearly shown to be a very likable player in a Juventus squad that has quite a bit of them. It's also caused us to overlook his questionable haircuttage of late, but that's beside the point a little bit.
Marrone has a lot of things you want in a player. He's proven to be versatile, adapting to a brand-spankin' new role as a vice-Leonardo Bonucci in the center of Juventus' three-man defense. And, at the same time, Marrone has showed that just because he's midfielder by trade, he can't adjust to the new responsibilities that come with being a central defender. That's certainly no easy task — especially for a soon-to-be 23-year-old who is still developing as a player in general.
Yet that's just the problem. Marrone's position on the field may be up in the air. Is he still a midfielder? Is he going to be a defender, playing as a backup to Bonucci for the foreseeable future?
But there's definitely one thing we know is certain at this moment: Marrone isn't playing consistently — at all.
/fires up handy WhoScored bookmark/
Juventus have played 29 league games this season. Marrone has taken part in exactly seven of them. That's just about a quarter of Juve's games, give or take a percentage point or two. Tack on three more Coppa Italia appearances and a start against Celtic in the Champions League and the grand total is 11 games total that Marrone has played in this season. And just for comparisons sake, that's only two more appearances than he had all of last season.
It'd be easy to assume that I want Marrone to play more — that's basically because I am. But that's not exactly an uncommon statement. The general consensus is that Marrone needs to play more. Yet it's completely out of control — no matter what we say. The reason why I say may is pretty simple: I'm not Antonio Conte. I never say I am, but I like to think I know a little about the guy. Yet getting into his head is certainly a challenge.
And as well as he has done since he came to Juventus two summers ago, Conte has built up the trust. When he makes a decision, the definitive majority fo the time it won't be questioned. Just because Marrone doesn't play, it's not like he's in Mister's doghouse. Conte has confidence in Marrone — a player who was a large part of Siena's midfield and Serie A promotion when Conte was manager — and one would think that his performances haven't forced Juve's managers to think otherwise.
So what does this mean for Marrone?
Right now, I don't know. He's obviously "stuck" behind some fairly talented players — both in defense and in the center of the midfield — the way the current roster is constructed. And unless a lengthy injury happens before the season is over, there's no reason why the pecking order Conte has set up doesn't look like — and doesn't have much of a reason — to change.
The summer will obviously be a huge one personally for Marrone. He could very well be sent out on loan — a decision by Beppe Marotta, if it actually happens, I will wholeheartedly support — as much as he could stay at Juventus. Conte has been a staunch Marrone supporter — having reportedly denied a loan move multiple times regardless of how little he's played the last two years in a Juve jersey. Conte knows what the Under-21 international is capable of as a regular player, coaching him when the two were at Siena in Serie B three seasons ago.
Until that point, though, I'll keep asking me one simple thing: Midfield or defense?
I don't have powers to predict the future. Sorry, no crystal balls here. But then again, I don't even think one of those could definitively see where Marrone will be playing in a year's time. It's not because he isn't a good player. It's far fromthat, really. Either way, Marrone deserves to have a future at Juventus. He certainly has the quality for it.
Midfield or defense? Defense or midfield? Bah, I'll stop now. My head hurts anyways.