We can finally breathe a bit. Away from the foot of the table, finally able to get the stink of the relegation zone out of our nostrils, Juventus has put together a decent run of results of late, beginning to look like the bianconeri side that's run rampant through Italy for the past five years. It was rough going for a while, but the team now sits 5th in the Serie A table and secured passage to the Champions League Knockout Rounds with a game in hand, with the opportunity to nail down top spot in the group with just a draw.
Key to this resurgence has been a certain Claudio Marchisio.
Absent due to injury for the first few weeks of the season, our principino's presence was sorely missed. Juventus suffered every single one of its four losses this season without him on the pitch, dropping points and generally performing poorly. In his absence, the team looked incredibly disjointed, devoid of ideas and without any real leadership from the outfield players. Back in October, Danny Penza postulated what Marchi's return would mean, and now we know.
All too often this year Juve has lacked balance and cohesion in both attack and defense, but since his return, Marchisio has shown exactly why he's indispensable to Massimiliano Allegri's Juve. From his impeccable positioning, quiet direction on and off the ball, ceaseless running and metronomic passing, Claudio breathes life into the bianconeri, giving confidence to his teammates and allowing them to show their best self on a regular basis.
The rest of Juventus' midfield has been hit-or-miss this season, with injuries, form and youth all contributing to the fluctuation in performances we've seen this campaign. Marchisio's 90 percent pass completion rate this season is only bettered by Hernanes (surprisingly checking in at 91 percent over the same period). What these statistics don't show are Marchisio's incredible ability to keep play ticking over with just one or two touches, adding much-needed pace to Juventus' attack, and unsettling opposing defenses with his lightning-quick switches of play.
With Claudio's return, Paul Pogba is finally looking like himself again, the attack is more free-flowing and dynamic, and perhaps most importantly, Juventus' defense has stopped conceding goals like it's a Black Friday sale at the Juventus Stadium. Consider this: Out of the 11 matches Claudio Marchisio has played for Juve this season, they've kept clean sheets in a whopping seven of them. This is no coincidence.
Now that Marchisio is fit, hale and hearty, a solid midfield trio has begun to flesh itself out; at least in the immediacy. With his intelligence and calming presence alongside Stefano Sturaro's endless energy and grinta, and Paul Pogba's otherworldly ability, the team has has finally found some real balance and the performances have begun to match.
Things are beginning to look good for Juventus, and the key appears to be Claudio Marchisio.