Like many, I wanted to give Arturo Vidal the benefit of the doubt when he started out slowly simply because of what he's done over his Juventus career prior to this season. He may have made a name for himself in Germany, but Vidal truly became a star in Turin. And because of it, we've seen arguably the best box-to-box midfielder play in a Juventus jersey.
Well, that was before this season.
As a collective whole, Vidal's post-World Cup health and over on-field performances were ... interesting during the first half of the season, to say the very least. For weeks on end Vidal looked like a fraction of the player that had become so great in such a short period of time with the Old Lady. He looked sluggish, a clear sign that the knee injury he suffered at the end of last season was still lingering about like an annoying mosquito flying above your head while you were trying to sleep.
Basically, in short, Vidal wasn't Vidal.
@WhoScored Has he died?— TweetChelseaFC (@TweetChelseaFC) April 9, 2015
Okay, so maybe we won't go that far regarding his early-season struggles. However, Vidal was far from the Vidal we knew he could be when healthy. He was there on the field, but not totally there in terms of his pure playing form like in years past. He showed glimpses of his old self, yet the consistent form everybody thought was just around the corner never arrived.
Vidal might not be clicking on the incredibly awesome world-class form that saw him take over game after or become Juventus' joint-leading scorer in the days before Carlos Tévez wore bianconero. Yet, as we saw on Tuesday night in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Monaco, Vidal is getting back to what he does best — and at the best possible time, too.
The home stretch of the season is officially here. Eight games in Serie A remain. Juventus are 90 minutes away from the semifinals of the Champions League for the first time in over a decade. There's the Coppa Italia final against Fiorentina to play come the beginning of June. These are the games that mean the most, and getting Vidal in top shape only adds to the strength of a squad that has risen to the occasion when it truly matters in the last two months.
And when you throw into the fact that there's no Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo is just back from injury and the midfield outside of Claudio Marchisio has been in flux for weeks, Vidal's consistent presence means that more.
Just look at his game against Monaco, one that had many handing the Man of the Match honors to King Arturo.
Vidal, who was all over the field from the opening minute until the last, finished with seven tackles. SEVEN. That number alone is classic Vidal. The rest of the Juventus team recorded seven tackles TOTAL, according to WhoScored. Impressive, right? Sure, his passing was off at times and he missed one of Juve's best scoring chances Tuesday night, but to have Vidal contributing defensively the way he did against Monaco is where so much of his value as a midfielder comes from.
Then there was that penalty. Oh that beautiful penalty that gave Juventus a 1-0 lead heading into the second leg next Wednesday night in France.
8 - Arturo Vidal has found the net after 8 Champions League games without scoring (since his hat-trick in Nov 2013 vs FC Copenhagen). Relief— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 14, 2015
This isn't full-fledged Vidal of a year or two ago, one that takes over games almost every time he steps on the field. But it's the closest we've seen in the last 12 months. That's a good thing without a sliver of doubt in anybody's mind.
Well, unless you're playing against Juventus over the course of the next six or seven weeks. Then I guess Vidal resembling the player us Juventini have come to love and root for isn't exactly good news.