There are things to like and not like about every preseason tour that Juventus has gone on these last handful of years. Sometimes the bad has outweighed the good, with transfer sagas and endless rumors having dominated the summer months with friendlies sporadically sprinkled in between talk of players coming and going.
Something to not like about this preseason: How Juventus’ defense has looked at times.
Something to like about this preseason: How Juventus’ homegrown No. 8, Claudio Marchisio, has resembled the player of old thus far.
Of course, declaring that Marchisio is fully back and there’s nothing to worry about is the catch when it comes to basing things off three preseason games. It’s the ultimate fun with small sample sizes during games that a lot of us can get caught up in during this time of the year.
But the reason why the headline is what it is can be attributed to this: Marchisio is not exactly in the same boat as a lot of Juve’s returning players. He’s not like Paulo Dybala or Gonzalo Higuain and coming off a very good season where they were quite productive far more often than they were not. Marchisio’s return from his serious knee injury was marked with Max Allegri not pushing the issue and Juve’s No. 8 not really resembling the player we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. That same player who has been one of Juventus’ most consistent players ever since he’s become a regular starter years ago.
The sample size may be small and the games didn’t count in terms of appearances for the club until this past weekend’s season opener against Cagliari. But when it comes to Marchisio showing that he’s completely over his injury troubles, they certain went a long way.
In short, Marchisio is showing what a lot of players who have a serious knee injury endure. The first season back is what Marchisio’s was — a struggle to regain the kind of form that we’ve become accustomed to. His performances were mixed, showing flashes of the player we know he can be but never putting consistent games together really put everything together.
But Marchisio is now 18 months out from the most significant injury of his accomplished career. The biggest thing over the course of Juventus’ four preseason games and the Serie A season opener against Cagliari was just the simple fact of how he’s moving with the ball and off of it. He just seems to be more comfortable out on the field — which is understandable considering how long ago his knee surgery now is.
Marchisio was named to Football Italia’s Team of the Week for the opening round of games in Serie A. This is what was said about him:
Controlled the midfield throughout, kept it simple and inspired the team to play as he did, with self-control and elegance. Showed off his marvellous engine and interpreted the game with intelligence. Gifted.
If that doesn’t sum up what we know about Marchisio, I don’t know what does.
Marchisio doesn’t do the spectacular. That’s not his game. It’s never going to be his game. And at age 31 — make it 32 years old in January — we shouldn’t expect anything else. Some of his best performances over the years have been ones where he does everything well, not one singular thing exceptionally brilliant.
He is the glue to Juventus’ midfield that holds things together. And now that he’s starting to remind us all of the player before he went down in a heap of pain against Palermo nearly two years ago, Allegri will have more reason to entrust in Marchisio a bigger role than the one he had a season ago when his form never truly got going.
Sure, having Blaise Matuidi will mean there’s more competition for playing time. Same goes for Allegri sticking with the 4-2-3-1 formation that kick-started Juventus’ season a year ago. And having Miralem Pjanic dropping dimes like he did against Cagliari last weekend will do nothing to say he shouldn’t be playing more often than not.
But Juventus doesn’t have another midfielder like Marchisio on its roster right now. Because of that, we should be thankful that the Marchisio of old is starting to show himself once again.