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Examining the current state of Juventus’ midfield

Good? Bad? The Ugly?

Juventus v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

What is considered the weakest point of Juventus’ roster by many Juventini is not in fact weak at all. If anything, referring to the midfield as the weakest link is only a testament to the strength of the rest of the team. Besides all the complaints about certain players remaining in the team too long and others exiting the team too early — both will remain nameless — this midfield is capable of being a world-class group.

Injuries have been a slight issue of late and the central positions are thinner than usual so it makes sense for Juve to try to make a signing in January. Even if they can bring in a young talent like Brescia’s Sandro Tonali or a superstar like Paul Pogba, I don’t think it’s necessary to make a signing at this point in the season.

Max Allegri knows how to play midfielders and one of his best qualities as a coach is finding ways to fit players of varying styles into different systems. He’s done it many times in the past and has continued to do it this season, particularly with Rodrigo Bentancur in a three-man midfield.

With Emre Can and Sami Khedira out injured the better part of the last six weeks, Bentancur has gained some valuable playing time in big fixtures. If Bentancur can put in performances like he did in both games against Manchester United then he should absolutely be a regular starter in a three-man midfield with Miralem Pjanic and Blase Matuidi that has allowed him to play comfortably and in his natural role. Last season we saw glimpses of his skill on the ball and the lightness of his touch, but he was playing like somebody trying to fit into an unfamiliar role. )It’s worth noting that for a large portion of last season Allegri played a two-man midfield in the 4-2-3-1 and as Bentancur has shown this year and over the summer in the World Cup, he thrives in a midfield of three.)

Not to say Bentancur had the perfect game against United in Manchester, but it was a step in the right direction and a glimpse of just how good Allegri’s midfield can be. I would say that the first half at Old Trafford was his best half with Juventus, which is impressive considering it’s only his fourth Champions League start and just 21 years of age. Bentancur has been most valuable in a deeper role but with the freedom to push the ball forward or handing it off to the outlets on the wings. He can excel in this role with the help of Pjanic and Matuidi, with both respectively providing skills that he lacks at times.

Pjanic has been the most integral part of Allegri’s midfield since he arrived at Juve three summers ago. He was tasked with filling a very important role in the midfield, one that was previously owned by Andrea Pirlo, whose value in a team goes without saying. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Pjanic to his predecessor, Pirlo, but I do think it’s rather agreeable that he has done very well in his role as the regista. Pjanic has been the player to provide very much needed quality to Juventus’ midfield over the past couple seasons, whether it’s lying deep just above the defense or orchestrating the attacks in the final third. In my opinion, Pjanic’s skill with hold up play is among the world’s best and it’s showcased regularly with Juventus anddeserves much more praise than he receives and it’s because of his versatility and consistency that Allegri can experiment with other midfielders and take some chances.

Matuidi is maybe one the bigger transfer market steal in recent memory. Spending €20 million for a 30-year-old midfielder may seem steep, but considering how high prices are trending in the current market, it’s more than fair to say he has lived up to his price tag. Last season Allegri was still learning his strengths and the right way to play Matuidi, but now I think he has given the Frenchman the perfect role to thrive. Matuidi is given the freedom to push forward and win balls before opposing offenses can settle and retain possession. With Mario Mandzukic on the left wing or in the middle of Juve’s front three, Blase will be one of the most effective ball-winners on the pitch. Pjanic and Matuidi have become important pieces to Allegri’s starting XI — and deservedly so. Pairing them with a young and hungry midfielder like Bentancur makes more sense than trying to fit another star player into an already crowded midfield.

When it comes to potential January signings, I think Juventus should steer clear of adding another midfielder. While it would be a great marketing campaign to have “Pogback” 2.0 or to bring in another top talent, it would only hinder the development of the current midfielders and complicate team dynamics that are already building nicely.

If Allegri and the team continues to perform at a similar level as they’ve shown throughout the season then the midfield will not be a problem. The longer Juve’s three best midfielders are on the pitch together the better they’ll become. And with that it must be said, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.