Continuing on with our end of the season ratings here at your friendly neighborhood blog, BWRAO, we now turn our attention to the midfield.
This should be a breeze now, shouldn’t it?
In hindsight, we should have all probably seen this coming, a Cristiano Ronaldo signing a midfield does not make. The largely-underperforming group of midfielders that took the field on the 2017-18 season was only bolstered by the arrival of Emre Can — and that worked out ... not so well, actually!
But enough with the foreplay, let’s get down to business.
Players will be sorted from most to least amount of appearances, all stats reflect all competitions.
I’m also only grading full-time midfield guys, so you won’t see Federico Bernardeschi as a mezzala or the few times we all kind of talked ourselves into Paulo Dybala playing as a trequartista.
Miralem Pjanic — 7
Season stats: 44 appearances, 4 goals, 8 assists, 9 yellow cards and 1 red card.
I had a lot of trouble with the Bosnian player.
On the one hand, he was one of the most dependable players on the squad, leading the midfield in appearances and assists. If you were to name the one midfield player that you could truly build around, it would be Mire. His distribution was as solid as ever and you could tell that whenever he wasn’t around, the midfield, as a whole, suffered.
I’ll say it, in his best days is like il Maestro, Andrea Pirlo, never left.
And yet … I get this gnawing feeling this is not the best way to deploy a guy like Pjanic. A guy that was true terror as an attacking midfielder and was brought in from Roma ostensibly to do that, now spends the majority of his time as a regista type of guy. And while he has performed admirably, I fear this is not the best use of him as a player.
At times, he lacks the defensive prowess and physicality to be a top of the line, elite defensive midfielder. If we keep the Pirlo comparison going, you could argue he was as a similar player, but on his best days as a regista he had a prime Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and a young Paul Pogba helping with a lot of those potential shortcomings. Pjanic has … not that.
Every club in the world would love to have Pjanic in their team, as a defensive midfielder or attacking. But as several teams have showed, Ajax most recently, his flaws in the position can be exploited and without the right combination of guys shielding him it’s hard to envision him becoming an elite middle of the pitch player.
It will be interesting to see how the new guy, whoever that might be, decides to deploy him. If Pjanic stays, which I hope he does, next season will be very interesting for him.
Blaise Matuidi — 6.5
Season stats: 42 appearances, 3 goals, 3 assists, 8 yellow cards.
There’s this place near my house that has one of my favorite comfort foods in the world. It’s Mac’n Cheese with Boneless Buffalo Wings. It’s incredible, and also has at the very least 1,500 calories. It’s not fancy, it ain’t winning any culinary awards and I don’t get it every day. But when I do, I know exactly what I’m getting — it’s carbs, it’s spice and it’s chicken, nothing more and nothing else. It gets the job done.
That’s Blaise Matuidi in a nutshell. Dude, he gets the job done. He is not an elite midfielder, and no one is going to confuse him for one either any time soon. But what he does, he does well and he does it effectively.
Matuidi was second on the team in appearances, very rarely got injured and was an absolute work horse. He gives you pace, work rate and fight. He is also very limited technically, so he can and did struggle with pressing teams or leading a counterattack.
Again, just an imperfect player that when given suitable running mates could be a very good piece on a very good midfield, it just wasn’t the case in this Juventus squad. I’m sure we will see him again next season, ready to run his ass off and work extremely hard. And, you know what? Sometimes that works just fine.
Rodrigo Bentancur — 6
Season stats: 39 appearances, 2 goals, 3 assists, 9 yellow cards and 1 red card.
My second large adult son had an up and down season. With the departures of depth players like Claudio Marchisio and Stefano Sturaro and only the addition of Emre Can, a heavier load of minutes fell on the young Uruguayan than in the previous season.
Truth be told, I think Max Allegri and the staff had high hopes for Bentancur. They threw him on difficult situations in the previous season and I’m guessing they banked heavily on his development due to a lack of signings for the midfield in last summer’s transfer season.
While he did show great strides compared to last season and had some dazzling displays, especially at the beginning of the year, he never became a guy you could fully trust day in and day out.
With a new coaching staff in tow and what should be a revamped a midfield next season, the future of Bentancur is very much in the air. It could be a make it or break it kind of season for the youngster, let’s hope he puts it all together.
Emre Can — 6
Season stats: 36 appearances, 4 goals, 1 assist, 9 yellow cards.
Back before the season started, your correspondent along with a good number of the BWRAO staff pointed to Can as one of the low key, most important players of the season. With the departures of Stefano Sturaro and Claudio Marchisio — still bummed out — an already-thin midfield got thinner.
So good old Emre Can was brought in as a reinforcement, the only reinforcement.
Big things were expected of the young German, both due to his potential and his quite hefty wage number. Did he deliver? Not really!
Much like his previous fans in Anfield warned us time and time again, squint and he will look like an all-around beast of a midfielder at one moment. Blink and he will be running around like a headless chicken with no clear indication he knows the concept of “positioning” or “football”.
Just maddeningly inconsistent, injuries can be blamed, but not entirely. He is still young and could still put it all together; hell, I wouldn’t bet against it. But as the savior to be of a depleted Juventus midfield he ended up leaving a lot to be desired.
Sami Khedira — =(
Season stats: 17 appearances, 2 goals.
With a whimper, not a bang, we probably say goodbye to our dear friend Sami Khedira. After an up and down 2017/2018 season in which he played ghastly for large amounts of time he closed out his year playing really good football. There was a moderate expectation that he could replicate his late season form, with both his countryman coming along and a heavier workload for Bentancur. He wouldn’t be forced to play so much, and we could save him for important games.
Injuries derailed that idea immediately and whenever he found himself on the pitch his lack of rhythm and just general age seemed evident. Rinse, wash, repeat.
With a large roster overhaul, Sami will probably go, which despite all the good-natured ribbing he endured here at BWRAO, it will be sad. One of the first big free transfers Juventus had, Khedira had some really good spells of play with Juventus and was always a hard-working player who seemed to be a beloved locker room presence.
We will always have that one Champions League season we made the final — forget what happened there it doesn’t matter — and that one weird ass hat-trick against Sassuolo.
Auf Wiedersehen, Sami!