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Sunday Musings: Maurizio Sarri’s reportedly done some thinking about his midfield

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We have some thoughts about these reported thoughts.

AS Roma v Juventus FC- Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Even though Juventus played rather well the last time we saw them play a month ago, we’ve known for weeks now that Maurizio Sarri’s squad is far from a complete package. There has been the need for adjustments made, and I’m not just talking about some players leaving and better ones taking their place.

So much of what Sarri’s appointment has been focused on is time — which has involved the caveat of when they weren’t playing well in the first half of the season to hope things get better as the second-half crunch arrived in February, March, April and May. Sarrismo takes time to master, and while this Juventus team may have its flaws, the general line of thinking was that time would be a benefit to this team, not a hinderance.

Nobody could have foreseen the Serie A season being postponed with 12 rounds to go back when preaching patience was as common as any kind of saying we uttered around here. But, while Juve’s last game was a success, the break has apparently allowed Sarri to do some thinking — what else does he have to do other than staying at home in an effort to remain healthy? — about what his team will look like when (or if) the games do come back into our lives.

La Gazzetta dello Sport outlines these points in which Sarri has been taking note of during the current coronavirus suspension of play and will implement whenever Juve do take the field again:

  • To the surprise of no one, Cristiano Ronaldo will have a free role in a 4-3-3 formation, pretty much given a green light to try and create as much havoc as possible as he tries to pick up where he left off form wise of the last few months.
  • A lot like he was in the 2-0 win over Inter last month, Rodrigo Bentancur could very well be the deep-lying midfielder that Miralem Pjanic has failed to be over the course of the last few months. Sarri has reportedly been quite impressed with how Bentancur has played during his short time in Pjanic’s place.
  • The other two starting spots in the midfield have also been settled. Or, as much as they can possibly be settled seeing as the team isn’t playing games and likely won’t be for at least another four or six weeks if everything goes right. They, for now, will belong to Blaise Matuidi and Aaron Ramsey, giving Juventus, according to La Gazzetta: “one who holds and runs for three, the other who looks, fits and goes to shooting as Sarri likes.”
  • Sarri will defend in more of a 4-4-2 formation seeing as not all of his attacking players are exactly adapt in contributing to the defense more often than not.
  • Sarri wants to use Douglas Costa’s talent to his advantage, although the fact that the Brazilian can’t exactly stay healthy for long stretches of time these days makes that desire a little challenging.
  • There are more, but they’re kinda obvious, so I’ll just end it here.

Based on what the title of this article is, let’s just focus on the midfield, shall we?

I want you to guess the starting midfield the last time Juventus actually played a competitive game. Think about it, and it won’t take you all that long to actually figure it out seeing as all three names have already been mentioned above.

Bentancur in the middle, Ramsey on the right, Matuidi on the left.

That wasn’t so difficult now was it?

Obviously a lot of what’s feeding Gazzetta’s line of thinking into Sarri’s thought process revolves around the fact that the last time Juventus played a game and played quite well on top of that, it involved those three players lining up next to each other. Juventus looked, really good, and that has to make you think just how much Sarri will actually run it back from that game rather than try to tinker because you just know that if the games do come back, they will be happening at a rate where players are going to get burnt out quite fast.

But, for a second, what if this is the midfield that Sarri rolls with whenever the games do come back? Is this the best combination of players that Sarri should go with?

A lot of it could very well revolve around the player that has barely been mentioned up until this point — and that’s Pjanic.

Pjanic was so good early on this season that you thought he could only continue to thrive under Sarri’s watch, with a system that could very well fit his skillset quite well. But the thing with Pjanic, as we saw previously under Max Allegri, is that you have to pay serious attention to just how much he’s playing and how much an early-season workload will impact him as the year goes on. He’s wilted in the second half before, and he’s obviously done it again this season, with Bentancur stepping in and giving Juventus a much larger midfield presence right in front of the defense right before the suspension of play.

The catch this year is that there’s been an unpredicted suspension of play where players who might have either gotten close to hitting a wall in terms of fatigue or already smashed right into it have suddenly gotten (at least) two months off. How much would that benefit Pjanic if Gazzetta’s thinking about Sarri’s thinking is off and the 30-year-old Bosnian is actually still an important piece to the puzzle remains to be seen.

For now, though, Juventus’ midfield might not feature Pjanic. Or maybe it will. It will certainly have Bentancur playing somewhere, either as a defensive midfielder or a box-to-box kind of option. In the small sample size where we saw the Bentancur-Matuidi-Ramsey trio it has proven to work out quite well, but there’s no guarantee it will be the answer that allows Juventus to hold off Lazio for the Scudetto if we get a chance to see that happen.

This is Juventus’ midfield we’re talking about here, so the ultimate solution might not even be on the roster until four or five months from now. So there’s that ... which might not always be that nice.