Even though we’re entering the final stretch of the 2019-20 season during a time when we didn’t think would be happening at the beginning of the calendar year, there’s still business to take care of for Juventus. That involves a few transfers before the month of June came to an, with the headline grabber being a much-talked about swap deal with Barcelona.
Departing will be Miralem Pjanic, a player who has been rather good during his time at Juve.
Arriving is Arthur Melo, a 23-year-old Brazilian midfielder who is viewed by many as a player who still has potential to grow into if he finds himself in the right situation.
Could Juventus be that kind of situation?
And is Arthur the kind of player that will make Juve’s midfield — an area of the field that has been under the microscope for the better part of the last two or three years — better than it currently is?
That’s why we saw out some help from our SBN blog friends Barca Blaugranes. Specifically, we got the chance to chat with Barca Blaugranes Deputy Editor Renato Goncalves. Not only has Renato watched Arthur since joining Barcelona, but also lives in Brazil so he’s about as familiar as anybody we could have asked when it came to Juventus’ latest Brazilian signing. (The 27th in club history, in case you’re wondering.)
We sought some knowledge about Arthur seeing as it’s not like a lot of us were sitting around during the suspension of play and breaking down Barcelona game film. (But if you were, respect to you for finding something to occupy your time.)
Away we go ...
BWRAO: What kind of player is Arthur?
BB: The positives are that he’s extremely smart when it comes to finding space on the pitch and loves to be on the ball as much as possible. The negative: Arthur lacks the intensity and frankly the stamina to play consistently for all 90 minutes, but he’s a brilliantly efficient player on his day.
BWRAO: Where is his best position — box-to-box or as a regista?
BB: Arthur’s best position doesn’t exist at Barcelona or Sarri’s system. He’s what we Brazilians call a ‘segundo volante’ — one of the two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system who isn’t the primary defensive midfielder or the primary creative midfielder. He’s in between the two. Neither Barça nor Sarri play a 4-2-3-1, so you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to begin with. So, with that in mind, he’s most likely to succeed as a regista, especially under Sarri. He won’t be required to come up with beautiful, Pirlo-like long balls to find runners. He’ll just get the ball from the defenders and find the nearest midfielder or fullback. He’s basically ... Pjanic! Just seven years younger.
BWRAO: I’ve seen a lot of people say that Arthur has a lot of talent. But why hasn’t he broken into this Barcelona squad? It’s not like this current Barca midfield is Xavi, Iniesta and the like in their prime...
BB: That’s what is so frustrating, to be honest. He started his Barça career on fire and was exactly the guy I saw in Brazil and was so excited to watch at Barça. But when the schedule got tougher, then the fitness issues came up: he can’t play 90 minutes, and he needs to be rotated in and out constantly if you want him fit every time he plays. But you can’t get into a rhythm like that, his play became wildly inconsistent, and he lost confidence. But he was coached by Ernesto Valverde, who is terrible, and Quique Setién, who is also terrible, and he was asked to be a completely different player. Often what was asked of him exposed his weaknesses and hid his strengths, which is the exact opposite of what a coach should do. Sarri is a better coach who sees football differently and will play Arthur in a position where he’s more comfortable and asked to do less from an attacking standpoint, so that’s why I have hope to see the Arthur I saw at Grêmio.
BWRAO: Knowing that you’ve seen a whole lot more of him than most of us around here have, how do you think Arthur would fit into Juve’s midfield?
BB: He’s the closest comp to Jorginho there is, although Arthur is a slightly better defender than Jorginho. Sarri will play him in the Jorginho role and ask him to start the attack and not worry about anything else. If he’s given confidence by the coach and is allowed to play his way, he can be an improvement on Pjanic. I don’t know if he can be a huge improvement, though, because of the fitness thing. If he can’t work his body to a point where he can play 90 minutes every three or four days, he’ll be as inconsistent and frustrating as he was for me as a Barça fan. The talent’s clearly there, and you’re always hoping for more, but you don’t get it as much as you want.
BWRAO: Juve’s midfield has been the clear weak spot of the squad for a couple of seasons now. Will Arthur make it better?
BB: He certainly has the potential, but he needs dynamic, intense, creative players ahead of him. Jorginho worked so well at Napoli because he had a really well-rounded box-to-box midfielder in Allan and a goal-oriented, attacking midfielder in Hamsik. If Sarri wants Arthur to be as good as Jorginho and better than Pjanic, he needs to worry about who’s playing with Arthur in the midfield three. Arthur himself isn’t good enough to fix it.
BWRAO: All that being said, are you a fan of this deal or does it make you want to throw some things against the wall?
BB: As a Barça fan, I would defend this deal if all we did was sell Arthur to Juventus for a good amount of money. It makes sense, especially if we’re giving our younger midfielders, like Riqui Puig, the chance to start every week. But we’re getting Pjanic back, and although I like his game, he’s an older version of Arthur who won’t do anything special. Because of our president I’m not even mad about how stupid this deal is. It’s just another on a long list of indefensible decisions, but I’ll be really mad if Arthur works at Juve. I was a giant fan of him two years ago and I still think he can become a star, and if he reaches his potential at Juve in a couple of years while we’re desperately trying to get 33-year-old Pjanic of our books but nobody will take him because we overpaid his salary, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.