It’s not much of a debate to say that the first half of the 2021-22 season was full of disappointments for Juventus. However, that does not mean everything happened without a few bright spots along the way. I mean, topping a Champions League group doesn’t happen without at least something going a little bit right.
There were some really special goals in the first few months, some brilliant saves and, of course, that moment when you realized Max Allegri was switching (momentarily albeit) to a 4-2-3-1 formation. What a great feeling that was.
And while there have been some underperforming individuals across the board so far this season, I believe we can all agree on the one man who has been a pleasant surprise.
No, I’m just kidding, it’s obviously the guy you already saw in the headline. Federico Bernardeschi is playing some of the best football he has played in years and it could not be coming at a better time for the Bianconeri.
The longer he stays healthy and the more playing time he gets, the more his confidence shows. And as we have seen over the past few years, he is capable of special moments when he is playing with confidence. The key is making those moments come around more often and the Italian seems to be heading in that direction.
After a slow start to the season — like everyone else in this club — Bernardeschi seemed to hit his first turning point after an international break. He was a big part of the Italian side that thrashed Lithuania in September, bagging two assists in the 5-0 victory.
That set up a better run of form when he returned to Turin which definitely turned into more minutes, but he still wasn’t producing the way Juventus needed him to, especially with the rest of the attack floundering too.
The biggest uptick for Bernardeschi’s season, and arguably Juventus as a whole too, came during the home win over Zenit St. Petersburg. Bernardeschi got the start on the left side of the midfield and was everywhere, winning possession in the press and playing seven (7!!!) key passes while grabbing his second assist of the Champions League campaign.
That match could have been his peak performance of the season and even after just one good day, there were not many of us with expectations for him to repeat it. And even though he may not have matched that performance yet, he’s had one of his best runs of form since joining Juventus.
In his last eight matches with the club, beginning with the win over Zenit, Bernardeschi has one goal and five assists. He has created 2.2 of his 3.0 cumulative expected assists for the entire season in the last two months.
THE CROSS FROM BERNARDESCHI— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 8, 2021
THE FINISH MOISE KEAN pic.twitter.com/Wpu4ZryY59
Allegri is obviously taking note of his play, too, as Bernardeschi started in the final six matches before the winter break and recorded at least one goal or assist in five of those. And the most impressive part may be that he has started in three different positions during that time.
He has played much more naturally than Adrien Rabiot ever could as a left-sided midfielder in Allegri’s 4-4-2, but he has also played well on the right side of it. And he has thrived while playing in one of the free-roaming winger spots when Juventus switched to the 4-2-3-1.
There are still holes in this Juventus side, obviously, but if Bernardeschi can stay healthy and provide that kind of consistent play for the second half of the season, it will fill at least one of those holes. He may already be a must-start going forward, but the beauty of it is being able to play him in several different positions to give other players a break throughout the crowded schedule that comes over the next few months.
And even though the league title may be out of reach, Juventus is one of the final 16 teams left in Europe. If a surprise run is in the mix, expect Bernardeschi to play a big role in it.
Bernardeschi has been massive in the Champions League so far this season, being the most creative player for Juventus in the campaign. He played (and started) in just four of the group matches but all of them were wins for Juventus and he contributed in each one. He leads the team in key passes in the competition and has created the most expected assists.
But his numbers don’t just stand out among his own squad. He ranks in the top 15 of all players in the competition for shot-creating actions and goal-creating actions per 90 minutes. Bernardeschi is fifth among all players in expected assists per 90 minutes.
Bernardeschi is a creator and we may be clamoring for more goal scorers than creators in the second half of the season, especially if Alvaro Morata leaves, but what he is doing with this team and in this system is clearly working well. Plus he is just fine in front of goal, especially now that he grabbed his first one to get that pressure off his back.
Federico Bernardeschi scores his first Serie A goal since July 2020 pic.twitter.com/4Eq15jPaKO— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 21, 2021
This certainly has been an unexpected resurgence from one half of the “Wings of Fede,” but it has been very welcomed. And maybe it is unrealistic to expect the same from him for another five months but a lot of the past would be forgotten if he can play the hero or even just one of the main sidekicks for the rest of the season. It’s certainly hard not to root for him at this point.