During the last three seasons, Juventus have been steadily working toward their goal of reaffirming their position as one of the top clubs in European football following their undefeated 2011-2012 Scudetto winning campaign. Brought in the summer before that season, Arturo Vidal would spend the next two seasons cementing his position as one of the best box-to-box midfielders on the planet. By combining his all action physical style with a keen ability to finish scoring opportunities that pure strikers would find difficult, Vidal was at times able to lift Juventus past opponents seemingly by himself.
Following a knee injury sustained towards the end of last season, Vidal decided to rush his return in order to represent Chile in the 2014 World Cup. That decision has lead to a mostly poor 2014-2015 season for the Chilean as his loss of form has left his looking a shadow of his former self.
Although things are starting to look differently lately. In the build-up to Juve’s Round of 16 second leg against Borussia Dortumnd, Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli was quoted in an interview with Tuttosport (used here by beinsports) saying he believes, “(Vidal) will find the same form and we will see the real Arturo again soon!”
Reinforcing his international coach’s claims, Vidal produced an industrious defensive performance for the Old Lady which (according to WhoScored)saw him lead the team in tackles (6) while also setting an example for his teammates with his consistent energy and enthusiasm on the defensive end all without picking up a yellow card that would have seen him suspended for the first leg against Monaco. While many may claim that Vidal is yet to reproduce his offensive production from the last few years, those people should instead look at the way the Juventus squad has changed throughout his tenure in Turin:
1. Max Allegri is running a very different offense than Antonio Conte did.
With Max Allegri taking charge of Juventus this year, the team made a drastic shift in their offensive style. He is known to give his players a lot of freedom while attacking in order to take advantage of their creative ability. While in Conte’s Juve, most of the offensive sequences were scripted and designed beforehand in order to take advantage of Andrea Pirlo’s ability to pick a pass that unlocks the defense. Vidal was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this system as he was one of the best finishers in Conte’s team as well as one of the best athletes. Seeing Vidal’s offensive impact decline under Allegri could be contributed to the fact that he is no longer being supplied with scoring opportunities by design.
2. Juventus is a much more talented attacking team this year than in previous seasons.
The shift to Allegri’s preferred 4-3-1-2 formation along with the addition of quality attacking players such as Alvaro Morata and Roberto Pereyra has given Juventus a much needed shot of quality in the offensive third that wasn’t there previously under Conte. Coupled with Carlos Tevez, who is known to drop deep in Allegri’s Juve, there is simply less need for Vidal to assert himself offensively. It is simply not fair to expect Vidal to stand out offensively amongst the current Juve strike force the same way he did when playing with an attack consisting of Ale Matri, Sebastain Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella, and Mirko Vucinic.
While many will look at Vidal’s statistics against Dortmund and say they are fitting of a typical Arturo Vidal performance, the part of his game I was most impressed by was his almost individual success in nullifying Marco Reus from making any impact in the game.
Touted as one of the rising stars in world football, Reus’ brilliance was one of the main reasons that most people continued to favor Borussia for progression following their 2-1 defeat in Turin. Although for all of the hype surrounding the man consistently linked to Real Madrid in the first half of the season, his overall impact on the game was little to none as he finished with zero shots, shots on target, dribbles, or key passes. While credit should be given to the Juventus team as a whole for a brilliant defensive showing in Germany, a lot of the credit for Reus’ no-show should be given to Vidal. He was an ever present thorn in the side of the German with his physical play leaving Reus frustrated and unable to find a way through the Chilean or his teammates throughout the night.
There was one period of the Borussia Dortmund second leg that I felt perfectyly represented Vidal’s importance to this Juventus team (but I couldn’t find a clip)
At around the 60th minute of a crucial Champion’s League match, Dortmund players as well as fans must have been looking to their star player to turn the tides of the game that was more and more looking like a formality for Juventus. Due to Vidal’s consistent pressure on Reus, he is forced to come all the way into his own half and wrestle with Vidal to the group before he eventually able to pick up the ball. Arturo sprints back into position and prepares for Dortmunds next more. Once he was able to get on the ball, Reus found himself pitted against a disciplined and organized Juventus defensive line; and with Arturo Vidal the nearest defender impeding his path on goal, Reus decided to simply pass away the ball and fade into the sea of Juventus defenders and out of the game.
Having a player willing and able to duke it out with the oppositions best player on the biggest of stages is one of the luxuries afforded to this Juventus squad by Arturo Vidal that many other top European squads do not possess. If Vidal is able to find form and put in performances like the one against Dortmund against other top European squads, the combined output of any combination of himself, Paul Pogba, Roberto Pereyra, Andrea Pirlo, and Claudio Marchisio in the diamond midfield could bring Juventus to the summit of European football sooner rather than later.