The following is a guest post from Gareth at Tactical Role – You can follow him here on Twitter.
With Juventus set to sign the highly rated Arthur Melo from FC Barcelona in an exchange deal for Miralem Pjanic, let us look at what the Brazilian midfielder will bring to Turin and why Juventus fans should be extremely excited by the signing.
Arthur is a high-quality central midfielder, capable of playing in several positions across the midfield and is blessed with exceptional technical ability as well as precise vision, which has often seen him likened to Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez. Arthur’s ability on the ball as well as his football IQ make him a very exciting prospect playing under the system Maurizio Sarri has implemented in his time as Juventus manager. As Juventus have played possession-based football this season, with a huge focus on maintaining the ball and position play, a midfielder with Arthur’s skill set is of extreme value.
Arthur has primarily played as a central midfielder, in the number 8 position, for Barcelona, since being signed from Gremio. He’s primarily operated on the left-hand side of the midfield, as demonstrated by the heat-map below. His ability to perform at a high level on the left-hand side is an additional bonus for Juventus, as Arthur is more comfortable playing more towards the right side of midfield.
In the recent 2019/20 season, the Brazilian has struggled with several injuries, however, has still managed to make 27 appearances for Barcelona, making 17 starts. Within this time, he’s successfully demonstrated that he is an elite passer of the ball with an exceptional passing range, averaging 53.3 passes per game with a sublime success rate of 91.2%. Numbers which are comparable with the man he’s often compared to in Xavi.
Additionally, Arthur played 2.3 long balls per game and averaged 0.6 key passes, as well as managing to assist 4 times. These figures are rather impressive considering prior to Quique Setien taking charge of Barcelona, Arthur’s creativity was vastly limited under Ernesto Valverde. Since Setien took charge of Barcelona, Arthur’s performances improved, with both his expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) increasing.
This comes as positive news for the Bianconeri as Setien’s system is relatively similar to Maurizio Sarri’s in the sense where possession is at a forefront and positional play is utilised when attacking. Furthermore, as well as being an elite passer of the ball, Arthur is an extremely capable dribbler, boasting an 83.1% success rate. What comes of extreme significance to Juventus is Arthur’s ability to dribble and progress the ball in the final third, where he is able to use his dribbling ability to open up angles for himself as well as for teammates, something which Juventus have heavily lacked this season from their midfield.
In terms of weaknesses, Arthur has a lack of success when competing for aerial duals, however, under Sarri’s system, which focuses on short-passing, it is unlikely that this will prove to be a significant issue. From an overall perspective, it can be seen that Arthur boasts many great strengths, such as his passing and dribbling qualities. As such, it is probable that Juventus will utilise Arthur as the right-sided midfielder of the midfield three. This would mean Arthur would progress the ball into the final third with the intent of creating opportunities, a role in which he thrives.
However, there’s a very interesting way in which he can be used by Juventus: not as a central midfielder, but rather as a defensive midfielder, playing a similar sort of role as to which Jorginho played in under Maurizio Sarri during his time at Napoli and Chelsea. While at Brazilian side Gremio, Arthur was often played as a defensive midfielder, covering a large portion of the midfield as the heat-map below illustrates:
While playing as a defensive midfielder for Gremio, Arthur proved to be extremely capable of playing in this position; let’s remember, it was his performances at Gremio which led to Barcelona signing him for approximately €40m. On the ball, Arthur averaged 74.1 passes per game, with a superb success rate of 93.1%, as well as managing 4.1 long balls and 0.8 key passes per game respectively. Arthur further showcased why he could successfully play in the defensive midfielder position by proving to be excellent in playing under pressure, often utilising his movement and dribbling to play his way out of danger and find a pass to a teammate.
From an “on the ball”, standpoint, Arthur has all the capabilities to be successfully deployed in the “Jorginho Role” at Juventus. In saying this, lets analyse the Brazilian’s defensive work in the position. While playing as a defensive midfielder for Gremio, Arthur made 2.4 interceptionss per game, along with 0.6 tackles per game while committing only 0.4 fouls on average. In comparison, in his final season at Napoli, Jorginho made 1.5 intercepts per game along with 1.9 tackles.
This further highlights Arthur’s exceptional positional awareness both on and off the ball, as he takes advanatge of his awareness to successfully make intercepts, however, his tackling ability can be seen as a weakness to some extent and will need to be improved if he is to successfully play in a defensive midfield role for Juventus, particularly when facing Europe’s elite sides in the Champions League. However, in the grand scheme of things, there is a strong possibility for Arthur to be used in this position due to his ability to distribute the ball and recycle possession while dictating the tempo of Juventus’ play.
To conclude, we can see the qualities which Arthur would bring to Juventus. A highly gifted midfielder who is still years away from reaching his prime at the age of 23, he shapes to be a superb signing for the Bianconeri and is capable of playing to a high level across several positions of the midfield. Essentially, Juventus have managed to offload Miralem Pjanic, a player on the decline who struggled to fit into the Sarri system in exchange for a player still reaching his prime who fits in perfectly with the system being developed at Juventus, in Arthur.
Shrewd business by Juventus led by the negotiating of Fabio Paratici. Whether Arthur will be made use of playing in a central midfield role or in the role of a defensive midfielder remains to be seen, however, the Juventus faithful have strong reason to be excited by this signing and there is no doubt Arthur will be of extreme importance if Juventus are to achieve their primary ambition of maintaining their domestic dominance as well as the greater goal of winning the UEFA Champions League in the years to come.