Juventus: So, what does Arthur Melo actually offer?

Juventus, Arthur Melo (Photo by Claudio Villa./Getty Images)
Juventus, Arthur Melo (Photo by Claudio Villa./Getty Images) /

Ultimately, it was Arthur Melo‘s fateful lapse in concentration that succumbed to Juventus to yet another embarrassing defeat during this tumultuous 2020/21 campaign.

Supposedly obscured by Leonardo Bonucci of Adolfo Gaich’s presence, the Brazilian’s tepid pass across his own box set Gaich and Benevento on their way to securing a historic victory over the demising giants.

It’s the sort of unforgivable error that’s poised to trigger the feeling brains of Juventini, with wild emotion comprehensively overwhelming any form of reason. Unnecessary, overboard, and simply inaccurate takes on the metronomic Brazilian spread across social media like wildfire in the aftermath of the defeat.

Nevertheless, Arthur’s rare mishap undoubtedly thrust him into the spotlight for the first time since his arrival from Barcelona in the summer and certainly provoked a rather antagonising but perhaps understandable question: What does he actually provide to this faltering Juve side?

Specialised profile

The Brazilian’s unassuming profile makes such a question fair but, overall, I don’t think – pound-for-pound – there’s a superior midfield option currently within the Bianconeri’s ranks than Arthur. Rodrigo Bentancur showed promise under Maurizio Sarri but lacks the technical security to evolve into a top pivot player, Adrien Rabiot has talent but – more often than not – is away with the fairies than actually playing the sport, Nicolo Fagioli is unproven, while both Weston McKennie and Aaron Ramsey have been deployed in alternative roles by Il Maestro this term.

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Arthur, meanwhile, is a master in ball retention and, in particular, resisting the opponents’ press. His specific but perhaps mundane skillset means he’s pivotal to Juve’s build-up and ensuring Pirlo’s ideal of controlling matches is manifested on the field.

According to FBRef, the midfielder ranks in the 99th percentile of all midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues over the past year in pass completion (93.4%) and the 97th percentile for passes completed per 90 minutes (87.95). He’s metronomic, although the stats would also suggest that he’s fairly progressive too: ranking in the 71st and 87th percentiles for progressive passes (4.97) and carries (6.40) per 90 respectively.

There are distinct shortcomings, however. The Brazilian isn’t overly athletic and far from a natural defender. Although, he’s made huge strides in the defensive phase and is certainly more robust in Turin than he ever was in Catalonia. The primary concern regarding Arthur, though, is his ineptitude in the final third – woes that are only exacerbated by a midfield partner who boasts similar deficiencies.

The only period in his career where he enjoyed a spurt of goal contributions arrived when he was playing in an unnaturally advanced role under Ernesto Valverde at the start of the 2019/20 campaign. The midfielder started the season with five goals and assists in his first five La Liga appearances before being ostracized by Valverde’s successor Quique Setien ahead of his move to Serie A.

Is there a problem?

While yesterday’s error will cloud the judgment of many, no, there’s not a glaring issue.

The role he’s currently performing for Pirlo means he shouldn’t be a protagonist in the final third. His job: aiding Juve’s build-up in the single pivot, retaining possession, and circulating the ball efficiently, has been performed to a high level. The real problem is that it’s not noticed due to the current absence of a bona fide creator.

It won’t be until a superior midfield partner arrives at the club – *cough* Manuel Locatelli *cough* – when the Brazilian’s efficient simplicity is truly appreciated. He desperately needs a supreme ball-progressor who offers a reliable source of penetration and thrust beside him; a player capable of altering the dynamic of Juve’s often predictable attacks.

The Bianconeri are currently too one-paced, with Arthur undoubtedly a factor in that – he shouldn’t be exempt from such criticism. Overall, however, he’s a pivotal part of the Old Lady, with his recent absence hard-felt – see Bentancur’s error-ridden spell as Pirlo’s metronome. Sunday’s defeat was Juve’s first with Arthur in the starting XI.

Next. Juventus Player Ratings from loss to Benevento. dark

In the meantime, I’d quite like to see Arthur partner McKennie in the midfield pivot. Such a partnership should provide the healthiest balance of ball retention, penetration (through the American’s movement), and intensity out of all of Pirlo’s potential midfield tandems.

However, performances are likely to remain tepid, stale, and predictable until La Joya’s return, with the past month only emphasising just how important the upcoming transfer window is for Juve. They have to get it right.