The last time Arthur Melo touched the ball in a competitive game was back when Juventus clinched a comfortable 4-1 victory against Bologna on the final day of Serie A 2020/21 season to escape the possibility of missing out on Champions League football.
The Brazilian did, however, return to non-competitive action at the weekend as Juventus hosted Alessandria in a friendly match amid the international break. Between these two games, there was just desolation for Arthur.
Although Juventus somehow managed to win the game against Alessandria 2-1 with a rather juvenile group of players, Arthur Melo looked unconvincing, short of the fitness supposedly required to start the game against AS Roma on Sunday.
Why has Arthur missed the start of the 2021/22 season?
In the summer of 2020, Arthur was part of a bizarre swap deal that saw the Brazilian move to Turin from Barcelona and Miralem Pjanic join La Blaugrana in exchange. Yes, a reasonable amount of cash was also included, but we don’t care about that.
Arthur hasn’t had the best time in Italy so far, but it is certainly ten times better than what Pjanic had to endure at Barcelona before he left the club on loan for Besiktas last summer.
Since moving to Turin, the 25-year-old midfielder has played 32 matches and scored one goal, per the numbers from Transfermarkt. The number of appearances and perhaps goal contributions would have excelled further had not he been rattled by a serious leg injury that disrupted the end to his debut season.
In July 2021, Arthur finally underwent surgery to remove the ossification of the interosseous membrane of his right leg. In simple words, he had surgery on his right leg that was previously estimated to keep him out of action for around three months.
The recovery that led to him missing the first few matches of a crucial 2021/22 season for Juventus might have taken longer than just three months. But the midfielder is nearing his return to full-time action.
How is he?
Arthur has spent the start of the new season completing his rehabilitation. He must be raring to get out there and feel some minutes in his legs.
As mentioned earlier, Juventus won the friendly against Alessandria, but Arthur was unconvincing in the game. He made quite a few passing errors, gave away the ball a couple of times, and got dispossessed on several occasions. Such carelessness isn’t a feature of the Brazilian’s precise game.
In the post-match chat with Juventus TV (as reported by Bianconeri Zone Twitter), Arthur went on to clear a plethora of doubts as to how he was feeling after the surgery and what the retuning Juventus boss was expecting of him on the field.
"“Allegri asked me to play at a high intensity, touching balls and creating play. I’ve been working hard for a month. I’m very grateful to all the Juve medical staff who helped me. I’m very happy because I don’t feel the pain I had anymore,” he said."
What could his return bring to the plate for Juventus?
We have already covered what Arthur Melo, as a professional, does offer to this Bianconeri side. In this segment, we will discuss what his return could mean for the Bianconeri midfield. First of all, Juventus will be getting a central-midfielder, who is technically astute and could be the key to some conundrums Max Allegri has encountered in these opening few weeks.
It is now clear that Allegri prefers playing in the 4-4-2 formation, with the tandem of Manuel Locatelli and Rodrigo Bentancur holding a pivot at the heart of midfield supported by two wide outlets.
Now, given the impact that Locatelli has made since making the summer move to Juventus, his spot is almost certain in an Allegri XI. Juventus need the versatile legs of Juan Cuadrado to bomb forward down the flank and help the designated right-back mop up defensively. Consequently, there is no sensibility in dropping Cuadrado from the line-up, either.
That leaves Arthur to target only two spots, currently occupied by Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur. Under Pirlo, Arthur was seen operating in a defensive midfield position and orchestrating the flow of the game. His role was a little more flexible at Barcelona, and Allegri could utilise him as a box-to-box midfielder should he continue with Locatelli as his metronome.
While it is, for now, unclear how Allegri will utilise Arthur’s prowess to its fullest extent, one thing is for sure: the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Weston McKennie will face even stiffer competition for places in the team.
And maybe then, Juventus, having recorded Serie A’s second-highest financial loss of €209.9 million in this fiscal year, could revisit the idea of pursuing Donny van de Beek in the January transfer window.