Arthur Melo made his return to non-competitive action last weekend as he lined up in midfield for Juventus’ friendly against Alessandria.
However, those who watched on described the Brazilian as being distinctly off the pace in the eventual Bianconeri victory. Thus, it might be some time until we see him considered for a starting berth in Massimiliano Allegri’s XI.
Fortunately, Juve aren’t currently crying out for Arthur to return and save their souls. While the midfield has been a problem area for the club since Allegri’s initial departure, the combination of Manuel Locatelli and Rodrigo Bentancur in the pivot this season has returned considerable success. The pair boast a harmonious dynamic, with their differing skill sets complementing one another nicely.
Nevertheless, Arthur’s return to fitness is certainly a welcome boost amid a daunting run of fixtures for Allegri’s men before the November international break. The manager will need as many players as he can.
However, the aforementioned form of the favoured pivot means the Brazilian metronome will have to play his way into the side. To begin, you can expect Allegri to ease Arthur in with cameo appearances off the bench.
But, if he does eventually break into the team, Juventus’ dynamics will likely change.
Why Arthur Melo’s return could change Manuel Locatelli’s role
Should he partner Locatelli, a seemingly undroppable figure, Allegri may be tempted to switch to a 4-2-3-1 given the respective profiles of this pivot. While Locatelli possesses a complete skill set and Arthur played as a box-to-box midfielder at times during his spell in Barcelona, both excel closer to their own goal. The Brazilian, in particular, is a masterful first phase player as a result of his press resistance and capacity to play over short distances.
Arthur certainly couldn’t perform Bentancur’s current function in the 4-4-2. He’s not adept at receiving ahead of the ball and he lacks the requisite intensity off the ball. Locatelli can play higher upfield, but then you’d be sacrificing a lot in the build-up phase and wasting the potential of this technically secure pivot. Juve’s build-up would be transformed by the presence of these two in the first phase, and a switch to a 4-2-3-1 means Allegri could deploy a natural linker between defence and attack from a number ten position. This is a role tailor-made for Paulo Dybala.
If Allegri is incessant on retaining the 4-4-2, though, and Locatelli is partnering Arthur in the pivot, then the Italian will be forced into performing Bentancur’s current function. However, I think this dynamic would be a massive waste of the pivot’s potential.
Locatelli won’t see enough of the ball, and their build-up and ball progression struggles will remain.