The stars steal the show
Tuesday night’s victory was commanded by Paulo Dybala and Manuel Locatelli. While the former rightly got the plaudits for his exhibition in Salerno, the latter was equally excellent, but he went about his work in a more subtle manner compared to the effusive Argentine.
Locatelli was efficient and effective in this one, as many of those who are clamouring for the Italian to play further upfield were hushed somewhat. Don Hutchinson, a former pro and fine co-commentator who worked on Tuesday’s game for UK broadcaster BT Sport, likened Locatelli to Frank Lampard, describing him as a player who “scores goals” and needs to be closer to the opposition box.
Locatelli has 16 career goals, Dom. Mr Lampard scored 177 times in the Premier League alone. They’re not alike.
Alas, the victory in Salerno was a celebration of the deeper-lying Locatelli. The transition for the former Sassuolo midfielder hasn’t been easy since his summer move to Turin, but this was arguably his best performance in Bianconeri colours thus far. He controlled the bout in the middle of the park; using one or two touches to distribute, resisting pressure with unerring ease and playing vertically when required.
At times this term, Locatelli’s been easy to mark in what’s often been a rigid and static 3-1 build-up structure. But things are starting to change. With Juve adopting a more flexible and varied build-up, they’re discovering new angles, new patterns and a multitude of ways to get Locatelli on the ball.
The Italian had the most touches on the field on Tuesday night (133), as he completed 113 of his 121 attempted passes (93.4% success rate) and a team-high 14 progressive passes. This was a regista-like performance from Locatelli that emanated control and autonomic technique. Midfield partner Rodrigo Bentancur was a particular beneficiary of Locatelli’s brilliance, as the Uruguayan embarked on an uncharacteristically secure and dynamic display.