The presence of fellow debutant Vlahovic meant that Zakaria was always going to go under the radar, but the Swiss midfielder ensured that he dominated the back pages alongside the Serbian.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach star is expected to be the guy to unlock Manuel Locatelli at Juventus, but the Italian’s absence meant it was Zakaria that fulfilled Locatelli’s ideal function on Sunday night. He’s rarely played as a box-to-box in recent times, but it’s a role in which he excelled before his knee injury two years ago.
Zakaria primarily operated from the right half-space ahead of holding midfielder Arthur Melo and opposite the dogged Adrien Rabiot. He rarely ventured outside of this zone.
In possession, the new boy certainly looked a little lost as, unlike Vlahovic, he struggled to form connections with those around him. As a result, he was limited to 37 touches on the night (the least among the Juventus starters). However, while he was almost absent in the first half when Juve had the ball, he impressed without it. His long legs allowed him to pick passes off with aplomb and he registered the most interceptions (four) on the night) while adding two tackles.
He defended with vigour throughout and I bet he couldn’t believe his luck when he was able to quite literally saunter in behind the Hellas Verona defence and score his first Juventus goal following some brilliant work from Morata. The 25-year-old’s cool finish didn’t appear to be from someone who’d scored just 11 times in almost 150 appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach.
Nevertheless, Zakaria’s strike allowed the nerves to dissipate and, subsequently, we were able to catch the Swiss international in full flight. He’s a powerful but equally elegant runner, with his long stride resembling Milan’s gazelle, Rafael Leao. In the minutes that followed his goal before he was forced off with ten to play, Zakaria displayed the athleticism, power and technical security that saw him emerge as one of Europe’s hottest midfield properties before the pandemic. There’s a punch behind every pass to ensure it reaches its intended target, while sequences of dashing footwork depicted his capacity to escape pressure.
Overall, we were treated to a glimpse of Zakaria on his debut and while the midfielder showed he can play as a box-to-box, I think he could add another dimension to Allegri’s side from a deeper-lying position. There’s certainly reason to be optimistic, nonetheless.