Adrien Rabiot, on his 27th birthday, was a surprise inclusion in Sunday’s starting XI with Denis Zakaria back in action.
The Frenchman is a player that very few have grown to admire in Turin, but there’s no disputing that he’s blessed with some useful attributes and they were put to full use in this one as he produced what some might argue his best performance in Bianconeri colours.
Rabiot played well towards the end of last season alongside Rodrigo Bentancur in Andrea Pirlo’s double pivot but he’s often performed a more advanced function under Allegri this season. He’s primarily operated in the left half-space when Juve have the ball before shifting into a wide midfield position out of possession. On this occasion, though, he partnered Manuel Locatelli, then Zakaria, in the double pivot.
The birthday boy, who probably would’ve been playing with a dead arm had he been a UK secondary school student, was key in Juve’s effulgent display, especially in the opening exchanges. The imposing midfielder, who very rarely uses his frame to his advantage, physically overwhelmed the slight but spritely Barella on at least three separate occasions to fairly dispossess the Italian.
Such sequences were the highlight reel moments in a complete showing from Rabiot, who filled in ably for the injured Locatelli when Juve had the ball. The Frenchman sat deeper to perform a more metronomic role while Zakaria ventured forward, but it was he who completed the most dribbles in the Juve ranks (three) as well as the highest pass completion (95.5%).
Overall, Rabiot was incredibly unlucky to be on the losing side on Sunday. Being able to rhapsodise about the perpetually infuriating Frenchman is rare, but his performance against Inter was worthy of such enthusiasm.
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