Welcome to the bi-weekly tactical breakdown where we take a deep dive into recent in game tactics used by Juventus. These will be based on individual players or the team in general. As always, we encourage the Bianconeri community to chime in and create discussion.
In this breakdown, we are going to analyze our newest Brazilian central midfielder, Arthur Melo and what he brings to the table for Juventus in the regista role. First, let’s define what a regista is. The regista is a player who dictates the tempo from a deep lying midfield position and possesses accurate long and short distance passing. They have the specific role on the team that is tasked to get the ball from defence to attack as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Barcelona fans were flux with emotions when the Pjanic-Arthur swap deal happened this summer. Some were happy and some were extremely disappointed. Juventus supporters on the contrary, were jumping for joy. Arthur is 6 years younger, earns less salary, and is arguably better than Pjanic.
Upon his arrival, Arthur was labelled as a player who dictated tempo, had tight ball control and was very tidy in possession. To this point we have seen some glimpses of his brilliance but we fans are left wanting more. There is so much potential here with the diminutive Brazilian and we will take a look at how he can improve and if he has a long term future in black and white.
Figure 1: We take a look at Arthur’s heatmap in black and white to date. (Photo Courtesy of Sofascore.com)
In the figure above we see Arthur’s heat map so far this season as a Juventus player. At first glance, the darkened red on the map makes a lot of sense for the role he is asked to play. Let’s recall the team shape Juventus goes into when in possession (3-4-1-2) and the defensive team shape Juventus go into (4-4-2).
As a ball playing central midfielder, Arthur is tasked to collect the ball from one of the 3 defenders when in Juventus’ defensive third. Ideally, he picks it up from a central position, between the 6 yard box lines. Manager Andrea Pirlo has mentioned that Arthur is the ideal player on the squad to control the game. One of the things that is quite noticeable with Arthur is that he comes to close to the defenders to receive the ball. In a perfect world, one of the things Arthur can work on is to check past the first block of opposing defenders and receive the ball, side on, and ready to play forward. One of the biggest qualms about Arthur is that he doesn’t play the ball forward as much as a regista should.
Figure II: Arthur Picks up the ball close to his defenders, no opposing defenders close, no lines broken
Figure III: 7 seconds later we see Arthur stuck at the halfway line and he completes a square ball to Bentancur, still behind the first block of defenders.
In the pictures above we see the thing Arthur needs to work on most. He needs to receive the ball beyond some opposing players and he needs to play the ball FORWARD!
Taking a look at Arthurs impact in a game, the average supporter won’t notice what he can bring to the team. His range of passing and accuracy is exceptional but his creativity is nothing to brag about. According to Fbref.com, he has completed 94.9% of his passes in his first half season which is first in Série A. What is more interesting is that Arthur has a very high long passing completion percentage at 96.2%. These numbers tell us what we already knew about Arthur, he can zip the ball around with the best of them. What is quite concerning is his creativity. In 17 matches this season he has a grand total of 0 assists. Now that number could be misleading if his teammates aren’t scoring from his creation but that is not the case. Arthur’s expected assists is at a grand total of 0.3. A 72 million euro central midfielder should be contributing more than this.
Another strength Arthur possesses is his neat and tidy close ball control. His low centre of gravity enables himself to wriggle out of tight situations. As we can see in this video below (click link, https://twitter.com/nickwolff_/status/1349452622013607936?s=10 Credit to Nick Wolff), a player with this ability is very hard to come by. It reminds me of Marco Verratti.
Arthur Melo brings something that no one else can to the Juventus midfield. His dribbling and ability to play keep ball sets him above the rest of his colleagues. If he can work on playing the ball forward more often and playing higher up the pitch, we should see more success. We will see more attacking contributions and productivity from him.
Being an undersized holding midfielder has its downfalls. When going against the likes of Milinkovic-Savic, Kessie, Bakayoko and Ilicic, it is tough to battle for the ball. This is what many viewers believe to be a massive disadvantage.
However, in half as many games this year compared to last year with Barcelona, Arthur has almost as many tackles, interceptions and aerial duels won. We can attribute that to his feisty character. Now it may be said that these stats are misconstrued because that means Juventus have less of the ball. However, the fact remains is he still gets the job done defensively. When Juve drop back into a 4-4-2 defending the goal he is usually the one pressuring the opposing player with the ball, near the edge of the area. He brings a different dynamic to the defensive side of their game. Unlike the other midfielders Juventus employ, Arthur likes to keep the ball and the player in front of him. This stalls momentum the opposing team has and allows the rest of the team to get back into their shape. How many times have we seen Bentancur and Rabiot dive into a rash tackle and get a useless card or worse a counter from the attacking team. A bit of balance comes with Arthur in the starting XI.
Figure IV: Arthur in his bank of 4 for Juventus in their defensive shape (4-4-2) (Photo Courtesy of football analysis.com)
Against Napoli in the SuperCoppa, when pressing the opponent in the attacking third, we saw Arthur further up the pitch helping out McKennie and the strikers. This makes a bunch of sense seeing as he can’t win too many aerial duels and he is a pesky player that can nip the ball away from any opponent.
The mini Brazuca has the competency to keep his shape and the ability to defend capably. Before he made the switch to Turin, this was one of his question marks but he has made a comfortable start to his in black and white defensively.
Figures V and VI: Arthur supports the strikers in a high press and ends up dispossessing the much bigger Bakayoko.
First Impressions of Arthur in his First Half Juventus Season:
It’s a toss up for me. It was expected that Arthur would revamp this boring Juve midfield and be more productive with the ball in an attacking mindset. His goal contributions and attacking stats haven’t been impressive. Nor has actually watching him. The potential is there for him to unlock Juve’s potent attackers. He needs to be the protagonist in the attacking third and move the ball forward into advantageous positions for the attackers to be successful. Arthur has been competent in the defensive phase. He slows the opposing team down and puts in a tackle. It should be noted that it has been only half a season, in a new team, in a new league and with a total club philosophy change when it comes to play style. We should expect bigger and better things from Arthur Melo.
Juventini should continue to demand more from Melo. His characteristics have brought something new to this midfield but the player from Goiania must continue to improve in order to justify his 72 million Euro transfer. If he manages to improve his conditioning, and continues to get accustomed to Pirlo’s system, the sky is the limit for the former Gremio player. It is absolutely critical for Arthur to hit top form for this team to be successful. He needs to assert himself in that regista role and start dictating the tempo Juve wants to play. So, what does Arthur actually do? He cycles the ball and is leaned on to get the ball from defence to the attack as effectively as possible while supplying sufficient defensive play. In the last four games that Arthur has started and played more than 60 minutes, Juventus is 4-0-0 and have scored at least 2 plus goals in those matches along with collecting a trophy.