When Adrien Rabiot was picked up on a free transfer this past summer, the Frenchman was expected to play an integral role in Maurizio Sarri’s midfield. After all, he’s an adept dribbler and can progress play nicely from a mezz’ala role. The former PSG man, however, struggled in the early goings of the season and failed to adapt to Italian football, showing signs of rust. As a result, Sarri opted for the experience of Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi in the midfield, much to the dismay of the Juventus faithful.
Khedira, much like it has been the case his entire career, has since been sidelined with an injury, leaving a spot in the midfield alongside Pjanic and Matuidi up for grabs. While it seemed Rodrigo Bentancur was inching closer to making it his own in recent times, the Uruguayan picked up a three-game suspension in Juventus’ Supercoppa defeat. This presented Rabiot with the opportunity he’s been looking for.
The 24-year-old made the most of his start against Cagliari and was a driving force in Juventus’ midfield in the second half. Rather than his typical left-centre midfield role, Sarri deployed him on the right and instructed him to connect with Cuadrado and Dybala. The Frenchman did so with great aplomb and put in his best performance in a Juventus shirt.
For the first time this season, Rabiot showed signs of his technique and ability to carry the ball forward at will. If he continues on this path, Sarri will have no choice to accommodate the former PSG man into his eleven, even when Bentancur returns.
When asked about his recent performances and rumours linking him away from the club after the Cagliari clash, Rabiot was clear.
“I feel the confidence of the club and of coach Sarri. 2019 was not easy for me, I came to Juve after a long time without playing,” said the Frenchman. I’m looking to adapt to a new league, a new environment and a new coach. I hope 2020 will be better for me and be able to help Juventus by exploiting my full potential. I am finding the rhythm,” added Rabiot.
With Inter and Juventus duking it out for the Scudetto, the bianconeri will need all the help they can get and will be counting on Rabiot in the midfield. Before his impressive run, the Italian champions struggled for creativity in the middle of the park and relied heavily on Pjanic to provide the spark. Carrying a significant portion of the creative load, the Bosnian international struggled going into the new year. However, with Rabiot excelling and Bentancur starting to deliver on his promise, Juventus may just have the midfield trio they’ve been looking for all along.
While the trio is still a far cry from Juventus’ illustrious past of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio, they are still technical enough for Sarriball and can dominate possession for sustained portions of the game. In fact, since Bentancur and Rabiot have been featuring regularly, Juventus have seen a spike in their offensive production, having scored nine goals in their last three games. As the knockout stages approach in the Champions League, this will be crucial.
Factor in the necessity for Matuidi’s pressing and industry off-the-ball, however, and Sarri will likely have to leave one of Rabiot or Bentancur out every other game. Despite this, it’s a positive headache for Sarri to have and for once since his appointment, he can rely on someone other than Pjanic in the midfield to implement his playing philosophy.
With Rabiot excelling and Juventus scoring at will, the bianconeri are primed for a strong second-half of the season. It’s now time for their other Bosman signing Aaron Ramsey to follow in Rabiot’s footsteps and pick up the slack. Can he do it?
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