For any football fan, Claudio Marchisio is the perfect kind of footballer who can adapt to any given role and do a great job at it. As evident from the last two seasons at Juventus, Marchisio played a variety of roles, from being a creative midfielder, wide midfielder, attacking midfielder to also a defensive midfielder and he did an admirable job in all these roles. He has all the attributes to excel since coming through the Juventus youth system where he played primarily as a trequartista and later shifting to a more central role. He had opportunities to work with a number of great coaches since his first stint at training with the first team in 2006. Though limited, he had the chance to learn from coaching greats like Capello, Deschamps and Ranieri.
Though Marchisio is known for his versatility and consistency, he has failed to realize the true potential he is capable of. This is primarily due the varying roles that he has been asked to fill in for the last two years. Never once has he spoken against any of those decision, but it has definitely contributed towards the slow progress he has made. Being 25, he has a few more years to peak, but the 2011/12 season could be critical in turning him from a footballer who can be good at a variety of position to one that is great in a single position. He is often compared to one of the Italian greats in Marco Tardelli, who he has the capability to emulate. He has the same athleticism, hard work, the Juve Grinta and stamina of Tardelli but at the same time he also has the skill to adapt to different positions, pass the ball effectively and score goals. The question is, will he be given the opportunity to emulate Tardelli ?
In last year’s Juventus setup, the role of Filipe Melo was that of a destroyer. His athleticism, hard tackling and the ability to shield the defence has been phenomenal this past season, but he lacks a partner in the mold of Xabi Alonso, Busquets or Xavi who can be a link between him in defense and attack. As examples, first Xabi Alonso and Mascherano at Liverpool, then Xabi Alonso and Khedira at Real Madrid. Similar pairings of Pique/Mascherano and Busquets/Xavi at Barca have been seem, though both Pique and Masch played as defenders. Thiago Motta and Wesley Sneijder (more of an attacking playmaker) at Inter could also fall into the category. The common factor in these equations is that (Masch, Khedira, Thiago) are good readers of the game and great at stopping attacks and passing the ball to other. It’s the job of Xabi, Busquets,Xavi and the Sneijder to bring the ball forward for the attacking players. This role seems like a perfect fit for Marchisio at Juventus. Now with the addition of Pirlo to Juve, Marchisio has one of the greatest deep lying playmakers of his era to learn the art from. Marchisio can be one better than Pirlo with his athleticism, hard tackling and good reading of game along with his passing skills. With Pirlo in the decline, the Italian national team will appreciate a player of his mold (I don’t think Montolivo is that player) to partner De Rossi. This is one of the biggest shortcoming Juve had last season. With Melo winning the ball, Aquilani staying deep and Marchisio playing wide, there was no link up with Matri in attack. With Del Neri’s emphasis on spreading the ball wide to wingers and moving them central towards Matri for linkup played in horribly with the one dimensional attack of Krasic and lack of skill from Pepe and Martinez. With Marchisio being a central midfielder, he did not fair any better either as a left winger.
As evident from Rafa Benitez’s episode at Inter, it’s best for a coach to adapt his strategy based on the talents at his disposal rather than molding his players to suit his strategy. Hindsight is 20:20 but It would have been better to play a 4-2-3-1 system last season at Juve. With Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci, Sorensen and De Ceglie, Juve had a weak defense as proven by the 47 goals conceded compared to AC Milan’s 24. A Melo-Marchisio pairing in front of the defence would have given much better cover than just Melo alone. With the defensive cover taken care of, Aquilani, Krasic and Pepe/Martinez could have supported either Del Piero or Matri in attack. This way there is a proper defensive cover for a weak defence, A player (read Marchisio) who can start the attack from the back, while having three options to spread the ball to attack, and with Krasic and Pepe spreading the opposition defence wide making the formation to a 4-2-1-3, there could have been a good all round performance from the players. There were more advantages to this system compared to to 4-4-2/4-2-4 with the players at Del Neri’ disposal last season. Players much better suited to these roles, much better defensive cover and much more attacking link up option were definitely something that Juve missed sorely last season. With one tactical change of switching Marchisio to a more central role, Aquilani would have automatically moved to a more attacking role and a whole lot could have changed for Juve last season.
With a new coach in and a system not too different from the last season, new players are definitely needed. With Conte’s preffered 4-4-2/4-2-4 system and Juve’s lack of left winger until now, Marchisio seems destined to either play wide or share responsibilities with Arturo Vidal to partner Pirlo in the middle. A Pirlo-Marchisio or Pirlo-Vidal partnership seems fine as long as two very important postions are properly taken care of. The defence needs to be shored up. Especially, the the left back and right back positions needs to be strong since Vidal/Marchisio can only cover the central defense and Pirlo cannot to relied upon to cover one of the wide defenders. And secondly, traditional wingers are needed who can run to the byline and cross the ball for the strikers. Juve have one in the form of Krasic but a left winger position still seems unconfirmed with rumors of Vargas and Bastos still making the rounds. This author hopes the former makes it to Juve since Vargas is stronger of the two, has a strong left foot and has great defensive skills as well.This system again could either help or impede Marchisio’s progress towards becoming a more complete midfielder based on the coach’s decision to play him more centrally or use him as a wide midfielder again.
In the end, the question that begs an answer is, is this the season when Machisio changes from a player who is a jack of all trades, master of none, to an undisputed king of Juve’s central midfield. If early signs are to go by, the answer still seems to be a no.