No matter how young or old a player is, he always takes time to settle in. A move to a new league demands time for adaptation. That is more true for a young player than an older player, but all of it is a natural process. Matthijs de Ligt would know that.
After all, that is what the Dutchman is experiencing. Since his move from Ajax to Juventus, the defender hasn’t had the smoothest of times. He has come under the spotlight because of some imperfect performances. Rivals fans have been poking fun at him for not being as good as he was seen to be.
But the truth is, despite the recent error against Sassuolo, this is natural. He did give away a goal to Francesco Caputo and that helped the Neroverdi grab a crucial point against the Bianconeri. More than that, Juve slipped to second in the table because of that error.
It has been more inconsistent than poor from the youngster. There have been games in which he has been very good, but he has been poor in some others. The Sassuolo game saw him not just make the error, he also won only 33 percent of his aerial duels.
He did complete the most number of passes in the game- 72, but he also made four fouls in the game. That was the highest in the game too. It was a poor show.
But the game against Atletico Madrid and Atalanta were impressive for De Ligt. Against the Los Rojiblancos, he won four aerial duels– the highest for the club. He made two tackles and the same number of interceptions. Not just that, but he also came up with four clearances.
He was immense against La Dea too, winning four aerial duels and winning four tackles. He also made three interceptions and came up with five clearances. The defender was arguably Juve’s best player on the day.
He was dominant aerially against Milan too, winning six aerial duels. That was two more than any other player on the pitch. It was his goal against Torino that had won the Bianconeri the Derby della Mole in the first game of November.
That was probably a signal of his real self. That was probably his best game since arriving. He did well against SPAL too, but the games in the first 8-9 attempts were pretty average. De Ligt would struggle with the tactical approach of the league. He didn’t make tackles and backed away from making interceptions.
But he was never known for tackling at Ajax either. The best defender in Serie A this season- Chris Smalling, hasn’t been a prolific tackler. The Manchester United man has made 1.1 tackles per game, coming up with 1.9 interceptions per game. But aerially, he has been dominant by winning 4.6 aerial duels per game.
That is the sort of pattern De Ligt has been following in the better games. He, in fact, is winning more tackles per game in the recent 4-5 games than Smalling would. He’s also winning as many aerial duels as the former Fulham man.
But Serie A is a league in which maturity is key. Smalling is 30, while the league’s second-best defender Francesco Acerbi is 31. De Ligt himself has been open about how this period of transition was coming. Maurizio Sarri has also defended the player from criticism.
The Italian said ( via Calciomercato) “He is doing well. We have to keep in mind that he is very young. He is trying to adjust and it will take some time for that to happen.”
And De Ligt has showed that he has what it takes to succeed. The good games show that. They have been reminiscent of the De Ligt at Ajax, when he would dominate games at a tender age. The key now is to keep going. Success will come soon, even though the Sassuolo game was poor.