Juventus seem to go one step forward, before regressing backwards once again. Just when things seem to be going on the right track, they face a setback and things seem dull again. That was certainly the case against Napoli, as the side played as if it were a friendly. And it was a show of how Maurizio Sarri needs to two players to get his system to work.
This was the first time since Juve’s win over Cagliari that Aaron Ramsey hadn’t started a game for the club. He had starts against Rolando Maran’s men, helping the side to wins over Roma and Parma. But the dynamism and mobility he brings to the plate was sorely missing against Napoli.
The game saw Blaise Matuidi have a poor game. The Frenchman couldn’t win a single tackle and couldn’t play a single key pass in the final third. His lack of dynamism and lack of movement made the Juve approach look drab and very slow. That inability was the reason why Sarri had to bring on Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa in the second half. But they too couldn’t make too much of an impact.
Neither of Bernardeschi or Douglas could create a single chance in the game, completing one dribble each. Bernardeschi is yet to score or assist in the Serie A this season, while Costa has been left blighted by injuries. That just shows how they need a fit and firing Ramsey.
Having said that- while Costa and Bernardeschi came on, Adrien Rabiot came on much earlier. The Frenchman came to the club on a free transfer from PSG in the summer. Like Ramsey, he was important in Juve’s victories in the previous three games. Like the Welshman, he had started in games against Cagliari, Parma and Roma.
Rabiot didn’t do much. He couldn’t pick out a single key pass, failing to win a tackle or interception. It is anyone’s guess if him starting would’ve made an impact.
But one man Juve did miss was Dejan Kulusevski. The teenager was signed and loaned back to Parma and he did score for his club against Udinese recently. The pace, dexterity and dynamism he brings is exactly what Juventus need.
The Swede has shown that this season. In 21 games, he has a tally of five goals and seven assists. More than that, he has come up with 1.8 dribbles per game and 2.1 key passes per game. That is more than any other Juventus player this season.
While he has been a right-winger under Roberto D’Aversa this season, Kulusevski has played as a central midfielder during his time with the Atalanta Primavera side. Out of the 55 appearances he has made for the La Dea junior side, 39 came from midfield. During that time, contributed to exactly 39 goals.
It just shows how versatile the player is. He isn’t just a striker or winger like his stint at Parma shows. He can play in multiple roles and still contribute to goals on a regular basis.
That is the spark Juventus need to get Sarri’s system to work. Kulusevski’s signing can be hailed as a genius, considering what the club needs. Ramsey’s fitness issues are exposing some flaws. But whenever he plays on a regular basis, Juventus will see his impact. Sarri’s system is a work in progress and with the right players, there will be only one way forward.