Arturo Vidal’s peak years are past him. But it doesn’t mean that the midfielder is an ineffective player already. There is still a lot left in his tank but he just needs the right manager to bring the most out of him.
For Inter boss Antonio Conte, that will sound very familiar. The Italian has brought the most out of the Chilean like no one else ever has. He did that during their time together at Juventus.
Vidal was at Juve from 2011 to 2015. Playing in Conte’s trademark 3-5-2 shape, Vidal was the no-nonsense ball-winner in midfield. He found himself playing in front of Claudio Marchisio/ Andrea Pirlo and just behind the creative force of Paul Pogba.
Playing in that area, he took the physical burdens off both Pogba and Pirlo/ Marchisio. His physical approach helped the Juve midfield work in impressive cohesion and win the Serie A in every season under Conte.
Vidal’s move to Barcelona was always seen as a mismatch. For a club that has always had technically superb players, having a physical ball-winner was rare. Since joining Barca, Vidal has made only 25 starts in La Liga. 16 appearances have come from the bench. Last season, he scored thrice and assisted seven times.
Those aren’t bad numbers, considering how Ernesto Valverde’s system doesn’t promise an attractive brand of football. Valverde’s style is more direct than what Barca have always had.
The way the Spaniard used him in the Champions League game against Inter was key. When Barca were getting outrun and outworked by Conte’s midfield, Valverde brought Vidal on. This allowed Barca more control and aggression in midfield. Frenkie de Jong played deeper and Barca went onto win the game.
From the sidelines, Conte would have looked at these things in envy. As things stand, he does have three first-choice midfielders. Stefano Sensi (who has been injured recently), Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic have been the regular starters. But ever since Sensi got injured against Juventus, Inter’s season has witnessed disturbances.
There has been a lack of game-changers from the bench. Matias Vecino, Roberto Gagliardini and ageing Borja Valero are the options, but they aren’t players who will elevate Inter in tough times.
After the shocking 3-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund recently, Conte talked about the lack of depth in the side. He said (via FootballItalia):
“I am not asking the club for anything, these are the players and we go into battle with these players. The club will make its evaluations, I am just saying all of us got it badly wrong when planning for this season.
“We are in an emergency situation with only three players injured, whereas other teams have injuries and don’t even notice. But we notice. We are talking about a group of players who, apart from Godin, haven’t won anything. It’s difficult then to deal with a tough situation.
“Who do I call on? Nicolò Barella, who we signed from Cagliari? Or Stefano Sensi, who arrived from Sassuolo? I will always thank the players for giving their heart and soul, and I know that I am asking for the kind of strain that some find it difficult to deal with.
“We can’t let our current position in the table disguise the problems that are there.”
Those comments do sound damning. They do clearly point towards where the problems lie for the Nerazzurri. The talk of more depth and winners in that side is very sensible for a manager like Conte.
He does love players with fire, aggression and passion. But a club will always want serial winners to lead the team when the main players are out.
That is why the links with Vidal make every bit of sense. He has won titles under Conte in Italy. He won them in Germany at Bayern and won the La Liga with Barcelona last season too.
Conte knows his qualities very well. He sees Vidal in Barella’s playing style. The Italian has played in the middle of a holding midfielder and an advanced midfielder. He has won 2.8 tackles per game in the Champions League, making 1.8 interceptions per game.
Those numbers show how much of a battling midfielder Barella is, like Vidal himself. Due to lack of depth, Vidal would make so much sense for Inter. He would love to resurrect his career under Conte once again without costing a big amount too.