Seeing Juventus lose has become a rare phenomenon as the loss to Lazio was the club’s first of the season in all competitions. Instead of taking advantage of Inter’s draw against Roma, Juve went further behind the Nerazzurri. One main man for criticism was Blaise Matuidi.
It was a rather familiar performance from Maurizio Sarri’s men. Federico Bernardeschi got another start in the attacking midfield, with Rodrigo Bentancur and Matuidi starting beside Miralem Pjanic. Cristiano Ronaldo got another start, playing up front alongside Paulo Dybala.
It was never expected to be an easy game. Simone Inzaghi’s men had won their last five Serie A games, establishing themselves as top four candidates. But the performance from Juve was desolate and sluggish. The creativity from midfield was lax. Despite having 60% possession, they could never create enough to justify having that much of the ball.
The lack of balance in a 4-3-1-2 shape exposed their midfield. Having two strikers in a narrow shape means that the full-backs are prone to one-on-ones. And Matuidi was the centre of the whole thing, even though it was Juan Cuadrado who was sent off in the second half and despite how Ciro Immobile would miss a penalty and spurn some really good chances.
While Bentancur was the creator for Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal, Matuidi wasn’t creative enough. For a side that is meant to have two creative midfielders in front of Pjanic, it was frustrating.
The Frenchman didn’t complete a single key-pass in the game. He completed one tackle and just as many interceptions. He won only 60% of his aerial duels, as the Biancocelesti had Sergey Milinkovic-Savic dominating the midfield (via Whoscored).
Matuidi did play 51 accurate passes in total, but none of them was a pass that could create something. The positions he took up weren’t promising for someone who is to create chances for his side. It shows how immobile Matuidi is. One certainly can’t blame him, considering how he is not getting any younger with every passing day.
The fact that he’s constantly playing in the same position isn’t helping anyone. Even against Atletico Madrid, Matuidi couldn’t play a single key-pass in the game. Against Milan, he was probably the poorest player on the pitch. He was dispossessed twice, and despite having a passing accuracy of 92%, none of them was a key pass in the final third.
In a game against SPAL, Maurizio Sarri did talk about the slow tempo in midfield. He told Sky Italia (via FootballItalia):
“We had a few difficulties finding the right tempo in the opening stages, especially as SPAL were so clammed up. It wasn’t the tempo of the players as the ball, we move the ball too slow and there wasn’t enough movement off the ball.”
That has been the story of the season for the Frenchman and Juve. This season, he has come up with 0.7 key passes per game only. But in a technical system, Matuidi isn’t the best option – he isn’t creative or mobile enough to play in that style. And perhaps that is why the club got Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot on free transfers in the summer.
They are easing the duo in: Ramsey has always been having fitness issues while Rabiot was short of game time at Paris Saint-Germain in the second half of last season. He too is taking his time. Ramsey hasn’t played full 90 minutes of a single game. Rabiot has done that only twice.
Perhaps, that’s why links with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain came up in the summer. It shows that Matuidi’s presence is only tiding over the transition to other players. Emre Can seems out of Sarri’s plans. Sami Khedira is out due to a knee injury. Sarri has no other option but to persist with Matuidi.
But it isn’t helping Matuidi. Even though he is showing his work rate is still the same, he isn’t the creator that Juve need. That is leading to the Bianconeri playing a sluggish brand of football, which is very reminiscent of Massimiliano Allegri’s time last season. But the blame is collective. And there is no option for the Old Lady, as things stand.