Decent performance all over the field against Samp. One of the first games I can recall where we felt in control from start to finish when up against even an average opponent, well below our level, who had been in decent form of late. Usually we struggle more, in our own rear third, not so much the opposing 18 yard box.
We remain prone to profligacy in front of goal, yet a major positive of late is the reduction of chances conceded to the opposition. Much of this is down to Chiellini’s return and quick move through the gears to offer something top drawer at the back. Yet what of De Ligt? Looking at the CB options, avoiding much consideration of the difference between CBL and CBR, it would appear that Chiellini and De Ligt would be our strongest duet…Still, it is apparent that the dutchman is more comfortable though not exclusively played there for country and club previously, when given the CBL role. I think Pirlo needs to use them together, remove big Leo, who has been average this campaign, neither prominently bad or brilliant. Does he have the confidence to do this? Assuming that it will not be long before Chiellini suffers yet another muscular injury and he can return Bonucci to the side. I had not envisioned any lengthy period of Chiellini remaining fit and available. If this continues, my expectations for the side are raised as he remains incredibly cunning and potent.
This contemplation is two fold to ponder, moving beyond the field…for if De Ligt continues to play second fiddle to Chiellini, I suspect he will leave in the Summer. He is too special a talent, too valuable, for Raiola and the player, to settle for more time on the bench than in the starting XI…
Juan Cuadrado is no world beater, but he does possess a skill set which is essential in the modern game for any side to prosper up and down the flanks. Max and then Sarri deserve serious credit for massively improving the Colombian, yet for me, the major difference he can make, when still often haphazard in decision making, hugely screams for us to focus on signing a top level marauding RWB. Far more pressing a need for any system or manager than a CF, when we have Dybala, Kulu and Chiesa who could play there.
Sandro can improve and return to something of his former potency. Frabrotta is young, hungry but it is wrong to expect too much of him. Only Juan shows anything of the value we require to compete at the highest levels, and we can find surely a more complete package, or at least someone similar who can defend and is able to build the play up the wing and prove dangerous in the final third whether creatively or as a direct threat on goal. Paratici, please take note!
Mckennie continues to impress and I cannot help but conclude that the major reason for Bentancur’s resurgence (finally) is the inclusion of Arthur. Who we are not using to make the best of his fine talents, yet to have him playing more regularly adds more to the defensive and offensive phases of the game than many are noting.
It is very rare to have a midfielder who is exceptionally comfortable and capable in maintaining possession with the ball at his feet. In close quarters especially, when hustled and cornered by several opponents, Arthur shows this natural, often remarkable ability to see where to move and at what speed well before these avenues are closed off. He refuses to release the ball when pressed, waiting until a forward pass, or a pass to a team mate in a better position to move the ball upfield becomes available. This offers the central midfield something beyond the usual appraisal of defensive potency. As his talents are very hard to find accurately represented in relation to his in the flesh output in whoscored and other modern computational statistical measures.
Still feel we are not making as much of this ability, some would call counter-press resistance, as we could be doing. For a player able to perform in this way, is constrained by the movement of others around him. What I mean by this is that the areas he is deployed, presently restrict his options, which is why he often turns on the ball, waiting for the movement to appear.
I would very much like to see him in a 4-3-1-2 as the connective force between the midfield and attack, where I feel he could be deadly. Yet this will not happen as it does not fit the Pirlo tactical system.
As for that system…and whether it is slowly coming together and showing serious promise?
Still I remain leaning more towards the explanation for what does feel and look like improvement, especially at the back, focused upon the return of key players and consistent time playing together to build cohesion. We have by far the strongest squad in the league and quality players find a way to work together if given the ongoing opportunity to play together.
The last four fixtures since the humbling served up by our arch rivals in black and blue have provided 10 goals scored with 0 conceded. Which in the least suggests we are finding momentum and form (or a rich vein of good fortune!). The reasoning behind this may well be purely academic at this stage of the season, for all that matters is winning games and improving defensively. On both counts we are progressing.
However, it will be the next five fixtures which prove a more accurate barometer to confirm or deny this sensation of finally finding that elusive form falling into our grasp.
On paper, we are a stronger squad than all of those sides we must face.
Whilst the coppa is often seen as a low rent competition, it is imperative to return the favour dished out recently by Inter Milan, get past Napoli and Roma by hook and crook if necessary, and head into the away tie in Portugal with our recent momentum intact and belief growing throughout the side.
It is high time we emerge from the inconsistency shown against decent foes and provide clear evidence that this project remains the right direction for the club to be focused.
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