Adrien Rabiot is hardly seen as a popular figure, more so in recent months. The divorce with Paris Saint-Germain last season was not a surprise, in that sense. Considering Juventus’ ability to sign the best free agents in the game, a move to Juventus was seen as a state of normality.
Rabiot’s relationship with his childhood club was at loggerheads. From being the club’s golden boy to a traitor, it was a significant downfall in reputation. At one point in 2016, Rabiot had claimed that he wanted to be PSG’s version of Steven Gerrard.
Over time, Rabiot began demanding more minutes in central midfield. He began to ask for a bigger wage package too. The contract dispute saw him get benched for the whole of the second half of the season, before he joined Juve for free.
In Turin, Rabiot hasn’t had the best of starts. For a club that boasts of pulling off the best free-agent deals of the century, it is a little strange. Rabiot has struggled on the pitch, after initially struggling for game time. But again, what he is going through is not a surprise at all.
The Frenchman has made three starts this season, but he has mostly looked rather dazed. Games seem to be passing him by, without the player being able to put too much effort. Juve’s recent game against Bologna was more of the same too.
It isn’t a lack of ability or a lack of intelligence. But a lot of it comes from lack of fitness. The fact that Rabiot’s last game for PSG came in December should ring bells.
In the game against Bologna, Rabiot had problems again. Maurizio Sarri’s system isn’t something everyone and Rabiot’s performance against the Rossoblu shows just that.
He got dribbled past twice, completing just one dribble in the whole game. Even though his passing success rate was at 88 percent, the Frenchman had one of the worst total passes played stat of the game- 50 (via Whoscored).
While he did play like the midfielder he is, Juve playing a diamond 4-4-2 shape made things a little complicated. He was hesitant in going into wide areas and he didn’t have the nose to sense space in wide areas.
The same has been in the case in just about every game. Sarri has looked keen on playing the former PSG man in the same position instead of playing his former teammate Blaise Matuidi there. That is a good sign for any player. Sarri clearly trusts Rabiot.
The Old Lady initially had plans to sell both Sami Khedira and Matuidi. But after seeing their performance against Parma in the opening game of the season, they decided against selling them. Because of that, Emre Can was kept out of the UEFA Champions League squad- a sign that the German is close to leaving.
But the fact that Fabio Paratici was looking to sell two ageing midfielder shows that time will be given to Rabiot to make an impact.
His performance against Brescia away from home offers some promise, in fact. On paper, it wasn’t his best game. But statistically, it was a good performance considering it was his first start as a Juve player.
Sarri played a similar diamond in midfield, with Rabiot playing as the right central midfielder. Brescia forced Juve narrow but the midfielder constantly looked to go wide. There were times when he cut inside instead of going wide, but it was a decent foundation to take forward.
It hasn’t been a horror-show in any way for Rabiot. It is just a bedding-in period for a player who is getting in grove of playing regular football again. The fact that it is a completely new and unique system means it could take longer.
On paper, Rabiot is one of Juve’s most technically adept players. And that will show as the season wears on.