Blaise Matuidi is a unique player. He is one of the most complete midfielders in modern-day football as his arsenal enables him to be effective going both ways. Just this season alone, he has averaged 1.1 key passes per game while maintaining excellent 1.6 tackles per game as well (via Whoscored).
Juventus have seen that and so have the French national team. His impressive engine and work rate have attracted enough plaudits already.
Just this past summer, Matuidi’s future was in stern doubt as the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United were linked with a move and Juventus seemed keen on selling him, according to Corriere di Torino (via FootballItalia). The signings of Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey had led to many believing that Matuidi was sellable material.
But Juve failed to sell many of their players. This included Matuidi, Sami Khedira, Daniele Rugani, Mario Mandzukić and Paulo Dybala.
The first game of the season saw Matuidi start in midfield. And to everyone’s surprise, he impressed. The opinion that he wasn’t technical enough for Maurizio Sarri’s system was silenced.
His technical limitations did come to the fore, as he made only 24 passes. But Matuidi’s work rate saw him win as many as four tackles in the game and he also made two interceptions (via Whoscored).
That made Juventus rethink. And the same impression was forced on them during Juve’s thrilling 4-3 win over Napoli.
Matuidi started that game too. He won two tackles in the game, playing the joint-highest number of key passes with three under his belt. It was a complete performance down the left of midfield. He kept tracking back and taking the ball forward, using his tireless motor to perfect effect, as we can see from the heatmap above.
This prompted Juve to keep Matuidi. They removed Emre Can from their Champions League squad, leaving many surprised. But it wasn’t really a surprise, considering how Juve had offered the German to Barcelona close to deadline day and Manchester United are reportedly after the former Liverpool man as well.
Matuidi’s impressive performances have continued. He started for the Bianconeri against Inter and made an impact, making two interceptions and winning three tackles. He also created two chances in what was another complete performance against a top side (via Whoscored).
Sarri ended up praising Matuidi’s performances following the Frenchman’s impressive form. He said:
“Matuidi is a valuable player on the field, he adapts to all game patterns. He is a player with extraordinary activity, extraordinary physical abilities, he recovers a lot of balls. he understands the game and he always works for the team.He knows what movements he has to make. He brings strength, balance and stability. “
Since then, Matuidi hasn’t started in the league. That is because Maurizio Sarri has realised the need to get Adrien Rabiot fit and gel him into a new system. Rabiot has struggled and for someone who had not played football after mid-December. It is normal for him to take his time.
But Matuidi, despite being 32 now, has fit perfectly into the system. His dynamic running from the left side of the midfield has added an extra element to Sarri’s style.
The Frenchman has won 1.6 tackles per game and has also tallied 0.8 interceptions. His technical limitations have seen him play only 32 passes per game but that is pretty much expected (via Whoscored).
As Rabiot continues his march towards full fitness, he will probably be the first-choice left central midfielder in Sarri’s 4-3-2-1 shape. But this system demands the two central midfielders to often pick up wide positions and add width when the full-backs are deeper. Matuidi, who has played as a left midfielder multiple times in the past, fits right into that.
The central midfielders also have to work hard by covering wide areas, central areas and provide the defensive midfielder some additional support. Matuidi is just the man for that, even if Rabiot grows into the role.
A player like Matuidi is a unique quality to have in today’s game. There are very few midfielders that possess his work rate and adaptability. In him, Juve have a very reliable and experienced player who can still do a very useful job, no matter what the situation demands.