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Juventus midfielder Aquilani

Alberto Aquilani became the first Italian to move to the English Premier League during the peak of his career, a €24 million transfer in August last year that was ill advised to say the least. The club had so many problems that spending such a large portion of their transfer budget on a player that never suited Rafael Benitez or indeed the league’s pace was always doomed to failure.

In one of his best moves of the summer Beppe Marotta managed to not only secure the free season long loan of the midfielder, but to also agree an option to buy at just €16 million. In addition that fee will be payable over the following three years, a great piece of business by the Juventus Director General.

It took time for him to settle and make his full debut, his first start only coming in the week five win over Cagliari where he looked rusty but still slotted in well alongside another player who has been reborn this season, Felipe Melo. Since then Delneri has made the duo his first choice pairing in central midfield, excluding Claudio Marchisio who finds himself pushed out to the left flank.

Looking at the performances of Melo and Aquilani it is difficult to argue with the coach’s decsion. Aquilani himself has been in fantastic form, quickly becoming an essential ingredient in the Bianconeri resurgence of this season.

While his individual performances have been superb, it has been the way he influences those around him that makes his inclusion so important to Juventus. He is not a pure regista or “director”, playing a little higher up the field than Andrea Pirlo does at Milan for example, but he is certainly organising and dictating the play.

A simple look at his passing in the run of games since he arrived tells the story of this impact. He has completed a staggering 90.12% of his passes this season. The range of those efforts is similarly excellent, often releasing the wide players with deep cross-field balls, adept at finding team-mates - primarily Milos Krasic - and prompting them into some wonderful attacking positions.

But it is more than just his passing and his sumptuous goals against Lecce and Bari that make him indispensable. Aquilani has, under Gigi Delneri, already become a much more rounded player and his defensive effort also deserves special mention. The two matches at San Siro in particular showed this new side to his game and the player himself is quick to acknowledge this;

“I am now more of a central midfielder. Before I was further forward in the offensive phase, but I have to have more balance and be careful also in defence. Delneri has changed me, I can now defend”

From his early appearances, when he tried to play like he did at Roma, pushed much further forward he disrupted the side, changing the shape to almost a 4-2-3-1 and forcing others to cover for him. This was clearly evident in the loss to Palermo, where he played 30 minutes and only touched the ball in his own half four times. That is in stark contrast to his displays since becoming a starter, highlighted in the heat-map below, taken from the Derby d’Italia (Inter v Juventus).

This has really been a re-focusing of one of his greatest attributes - the ability to read a game - turning it to his advantage and intercepting numerous passes by Juve’s opponents, then quickly launching swift counter attacks. That is not to say he does not tackle either, quickly applying himself to become, as he said himself, more a complete midfielder than ever.

While Krasic has rightly taken the majority of the plaudits this season, the quiet unassuming efforts of the man nicknamed il Principino should not go unnoticed too much longer. Liverpool must be cursing their luck in losing such a gifted player, as there is surely no way Juventus will not pick up their right to buy option - in this form his permanent transfer is a mere formality.

It is not just in the heart of the Juventus midfield where Aquilani feels he belongs either, quickly adapting to life back in his homeland “I like the team, I like Turin. I have found a house. I am happy”. With performances like these I am sure many people associated with Juventus echo that view.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. philgatt says:

    Very interesting post, shows what L’pool are missing by not using him properly (though as you said, a slower pace does suit him better).

    Knowing he could be at Juve for the next 5/6 years, Marotta and his team can continue building a very good squad around him and Krasic.

  2. math games says:

    first!

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