This summer saw the arrival of Manuel Locatelli, one of Italy’s most prolific performers in their Euro 2020 success, at Juventus. Having made his way through the youth ranks of AC Milan, Locatelli moved to Sassuolo in 2018 where he made 96 appearances across three seasons in the Serie A, scoring six goals and adding a further 11 assists. Under Roberto De Zerbi, Locatelli matured into a versatile midfielder capable of playing in multiple roles.
Locatelli was seen as an important part of re-appointed manager Massimiliano Allegri’s rebuild of Juventus after they underperformed massively in the Serie A last season. Although, things have not gone according to the plan for Allegri or Locatelli as Juventus have been underwhelming since the start of the season. While Locatelli’s performances have been decent, Allegri’s midfield has often looked out of sorts this season. Juventus’s poor form in Serie A has seen them slip to the seventh spot with seven wins, three draws, and five losses in 15 matches.
In a team that lacks any focal point in the attack and a marshal in midfield, Locatelli has often been the only bright spark for Juventus. Allegri needs to figure out a way to utilize Locatelli’s range of passing, distribution, and possession-based style of play so that Juventus can control the game in midfield and move the ball to the final third, something that they have been lacking this season.
Let’s analyze Locatelli’s stats from Champions League this season and figure out the key areas where he can improve Allegri’s midfield.
Locatelli is a versatile midfielder capable of playing in multiple positions. He can be deployed as a box-to-box midfielder or as a defensive midfielder. He has ranked highly in terms of multiple passing and progression stats. Locatelli has averaged upward of nine passes into the attacking third while also averaging north of 18 forward passes. Most of his passing stats are above the median league value as well. This season Juventus are playing deeper and are not getting involved in the final third as much as their rival teams. Locatelli can be the key with his hold-up play and composure on the ball and provide his forward players the opportunity to get in threatening positions in the attacking third.
Locatelli possesses a brilliant vision, and his distribution of the ball is only matched by a few in Serie A. Perhaps his most impressive attribute is his range and precision of passes. He is capable of influencing the game by spreading threatening passes in the attacking areas. Locatelli possesses a wide array of passes in his arsenal, from short passes to long line-breaking passes. Allegri needs to figure out a way to get Locatelli to link up with his attackers more, and improve Juventus’ build-up play.
The right-footed midfielder is usually deployed on the left side of Allegri’s 4-4-2 formation. He is capable of covering vast spaces both offensively and defensively. This season he has operated more in his defensive half. The duo of Locatelli and Bentancur have shown in recent games that they are capable of running the midfield with their energy and dynamism. Locatelli’s energy will be key for Juventus in their upcoming matches in Serie A as well as in the Champions League.
In addition to his passing and creative output, Locatelli’s defensive contribution is noteworthy as well. He is capable of disrupting the opposition play with interceptions, defensive duels and ball recoveries. His duel map shows the areas where he has been engaged in defensive duels this season. Most of his duels have taken place in the defensive half.
In Locatelli, Juventus have a versatile and complete midfielder who is adept at playing in high pressing and possession-based system. He will have an important role to play in Allegri’s midfield as we move on to the next phase of the season.