Adrien Rabiot, who is currently at Juventus, has enjoyed a mixed first season under Maurizio Sarri. the French midfielder has often been deployed alongside Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanić as part of a midfield three in Sarri’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. Within this formation, he and Pjanić have often interchanged positions within the deep-lying playmaker role allowing Juventus to have greater flexibility and versatility when in possession.
However, due to several poor performances against lesser opposition, Sarri has often dropped Rabiot in the big games replacing him with Welsh man Aaron Ramsey which has been justified considering Ramsey’s man of the match performance against Inter Milan in March in which he was able to score a goal and record an assist. Even so, with Rabiot yet to get off the mark with either a goal or an assist in 17 Serie A appearances it is clear that there is definitely room for improvement if the 25-year-old wishes to remain in Turin during the remainder of his contract which expires in 2023.
Nonetheless, this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report will look at Rabiot’s strengths and weaknesses as we analyse his role at Juventus.
Role for Juventus
Rabiot plays an important role during the initial build-up phase for Juventus. In this phase, Rabiot drops deep away from the midfield to provide a simple passing option for his defenders, by doing this when he receives the ball from his centre-backs he will be put under less pressure as he is no longer playing in between the lines like his teammates Matuidi and Pjanić. Thus, when he has the ball he will have a much easier task of picking out a progressive pass as is highlighted by his 94% successful pass rate during this fixture against Brescia. Rabiot’s quality to play these progressive passes becomes all the more important when playing against sides who like to sit back and defend. In the example below the opposition players are applying limited pressure to Rabiot, as a result, he can drive forward with the ball while simultaneously looking for a passing option to one of the highlighted forwards in the hope that his pass can bypass the defence of the opposition. However, on this occasion, one of the opposition players closes down Rabiot in which he is able to block the passes towards the left-hand side of the pitch meaning both Gonzalo Higuaín and Matuidi are taken out of the game.
Because of this Rabiot is forced to play the ball towards the path of Paulo Dybala, in which the Argentine is then able to exploit the space on the right-wing and get behind the defensive line of Brescia where a cross can then be played into the box for Higuaín to attack. Furthermore, under Sarri it is not uncommon for Rabiot to be playing in between the lines of the opposition where he can have a greater attacking influence for his side albeit playing under much more pressure.
By positioning himself between the lines of the opposition Rabiot has helped to create a numerical superiority for his team allowing for space to be made available thanks to the extra man in the attacking line which helps draw defenders out of the opposition backline. Additionally, another benefit for Rabiot’s positioning here is that his chances of creating a goalscoring opportunity would have increased considerably as too would his overall contributions to the game thanks to being positioned further upfield. However, because Juventus have such great quality upfront with world-class forwards such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Dybala, Rabiot’s role is often overshadowed and as a result, his impact on the game is more often than not understated by fans.
Ability to move the ball forward
One of Rabiot’s greatest qualities as a player is his ability to carry the ball forward while simultaneously providing extra support for his team through his positional awareness. His total of 44 progressive runs this season perfectly highlights this point with the midfielder showing a great attacking return from the games he has participated in. In the example below, we see him partner with Pjanić at the base of midfield as a duo, which forces the opponents to exert greater pressure on the ball carrier due to the potential threat and as a result, Rabiot has more space to work with when he receives the ball thus allowing for these progressive runs to be made.
Here we see Rabiot working with a duo but this time it’s with Rodrigo Bentancur, as the Frenchman makes a pass towards the wing.
Here we can now see Rabiot scanning the play before he receives the ball, by doing this he is able always able to stay one step ahead of the opposition. Hence, once the ball is at his feet his decision would have already been made, and his mistakes would have been greatly reduced as he will now be capable of playing a one-touch pass or executing an effective dribble to beat his presser without much of a second thought or doubt in his movement or decision making.
This skill was repeatedly evident throughout Juventus’ 2-0 win over Brescia earlier this season and help play dividends towards his team’s victory.
Finally, despite being surrounded by three players Rabiot is able to show the composure to execute the precise weight of pass in which he can avert the potential danger for his team and instead start them on a promising attack.
Rabiot’s coolness here and capacity to beat the opposition press would put him in an excellent position to meet the demands of the Premier League and specifically the tactics of Arsenal who are in dire need for a midfielder with this type of versatility. More importantly, his excellent stamina and endurance will set him up nicely at a top club like Arsenal when the fixtures start to get congested during the latter stages of the season.
Quality in the final third
As previously mentioned in this scout report, Rabiot possesses a great variety of attributes that allow him to take control of possession and dictate the tempo of play with 44 successful dribbles being a notable example of his tenacity to break forward. However, despite this with a success rate of just 57% in his long-range passing attempts, it is clear that there is room for improvement, yet at just 25 years old he has more than enough time to make adjustments in this area. The image above displays a pattern of play so often used by Sarri when at Chelsea in which a winger would often drop deep from his position causing the opposition full-back to follow. During this N’Golo Kanté would then be able to attack the space left behind the full-back and get in behind the defensive line. However, in this case, it is Rabiot who is making the run and attacking the available space, which puts in a very promising position to make a positive contribution for his team. Instead, Rabiot fails to produce a worthy enough cross, and as a result, the ball is back with the opposition.
Rabiot’s main reason for overhitting crosses is due to his poor body position and preparation just before striking the ball. His lack of pace means that he is unable to get far away enough from the covering defenders and as a result, his technique is rushed when striking the ball. To improve this area of the game he must focus on picking out his spot well in advance so that when it comes to the kicking process he is already aware of where he should be striking the ball so that it goes towards his desired target. Here we see Rabiot making the same run however this time the opposition are Fiorentina.
Rabiot is a convincing performer when defending with solid statistics of 3.45 recoveries and 4.56 defensive duels per 90 which helps to reflect his all-round style of play and consistency within defensive phases of play. Furthermore, his positional awareness puts him in a good location when covering larger spaces on defensive transitions making him a useful asset for any team within Europe. Here Rabiot opts to move away from his more central position and press the ball carrier instead of allowing him to progress his run unfazed. In this situation, his press forces the ball carrier to play the ball backwards. However, it’s important to note that if the press does not work out the opponents will be able to exploit the space left by Rabiot in the centre of the pitch and continue their attack. Once again Rabiot moves out of his position to press the opponent. On the other hand, In this phase of play they are able to work the ball around Rabiot allowing them to get in behind the Juventus defence. As a consequence, the winger has free reign to run with the ball towards a promising position in which a cross can be played in.
Rabiot has been able to perform relatively well at times this season yet his tendency to crumble in big games has forced him to often miss out on games where his skill set could have helped his team cross the line. Nonetheless, this analysis has helped to highlight his impressive attacking contributions combined with his consistent defensive work, portraying him as a complete midfielder that could comfortably play in any role at the centre of the pitch. Despite this, for him to reach the next level he must justify his performances with either goals or assists, only then will he be perceived as world-class.