Since signing from Roma, Miralem Pjanic has added undisputed quality to Juventus’ midfield and is improving alongside his new teammates as the season wears on. However, the bianconeri will be hoping that he could influence more games going into the new year.
Once Gonzalo Higuain’s release clause was activated alongside that of Miralem Pjanic’s, Juventus sent a clear signal of intent to the rest of Italy and the world. After conquering the Italian league for five consecutive seasons, the Turin-based giants wanted to make a splash in Europe. With Paul Pogba on his way out, Juventus’ midfield ranks took a big hit. While Pjanic’s recent form has somewhat made up for the Frenchman’s departure to Manchester United, the Italian champions will still like to see more from him when the going gets tough and still feel Il Polpo Paul’s absence in the middle of the park. His most recent exploits against Bologna put him on an impressive six goals and eight assists in all competitions on the season yet his game still leaves a bit to be desired. All too often, the former Roma man has gone missing in big games this season.
With Claudio Marchisio coming back to full fitness and with the arrival of Tomás Rincón from Genoa, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri has been able to deploy Pjanic in his favoured trequartista role. When the 26-year-old isn’t burdened with defensive responsibility, he is able to thrive and influence games with more regularity. As a result, his recent positive form should come as no surprise to Juventus fans. That being said, there’s still one blemish on his otherwise very young career in bianconero. In any game that the Italian champions have been up against it, he has struggled to create anything of note and has typically disappeard. Whether it was in Juve’s disappointing 1-1 draw against Lyon, their loss against Inter or the second game against Sevilla before Franco Vázquez got sent off, the Bosnian has gone missing in action. More often than not, this has occurred in Champions League action. This is deeply disappointing for a side that went all out this summer with his signing among others for that very trophy.
You could point to his impressive stats as a rebuttal, however, let’s take a closer look to see who he’s scored against. Sassuolo, Dinamo Zagreb, Sampdoria, Chievo, Genoa and Torino. Yuuuuup. His assists have come against Cagliari, Dinamo Zagreb, Sampdoria, Bologna, Chievo, Atalanta and Milan, by the way. The fact of the matter is that Juventus were beating these sides well before Pjanic arrived and will likely continue to do so after he leaves. With the exception of the rossoneri, the sides the former Roma man has had success against are largely provincial outfits. Like most Juventus midfielders this season, Pjanic has had comfortable outings against the league’s mid-table sides but has struggled in most of the bianconeri’s crucial clashes in the league or in the Champions League. Claudio Marchisio is perhaps Juventus’ only midfielder who can confidently say he’s performed in both the ‘easier’ games and in the decisive ones this season.
Then, when you factor in his no-shows against Roma, Lyon, Sevilla and Napoli, it becomes clearer: Juventus need Pjanic to be more decisive in big games. The bianconeri’s midfield already has problems to begin with and could use some extra help from their Bosnian maestro. On the bright side for Allegri’s men, Pjanic is enjoying success playing behind the strikers and has a goal and two assists in his last four games there. Once again, however, it will all come down to how he performs in Juventus’ big games down the stretch. In the bianconeri’s next four league games, they take on Fiorentina, Lazio, Sassuolo and Inter, which will all prove to be difficult fixtures. Then after some ‘easy’ fixtures against Crotone, Cagliari and Palermo, Juventus will travel to Portugal to take on Porto in the first leg of their round of 16 clash in the Champions League. When it comes down to it, the Bosnian international will have to be at his best in that clash.
While he has taken positive strides in recent weeks, Pjanic cannot afford to slow down. With his side about to enter a crucial stage in their season in both the league and Champions League, he will be needed more than ever and absolutely cannot go invisible in big games, like he has done in the past. How he responds to this new challenge in his career will define if Pjanic truly is the world class player Juventus thought they bought from Roma or just a very good one.
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