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Arthur Melo
Football La Liga

Arthur: Will Barcelona’s desire to sign Pjanic cost them dear?

Arthur Melo
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The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in every corner of the world, with the world of football especially hit badly. Matches across all of Europe’s top five leagues have been postponed, with a haunting lack of clarity over when action will resume. However, in such a bleak scenario, football fans and specifically Barcelona fans, have been left stunned by reports of the Spanish giants investing in the services of Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanić, with emerging Brazilian talent Arthur Melo going the other way.

Career so far:

Arthur who rose to fame, when he helped his boyhood club Gremio win the Copa Libertadores in 2016-17 season, is one of the most exciting players in world football. The young Brazilian midfielder played as a number 6 in a classic 4-2-3-1 formation as one of the pivot, forming a strong connect with the defenders to help the overall game-play develop. 

Arthur was named as the man of the match in the final of Copa Libertadores, with his performances enough to draw interest from top European clubs. FC Barcelona however clinched the deal in Jan 2018 for a reported fee of 31 million, and he formally joined the squad in the 2018-19 preseason.

Arthur’s first big performance for Blaugrana came at a big stage. A Champions League night at Wembley, England. Tottenham Hotspur were the opponents, who would later go on to become runner ups of the most prestigious European club football competition.

As expected Tottenham came with their typical high press approach, which had tormented Barcelona in recent times. Messi absolutely smashed the Tottenham back line. However, the one who caught many eyeballs that night other than him was Arthur Melo. Arthur impressed one and all by consistently getting out of tight areas and pressure situations. The player further grabbed attention with his close control and calmness on the ball.

The Brazilian’s control over the tempo of the game that night, gave the Barcelona supporters a beacon of hope that the team finally had a midfielder capable of filling Xavi’s shoes.

Yes, you read it right, Xavi! The greatest tempo controller the game has ever had. Constantly looking over his shoulder, scanning the positions of teammates, opponents and spaces that could be exploited.

How can Arthur go about emulating Xavi?

Xavi was the one who used to make sure that his team was constantly in control of the game. Arthur is strikingly similar to him. The Barcelona midfielder is press resistant, has the ability to scan the field. The Brazilian can also play killer balls if he finds a player in position. A typical tempo controller needs to know what can be done and when to do them. He should be able to create the moves to fetch opponent players out of their positions and create space for his teammates. 

Arthur definitely fulfils the criteria of being an ideal tempo controller. However, he needs to step his game up to be the best in the world in his position. Arthur needs to bring consistency to his game which is a missing cog.

The ability to pick runs behind the line seems to be missing from his artillery. He also has some positioning issues, as he consistently overlaps Sergio Busquets’ area of influence. This results in overcrowding in central areas of the pitch, which is very bad for Barcelona’s positional brand of football. 

Arthur has also battled quite a few injury woes since his arrival at Barcelona. His fitness has been a vital issue, as the Brazilian has struggled to maintain the same intensity for 90 minutes week in week out.

How has Setien’s arrival changed things?

Things have got better since Quique Setien took over the managerial position at Barca. This is due to his intense physical training sessions which Ernesto Valverde, the former manager neglected. Arthur has been in and out of the playing 11, which means he has not yet secured a position for himself. However, glimpses of his genius were certainly evident.

One thing is for sure, that if Arthur reaches his ceiling then he would certainly be among the best in the world. He still has lot of time to develop and reach the peak of his powers as he is just 23 years old.

Arthur could be Xavi’s successor, the one FC Barcelona is missing in the midfield trio. He could also help them control the game like they once did. Arthur can go on and create his own legacy in the game if things fall in their place. However, Barcelona’s desire to sacrifice the Brazilian in favour of Pjanic, sparks fear that Arthur might join the long list of players in the ill-fated ‘What could have been if…” category.

Written By: Sanket Patil.


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