MVP – A Trio unmatched


Juventus  FC.  The Italian powerhouse based in Turin, most successful in Italy since the inception of Italy’s top league- The Serie A since 1929. One of the most laureated and respected clubs, Juventus has a history that the fans tell their grandchildren stories of and boast players like Pavel Nedved , Michel Platini, Zinédine Zidane and David Trezeguet and dozens more. A record twenty-eight league titles, nine Italian cups and five national super cups and, two UEFA Champions Leagues and three UEFA Cups are the few of the fifty-three titles that sees their opponents in utter awe and fear.

Now let’s rewind to six years back. For the first and only time in their history, Juventus FC gets demoted to Serie B due to infamous The “Calciopoli” scandal which saw many first team players leaving the club. The club gets stripped of two titles won under former manager Fabio Capello denying them the ‘3rd star’ on their jersey which would have else denoted 30 Scudetto titles.

And back after a seven year wait for a trophy, the club goes unbeaten throughout the 2011-12 season claiming the title and the national cup under former player and fan favorite Antonio Conte. Prior to this season when Antonio Conte announced the decision of letting Alberto Aquilani and Felipe Melo leave the club in the summer,  many eyebrows were raised, “How are they going to cope up without these two?” Indeed, Aquilani and Melo were the only bright spots in an otherwise abominable season for Juventus. Where Aquilani brought elegance and quality, Melo was the steel in their midfield.

Now back to February 2013- the month of the excitement, Champions League knockout stage. And we see a dominant display at the Celtic Park with a 3-0 win over the Hoops that has all but sealed their passage to the next round of the Champions League. They hold a decent 6 point lead in the league with 11 games to go, and it’s not hard to imagine how this team has transformed into Europe’s powerhouses once again in such short time. The team has no star striker to boast of (no offense to Bendtner, Matri and Vucinic, but you have to be realistic) as other Champions League contenders have, so where are the goal supplies coming from?


M  V  P. No not the forgotten WWE wrestler if you are thinking of, but the combined midfield trio of Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo. All arrived at the club in different ways- Marchisio was scouted by the club’s youth coaches at the age of seven, Vidal arrived in summer 2011 from Bayern Leverkusen where he earned his reputation in the Bundesliga while Pirlo arrived on a Bosman after being denied a new contract at Milan.

Call it Conte’s brilliance or maybe they were just destined to play with each other, they have outrun their opponents down the whole season to prove their dominance. If at one instant you see Marchisio taking long range shots from outside the box, at sometime later you may see Vidal chasing down the opponent’s attacker and winning the ball convincingly, like most of the time the does. Not to mention, Pirlo controlling the tempo and scoring breathtaking set pieces. Phew, talk about a combination. Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets… listening?

While there was bitter-sweet excitement regarding Pirlo’s arrival, there was also a feeling of pessimism surrounding his signing. Pirlo was coming off one of his most lackluster campaigns of an otherwise illustrious career San Siro. His injury record in the 2010-2011 season wasn’t something a Juventus fan would appreciate as he managed to rack up just 12 games in Serie A. For Juventus last campaign, Pirlo missed out on just a single game. His fitness has drastically improved under Conte and his ability to control the tempo of the game remains unique which very few players are capable of doing with such efficiency. What Pirlo brings to the team is loads of experience coupled with unparalleled vision and creativity. And on top of that, given that he arrived on a free transfer, this could just be the deal of the season. (Sympathy, Milan fans). But Pirlo’s sensational return to form is also down to his fellow midfielders, Marchisio, who has finally showed the talent he always possessed and Vidal, who has proven those wrong who felt Chileans couldn’t make their name in European football.




Now analyzing the technical aspect of the trio, this was all thanks to Walter Mazzarri’s work on the three-man defense with Napoli in Serie A, the 3-5-2 formation has found popularity again in Italy where the art of defending was perfected. The 3-man defense is not only the innovative part of this system, but has many others which makes it look so impossible to play against. One of those is the regista or simply the deepest midfielder of the three central midfielders who is first a playmaker, then a defender. He has to be the most creative of the trio without roaming around the pitch too much and is not expected to be the mobile of defenders. Sounds perfect for  Pirlo, doesn’t it? Excellent vision with a wide range of passing has helped goals on counter-attacks and not to mention his unmatched ability to convert dead ball situations into vital goals.

Then comes the midfield shuttler—a vital role in the heart of a three-man central midfield. Claudio Marchisio is probably the best shuttler in world football, or equally good as Porto’s Joao Moutinho. He’s traditionally a mezzala or simply a central attacking midfielder. A shuttler has to be pacy and should have great awareness in recognizing the perfect time to attack or to track back and defend. Conte has taken out the best out of Marchisio in this position, though he could use another shuttler in the form of Paul Pogba. The space he provides for Pirlo by drawing out markers in the otherwise crowded midfield and consistently scoring goals from wide areas has been crucial to his team. His link-up play with left-wing-back Kwadwo Asamoah is top-notch, and he’s just as comfortable on the left-hand touchline as in front of his own penalty box.

Finally comes the ‘heartbeat’ of the Juve midfield, Vidal who is known for his work off the ball rather than on it. If it weren’t for his industrious legs and enormous work ethic, Pirlo would have been susceptible to every opponent counterattack. He’s great arriving late in the penalty area for the odd goal which he scores in plenty, and he’s a lightning-fast threat moving forward with the ball when he gets going brushing past opponents. Here’s one of the example to dispute why he’s currently the best box-to-box midfielder a team can have-

In the match against Parma: 33rd minute, Vidal puts in a crucial tackle on Amauri to restrict an attack, then 20 seconds later finds himself in the six-yard box of the opposition’s penalty area expecting a low cross from Fabio Quagliarella.(though he never got to score)

This kind of insurance allows Pirlo a comfortable game on offense rather than a flustered, uncomfortable game running backward.

Though he’s been doing an excellent job since last season, he caught my personal attention during Juventus encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Juventus were trailing 2-0 thanks to superb strikes from Oscar and Vidal had picked up a knock and was moving gingerly, aiding his left ankle. Nevertheless, when he received the ball and without thinking twice he surged forward to score a vital goal before being instrumental in setting up the equalizer. Truly, a warrior.

Like suggested my one of my fellow writers, this trio could ‘P W N’ any opponent attack with their overall team play and individualism. Though some still doubt they can compete with the likes of Xavi-Iniesta-Busquests or even Kroos-Martinez- Schweinsteiger , I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear the echoes of “MVP” at Wembley at the final whistle on May 25. Would you?

Suraj Bhatia

Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering student. A supporter of the Red half of Manchester. Idolizes Michael Carrick. Loves to pull the strings from midfield. Doesn't plead for glory but for the positive spirit of the game.