FC Barcelona have been known for having a plethora of quality midfielders over the years. Having produced elite players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets etc, quality and strength in the centre has never been an issue for the azulgranas. But since the departure of Xavi and Iniesta in 2015 and 2018 respectively, there have been massive gaps in the Catalan midfield which they have tried addressing. Barcelona have desperately looked for two key traits in their midfield: creativity and explosive power. Now that creativity is more or less shored up with the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Arthur De Melo, Arturo Vidal was the only missing piece in the Blaugrana puzzle.
Throughout his career, Arturo Vidal has been known for his eccentricity. Making lung-bursting runs, tracking back tirelessly, making stringent tackles, this is what people see in Vidal. Every team has a player that does the ‘dirty work’ and Arturo Vidal does that for Barca, including heavily draining defensive duties which involve one or two malicious challenges.
When Barcelona acquired Vidal’s services in 2018, Cules were very sceptical about this signing. Considering the fact that Barcelona have always gone for creativity in the midfield, it was very eerie for the azulgranas to have signed Vidal who had everything except creativity and flair. But, everyone was proven wrong and what ensued was genuinely startling.
It’s pretty self-explanatory that Arturo Vidal was not brought in to make line-breaking passes or opening the opposition’s back-line with crafty play. He was brought to add grit and roughness in the midfield. Initially, Vidal used to be brought into the game in the last 10-20 minutes of the game to relieve the pressure on his tired teammates. Vidal helped with both the defensive and offensive duties utilising his stamina, aggression and do-or-die attitude to the fullest.
Barcelona severely lacked such a character in their midfield. Despite Sergio Busquets being the metronome of the midfield and the default defensive midfielder, even he lacks the grit and the drive that Barcelona needed desperately in the dying moments of the game. Arturo Vidal brings that new dynamic to the midfield department and executes it with perfection. Vidal with his indomitable will and activeness provides the boost that the team needs in the last few minutes of the game.
A team’s mentality matters a lot in games where the stakes are high. No matter how much quality the players possess- if they have a fragile mentality, there are chances they will wither away in pressure cooker situations. Nothing can prevent that. Vidal has the same mentality and energy throughout the game. He shows as much desire when the team is leading by 5 goals as when the team is trailing by 5 goals.
Initially, Vidal was brought in as a rotation option. But due to fitness issues in the midfield department, the Chilean got a lot of game time and he has had his fair share of moments where he proved why he is so essential to this team. This earned him several starts. Vidal scored 3 goals and made 7 assists in La Liga last season. He has scored 6 goals and provided 2 assists in the league this campaign and is proving to be a handy player. His excellent passing range, outstanding stamina and tireless work out of possession are just a few of the qualities that have helped him make a name for himself as a capable defensive midfielder.
His high level of aggression comes coupled with a lot of bookings. With 127 bookings and five red cards across 441 appearances as a professional, this statistic implies Vidal is an overly-aggressive player who is unafraid of tackling anyone. Although he’s taken steps to curb his “bad-boy” reputation in recent seasons, he certainly is a fearless midfielder who is prepared to take calculated risks. But as long as he keeps his temper at bay, he provides a fantastic shift in midfield. When Barcelona were eliminated against Liverpool last year, he was one of the only positives.
The only con in Vidal’s case would be that the team cannot rely on him for creativity. He adds a more direct option which is not Barca’s regular approach. While trailing, or in need of immediate goals, they don’t have many players to go direct. Continuous feeding of crosses into the box was never the Blaugrana way. But when in dire need, they have Vidal. His heading ability makes him an excellent option in both defensive and attacking set-pieces.
At the age of 33, and with all the rumours of Lautaro Martinez’s arrival, the future of the Chilean with the Blaugrana is uncertain. He could be included in a swap deal for Lautaro along with Rakitic and Ousmane Dembele. As far as the Chilean is considered, he is enjoying his time at the Catalan capital and intends to stay.
No matter how long he stays at the club, Vidal always looks to give 100% of his energy and tries to perform to the best of his abilities. Quique Setien should be on the lookout to make the most of Vidal’s physicality whenever he gets the opportunity. He is certainly a versatile option and a player capable of turning the tide of the game in the final moments.
Written by Shiv Tiwari | Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images
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