With just nine minutes played at the Stadio San Siro on Sunday night, Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli lunged aggressively at AC Milan counterpart Sandro Tonali and rightly received a yellow card for his overzealous challenge.
Returning to the club that cut him loose to Serie A minnows Sassuolo back in 2018, the 24-year-old may well have felt that he had a point to prove to his former employers, but more likely realised this current Bianconeri side has been lacking in purpose and dynamism.
Unfortunately for the Euro 2020 winner, that early tackle did not rouse the majority of his playing colleagues and, with coach Massimiliano Allegri seemingly setting out the Old Lady to withstand their hosts, forced Locatelli into far more destructive duties than his talents warrant.
However, with 30 minutes of normal time remaining and the Italian playing a significant part in stifling a somewhat out-of-sorts Rossoneri attack, and contributing to a dire goalless draw at San Siro, he was surprisingly withdrawn for fellow midfielder Arthur Melo.
At the same time, Federico Bernardeschi replaced Juan Cuadrado in another baffling move by Allegri, as the Colombian was one of the few showing a similar determination to Locatelli. Just minutes after that early caution, the South American’s desire to drive forward at Milan had resulted in Rafael Leao being penalised for dragging him back.
With plenty of time to swing an uneventful but evenly-contested stalemate, the Juventus tactician was trading the direct running and attacking urgency, with a ponderous former youth prodigy who often looks to slow down play and cut inside into congested areas.
However, it was Allegri’s inability to release the creative abilities of Locatelli that would have left the Juventini more frustrated, despite the valuable point they took back to Turin. The closer the Bianconeri get to joining the race for Champions League qualification, the more cautious the 54-year-old tactician seems to become.
While Locatelli might not create like a classic trequartista when further forward, his abilities as a box-to-box midfielder have been clear to see for several years, and with Milan struggling, partnering him alongside Arthur could have proved the decision that would have turned one point into three.
Last term, Juventus only just secured Champions League qualification with a run of three consecutive victories as the season reached its conclusion and thanks to Napoli slipping up on the final day, but if Allegri continues with these passive and negative tactics, the Old Lady will struggle to save themselves from the embarrassment of Europa League football this time.
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