Antonio Conte's Juventus have perfected the 3-5-2 formation and look one striker short of being able to go head-to-head with the world's best teams.
But it's not Sebastian Giovinco's pace or Giorgio Chiellini's uncompromising nature that gives this team its edge. It's arguable that it's not even Andrea Pirlo's wizardry, as many believe Arturo Vidal to be Juve's best player.
Three recent games have all but confirmed that: A Vidal-less Bianconeri losing at home to Sampdoria, add him back in and Juve beat Milan in the Coppa Italia. In addition to that, a poor team performance against Parma's only silver lining was a superb return for the Chilean.
The most important aspect of Vidal's play is the work he does off the ball.
He's great arriving late in the penalty area for the odd goal, and he's a lightning-fast threat moving forward with the ball when he gets going. But if it weren't for the industry of his hardworking legs, Pirlo would regularly be on an island on the counterattack.
The only issue with playing a regista is that he's a creator, not a defender. Get caught short and your relying on the team's primary creative threat to break things up—few players in the world are so complete, and Pirlo is not one of them.
Luckily, it's pretty rare that Pirlo has that onus placed upon him. The central of the three-man defensive line—usually Leonardo Bonucci—is able to step forward to some extent and help. Otherwise, Vidal and Claudio Marchisio are happy to stretch their legs and help.
The box-to-box nature of Vidal's game cannot be disputed, and one of many examples of this occurred against Parma.
In the 33rd minute, Vidal put in a crucial tackle on Amauri to stem an attack, then 20 seconds later found himself in the "D" of the opposition's penalty area expecting a low cross from Fabio Quagliarella.
This kind of insurance allows Pirlo a comfortable game on offense rather than a flustered, uncomfortable game running backward.
The problem for Antonio Conte is that Vidal leaves a rather large footprint.
There are very few players who can play like he does—combining that level of energy, intelligence and commitment is rare—and even though the Old Lady have stockpiled explosive midfielders, only Marchisio is close to Vidal in terms of performance.
His heat map (right) against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League is a fantastic marker for how much he does for the team from a vertical perspective, and when Marchisio plays, his is very similar on the other side to Pirlo.
When Paul Pogba steps in to replace him, he does an admirable job, and the potential is clear to see, but he's not even close to his illustrious colleagues.
There aren't many players who contribute more in every area of the pitch than Vidal, and don't discount Marchisio's importance to the side either.
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