Arthur Melo to Liverpool: Injury-prone but technically brilliant Brazilian midfielder a worthwhile gamble for Jurgen Klopp | Football news

Jurgen Klopp had already confirmed Liverpool were in the market for a midfielder ahead of Wednesday’s win over Newcastle, but Jordan Henderson’s injury has added to the urgency.

Henderson joined Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines when he was forced off in the second half at Anfield, but Liverpool acted just 24 hours later, confirming the signing of Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus.

The Brazil international joins with an option rather than an obligation to make his move permanent, making the deal a relatively low-risk decision for Liverpool, but can the 26-year-old give them what they need?

Pedigree but unrealized potential

Arthur brings a rich pedigree having spent the last four years playing for two of the biggest clubs in Europe – Barcelona and Juventus. He won a total of 22 caps for Brazil and played a key role in his country’s 2019 Copa America triumph.

His talent has been known to the European public since his £35m arrival at Barcelona from Brazilian side Gremio in 2018, when he signed a six-year deal at the Nou Camp that included a £355m buyout clause, taking over the number 8 shirt vacated by Andres Iniesta.

It was Xavi rather than Iniesta who Arthur came to resemble at Barcelona, ​​due to his similar build and, more importantly, his similar style of play. The youngster defined himself as the “organizer” of the game and it showed on the field.

Indeed, in a game against Valencia a few months into his first season in Spain, Artur made a staggering total of 135 passes, the most of any player in La Liga that season.

It was a Xavi style performance and even the man himself agreed.

“I think we are looking for a player who can mark an era at Barcelona,” Xavi said. “He has Barca DNA. You can tell now by the way he plays, the way he holds the ball, the way he thinks, the way he makes his turns. He’s a very quick thinker.”

At this point, Arthur seemed to have a bright future in Catalonia, but it never materialized for him.

During his first season at the club, he only started more than three consecutive games on two occasions. By the end of the second, he had fallen out of favor altogether.

His move to Juventus this summer, for a fee of £66m, with Miralem Pjanic moving for £54.8m, provided a change of scenery but ultimately not a change of fortune.

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Arthur impressed in parts in his first campaign in Italy but featured sporadically under Andrea Pirlo and it was a similar story under Pirlo’s successor Massimiliano Allegri last season.

His talent has never been in doubt – Allegri described his technical ability as “exceptional” earlier this year and Pirlo was similarly praised – but other factors have held him back.

Strength under the microscope

Injuries have been a constant problem for Arthur and they leave question marks over him as he arrives at Anfield.

Liverpool’s absentee list is such that Arthur will be needed immediately, but does he have the strength for the Premier League? Does he have the strength to play under Klopp?

Liverpool’s breathless approach requires high levels of stamina and physicality, and there is little in Arthur’s recent history to suggest he possesses these qualities.

He has not played at all for Juventus this season and arrives at Anfield having not played a single competitive game since Juve’s Coppa Italia final defeat by Inter Milan four months ago.

It’s not an ideal preparation for a side about to embark on a five-match run in 15 days.

It’s also not ideal that Arthur has never started more than 19 league games in a league season in Europe, with the percentage of games he’s started actually decreasing each year since his arrival from Brazil in 2018.

It’s a worrying trend that goes some way to explaining why Arsenal decided not to move him in the January transfer window. The hope for Klopp and Liverpool is that he can reverse this trend in his new surroundings.

Pass master like Thiago

If it can, it may yet turn out to be an inspired business.

Fortunately for Liverpool, Arthur’s susceptibility to injury is not the only quality he has in common with Thiago.

Until now, Liverpool have not possessed another midfielder capable of influencing events like Thiago, but Arthur could be that man – provided he can stay fit.

Graphic

Although he hasn’t featured nearly as regularly as he would have liked during his time with Juventus, his impact on the ball can be seen in his statistical results.

He has averaged more touches per 90 minutes than any other Juventus player over the last two seasons and also ranks first in terms of passes and successful passes. Only one player, Manuel Locatelli, has averaged more passes in the final third.

Like Thiago, whose work off the ball is underrated, Artur also offers a lot in possession, statistics show that he has won possession in the middle third of the pitch at a higher rate than any other Juventus player in the last two seasons.

Most of all, though, he is someone who can help his team dominate possession and shut down opposing defenses. Like Thiago, he is not known for racking up goals and assists. He is more likely to start attacks than finish them.

But his “extraordinary” technical ability, combined with Xavi-like distribution that marks him for a big future at Barcelona, ​​could help ease Liverpool’s reliance on Thiago and give them a much-needed alternative in an area of ​​the pitch where they also often found themselves short of numbers.

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