Chelsea could be set to make one of the statement signings of the summer. The Blues are reportedly interested in Juventus playmaker Miralem Pjanić and they’re prepared to battle Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain for his signature.
The Turin juggernauts are believed to be open to the idea of parting ways their midfield maestro in order to raise funds to improve other areas of their team. Juventus are well-stocked in midfield but that hasn’t stopped them being linked with a move to bring Paul Pogba back to the club.
According to Calciomercato, Pjanić would cost a minimum of £55million. A one-time Manchester United transfer target, the 29-year-old isn’t part of Maurizio Sarri’s preferred midfield unit.
The former Chelsea boss is keen on a triumvirate made up of Rodrigo Bentancur, Blaise Matuidi and Aaron Ramsey. There are also reports claiming the Serie A leaders are eager to reunite Sarri with Jorginho. The Brazil-born Italy international is the metronome for Frank Lampard’s side but there are still question marks over whether he’s equipped for the rigours of the Premier League.
At times he is flawless in the middle third. But there are occasions when he looks like a fish out of water – usually when faced with powerful opponents. With N’Golo Kanté missing large portions of the season through injury, now might be the time for the Blues to refresh their midfield options.
In Pjanić, Chelsea could be signing one of the best creative midfielders in world football. He’s heavily involved in how Juventus operate, attempting the fourth-most passes in Serie A this season. He’s accurate with the ball, too, finding a team-mate close to 90 per cent of the time.
Almost a third of Pjanić’s attempted passes come in the final third and, despite being under pressure in this part of the pitch, he completes 81 per cent of the 21.92 he attempts per 90.
The graphic above shows Pjanić plays the majority of his passes from an area usually associated with an attacking midfielder. The second-highest volume come from the left and close behind that from the defensive midfield area. This shows the Bianconeri No.5 is at the hub of most things his side do.
What is often overlooked when judging a passing maestro like Pjanić is how many touches they take per pass. Most teams want their playmakers to keep the tempo high. Ensuring the difference between touches and passes is minimal is a must, therefore.
The Bosnia international attempts a pass with 83 per cent of his touches. He plays 34 per cent of his attempted passes forward, too, showing just how progressive he can be in the middle third for Juventus.
All that said, Pjanić isn’t creative in the traditional sense. He supplies just 1.4 chances (per 90) and his expected open-play goals assisted average is 0.06 per 90. That’s nothing remarkable and those figures pale in comparison to those posted by Kevin De Bruyne, for example. Considered the best in the Premier League, the Belgian creates more than four chances per 90 and has an expected assists average of 0.40.
However, Pjanić isn’t the same sort of midfielder. So judging him by De Bruyne’s standards is naïve and unfair. He’s the pass before the assist. The man who ensures the right players get the ball in dangerous areas. In that role, he excels.
It’s the same role he’d need to play for Chelsea. The Blues have attacking talent but to be at their most effective they need the ball in the final third. Having the likes of Mason Mount dropping back in search of possession isn’t going to get the best out of him. Pjanić could be the lynchpin for this inexperienced but exciting side at Stamford Bridge.