An year ago, everyone was waiting with bated breath, to see Arda Turan don a Barça jersey. He was the man of the moment, and he had made his sacrifices, having lost out on 6 months of play, due to Barça’s inability to register players during the transfer ban. After 6 months, the fans wanted to cut their losses and let go of the player, as they’d seen the player struggle on the field positionally, and tactically.
Arda Turan is a man of many skills. He is intelligent, tenacious, with incredible technique, and great vision. He had all the tools that he needed, to be a success in the industrious midfield deployed by Luis Enrique. However, he failed to make an impact; while some argued that he lacked match fitness due to sitting out for six months, others argued that he lacked the ability to play deep.
When asked during the pre-season, Barça coach Luis Enrique stood firm in his decision to hold on to the player. His stance to stand by a player, who had barely made any significant contribution in his debut season, raised a few eyebrows.
On one hand, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the player had not played competitively for six months, which would mean difficulty in adjusting to the tempo of playing top flight football. He lost valuable game time at the beginning of the season, which is crucial to players adjusting in the squad, while everyone is finding their groove, and mistakes are more easily forgiven.
While he wasn't thrown in the deep end, considering the fact that he is still one of the most coveted midfielders in world football today, he most certainly looked out of place, in our touch and go system; often, he could be seen concentrating on maintaining the formation, instead of getting into good positions to create passing lanes, and stretching the opposition. This style of play, was often deployed by his previous manager Simeone, who is heavily reliant on his teams keeping formation, due to the defensive tactics employed.
On the other hand, there was the possibility, that Arda just wasn't cut out to be a CM. Having played in a more attacking role all of his senior career, often being deployed as the chief creator from out wide at club level, or in the hole at the international level, he lacked the experience to play in a deeper, more controlling role. His lack of mobility was exposed multiple times during the course of his season, which resulted in him resorting to committing fouls that could have been avoided, being carded on several occasions, within a few minutes of coming on as a substitute.
The fan base was polarised.
Some wanted him to get another shot and prove his worth, while the rest wanted the club to notice a bad buy when it saw one, and dispose Turan.
A couple of games into the new season, however, has changed the light that had been cast on the struggling Turk. Having arrived early to train and regain fitness, Arda made sufficient noise in the pre-season, playing well as a midfielder and a winger, and displaying some of his hunger from the Atletico days.
Having started the first two league encounters on the left wing in the absence of the youngest member of MSN (who was too busy collecting gold in the olympics), Arda has had a flying start to the season, having already scored once and assisted twice in two games. Averaging a pass completion rate of 90%, it is safe to say, Arda is thriving in his new position.
Whether he keeps his position on the team after the imminent return of Neymar is another matter, and he could even be reduced to a bit-part role as the season progresses, due to his inability to perform with similar grandeur as an interior. While there are a million variables that we cannot predict, for now, Arda Turan looks like a man reborn.