Despite a slow start and early detractors, King Arthur Melo has become a must-have piece of Barcelona’s midfield puzzle as they continue a quest for the Treble
Arthur Melo arrived at Barcelona last summer with very high hopes, but the Brazilian has managed to do the unbelievable, and that is exceed expectations. Despite a rather slow start to the season, the midfield-maestro has drastically improved with the start of 2019 and has become irreplaceable in the starting lineup.
Arthur has always been one of the brightest prospects in Brazil. After all, the 22-year-old was named the best player in the Copa Libertadores 2017 final, leading Grêmio to the most precious title in South American club football.
It was throughout this period where the Catalan giants sealed the agreement, as the comparison between Arthur and former Spain international Xavi Hernández began. It was a comparison that would follow the Brazilian for months, up until making his debut for Barça in a pre-season match in the United States, only to confirm everything that had been said about him.
The strong points of Arthur in his first few matches for the Camp Nou side were mainly his ability to retain the ball under pressure, and his tendency to spin himself around the ball in similar fashion to Xavi.
In fairness, the youngster did justify his hype with trademark performances against the likes of Inter Milan and Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League, and Real Madrid in La Liga. But the obvious weak points were also constantly being talked of.
In fact, Arthur had a tendency to play sideways or back passes, and preferred to release the ball to the closest teammate around him, highlighting a lack of creativity and a mediocre passing range. With such deficits, it was impossible for the comparison with a legendary passer of the ball such as Xavi, to go on for any longer.
Even Barcelona fans had started to badmouth the player for his lack of creativity, and rightly so. No one wants to see a central midfielder who is reluctant to take risks and pass the ball forward.
But the progress of Arthur has been faster, much faster than one could have imagined. It is as if he had been listening to detractors and taking advantage of the constructive criticism. In fairness, the Brazilian had shown much more adventurous passing tendencies during his time at Grêmio, but a move to a giant club like Barcelona normally generates a lot of pressure.
This may have led to a situation where Arthur was looking to prioritize avoiding making mistakes by playing it safe. But months after the transfer, it is logical that the player gains more confidence and is more assured about his spot in the team, which encouraged him to start taking more risks.
The importance of Arthur Melo cannot be stressed enough today. In the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi final, Real Madrid played a very strong first half, only to be beaten in the second after missing several chances. Even Barcelona fans were not too content with the display, despite the 3-0 result. Whereas in the LaLiga match that followed, with Arthur’s return from injury, Barcelona completely dominated the midfield battle, and was as a result, comfortably the best side in the game.
The Seleção-man brought confidence into the team – taking the ball away from his feet seemed like mission impossible, as he constantly frustrated Real Madrid players who tried their luck.
The future is very bright for Arthur, both for Barcelona and Brazil’s national team. It is fair to say that based on this season’s performance, he is comfortably one of the best players in his position already.