Midfield enforcer Sami Khedira struggled with injury at the beginning of his Juventus stint, but has entered a period of splendid form lately.
Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo left Turin at the same time, which left a huge void in central midfield that coach Massimiliano Allegri initially struggled to plug.
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The 28-year-old German international was earmarked as one of the key replacements for those outgoing stars, but he missed much of pre-season and the early part of this campaign through assorted injury problems.
However, he has arrived back on the scene recently with a renewed determination to drive the Bianconeri to even greater heights than before.
Former Stuttgart central midfielder Khedira suffered a muscle fibre tear in August, thus forcing him out of action until October.
Then, just when he thought the worst was over, a thigh injury meant another fortnight of inaction until making his comeback in mid-December.
His Serie A career had barely begun, yet some observers were ready to write him off as an underachieving flop.
However, he featured in Juventus’ 3-1 win over Fiorentina – in which he admittedly looked off the pace – and hasn’t lost his place since.
More importantly, though, his performance levels have risen considerably since that resurgence.
Khedira had just one goal and a solitary assist to his name this term prior to his December revival, but has become integral to Juve’s attacking play during recent contests.
Renowned as a defensive-minded player in the past, he’d failed to notch more than three goals and two assists per season in league competition throughout his five-year Real Madrid stay.
However, he did manage five assists when representing Stuttgart in the 2009-10 Bundesliga campaign, and there are signs that Khedira is returning to that kind of form in Serie A.
He was expected to sit back and operate in front of the back four, whilst keeping things relatively simple in terms of passing.
But, he appears to have been handed greater licence to burst into the box and make a telling contribution within the final third of the field – much like Bayern Munich man Vidal previously did when patrolling the Bianconeri midfield.
His third assist of the season at Chievo meant Khedira had been directly involved in more domestic league goals - six - than at any other point since 2009-10, which is a clear reflection of that increased amount of time he spends working in attacking areas.
It’s a real sea-change from his days sitting deep at the Bernabeu and has certainly added a new dimension to a Juventus side who are currently riding the crest of a wave.
The crucial factor for the club now is to keep Khedira fit and firing – if they do, he could provide the vital attacking weapon that’s been missing since Vidal walked out of the door.
Can Khedira help Juventus win their fifth consecutive Scudetto? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!
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