Douglas Costa: Juventus' underappreciated creative spark
Background image: Gearfil Lombari, CC BY-SA 3.0 IT
The name Douglas Costa doesn't bring too many cheers from fans. Despite consistently top performances, the Juventus winger has continued to slip under the radar. This season, in a star-studded attack, the Brazilian has continued to shine.
It's any manager's dream to coach a team as stacked with talent as Juve's. The problem lies in keeping everyone happy. Maurizio Sarri will have much to do as the season progresses, but one player he must utilise is Costa.
The absence of some players is felt more than others. Costa has been certainly been missed after sustaining an injury three weeks into the season. Juan Cuadrado, has at times, been deployed down the right; but hasn't been able to affect the game in the same manner as his 29-year-old counterpart.
Costa moved to Turin in the summer of 2017 from Bayern Munich. Having had a terrific debut season in Bavaria, where he averaged a goal or an assist per 150 minutes, the winger saw his chances dwindle the following year. It soon became evident he was dispensable. After just two erms with Bayern, he moved to Italy to ply his trade in the Serie A.
At Juventus Costa has been superb, but if his part of his reasoning behind a move to Italy was to feel more 'wanted', then it's understandable for him to be a little disappointed. Not many wide men within our beautiful game are as good as Costa. Quick, direct and capable of producing magic with his left foot. It was shocking to see Bayern let him go when he appeared to be Arjen Robben's natural successor.
While he might not be the most flashy of players off the pitch, Costa has in no small part contributed to the Old Lady's success in the last couple of years. Last season was one riddled with injury, but the 2017/18 term, where he scored four goals and laid on 12 assists was one in which he was massively influential.
As a defender, Costa is one wide man you don't want to face. He is ever-willing to take his marker on, while remaining full of selfless running on both sides of the ball. Perhaps one reason he doesn't grab the headlines as often is down to his teamwork. He'd rather square the ball to a teammate in a better position rather than trying a shot for himself. Costa is yet to score in three Serie A appearances in 2019/20, but already has two assists to his name.
In Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus have two top-drawer finishers, all they need is men alongside them who can unlock defences and carve out opportunities. Although he has experimented with several formations, the manner in which Sarri has structured the team isn't all that different from Massimiliano Allegri's 4-3-3; only that the former Napoli gaffer has paired Sami Khedira with Blaise Matuidi in midfield. Last season, it was one or the other for Allegri. The duo are, after all, suited to breaking up opposition attacks, and against lesser enemies, having both on at the same time is unnecessary. We all know Sarri, though, he loves the extra protection.
The responsibility to create chances therefore rests more on the shoulders of the wide players. Since Cristiano Ronaldo plays more as a centre-forward these days, even when he starts on the left, more of the width is provided down Juventus' right flank. In my opinion, Costa is the best winger at the club at the moment; and it's about time he began getting the recognition he deserves.
Granted, Juventus have won all but one of their games since Costa got injured. Notwithstanding, there has been an obvious lack of quality going forward. The Turin giants have found it difficult to get in behind opponents. At least Sarri was smart enough to reinstate Paulo Dybala into the side. The Argentine has done well, but again, he works better in a more central position.
Costa is expected to make his comeback from injury soon. The Brazilian has certainly been missed since he's been out, and he'd be itching to get back into the thick of things...