Juventus vs. Sampdoria: Bianconeri Loss Demonstrates Importance of Arturo Vidal

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 16:  Arturo Vidal of Juventus FC reacts during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Atalanta BC at Juventus Arena on December 16, 2012 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

With today's 1-2 loss to Sampdoria, Juventus can already stop dreaming of another undefeated run in 2013.

Coach Antonio Conte decided to rest some of the team's starters, and it showed in what the Bianconeri brought to the pitch. I'm not here to criticise players like Simone Padoin, Paul Pogba or newly signed Federico Peluso, who did the best they could.

I'm even going to refrain from calling out Paolo De Ceglie, who seemingly keeps regressing, or Alessandro Matri, who was never able to put his stamp on the game.

If this game showed us one thing, it's how important Arturo Vidal is to this team.

Pogba got the start over the Chilean midfield engine, most likely to keep the latter fresh for Wednesday's clash with AC Milan. And while Pogba didn't have a bad game, his play was a far cry from what we've come to expect from Vidal.

You can't hold that against the French youngster, but you could definitely make the case that Conte's decision cost the Bianconeri three easy points.

Juventus went into the half up by a goal and with a man advantage and found a way to squander the lead in the second half. There was a complete lack of passion and creativity on the field, and Vidal is exactly the kind of player who can provide the spark that could have ignited Juve.

Both of Sampdoria's goals were the result of swift, pacey attacks that highlighted the lack of speed on Juve's back line. Sure, fans will point to Peluso and the fact that both goals came from the left side of the defense, but the new signing did not have a bad game, and it would be foolish to expect him to just replace someone like Giorgio Chiellini in a matter of days.

Vidal is Juve's most important player against the counter. He's the guy that tracks down the ball in a blink of an eye and slows down the attacker running with the ball.

With the Chilean not on the field, that assignment came down to Andrea Pirlo, who simply lacks the pace to do this. Sampdoria's attackers had a fairly easy time running past Pirlo, turning those swift counters into one-on-one situations near the Bianconeri box.

That's not a good thing.

I have to point out the play of Gianluigi Buffon. Both goals came from shots that an in-form Buffon would normally save, and the first goal in particular will keep the veteran stopper up tonight.

With Claudio Marchisio going down with what appeared to be a severe injury late in the game, it would appear this might have been the last time we see Vidal spend the full 90 minutes on the bench, and the severity of Marchisio's injury will determine whether or not Juventus decide to step up their interest in Pescara's Juan Quintero.

Juve's last few games haven't been overly convincing, and one has to wonder what Conte will decide to do going into the matchup with rivals AC Milan, and in the thick of the January transfer window.

But one thing is certain: Arturo Vidal will need to start from now on.