While it’s not a watertight case in his favour, Lucas Paqueta is arguably showing enough positive signs to suggest that he deserves a starting spot in the line-up currently.
The 22-year-old has undoubtedly struggled since he joined us in January 2019, as he’s managed just one goal and three assists in 40 appearances since.
He’s spent the majority of the current campaign as a bit-part figure in the squad, with Stefano Pioli seemingly not entirely convinced in order to reward him with a regular starting berth.
However, that could be set to change in the coming weeks as Paqueta has shown glimpses of better form in the last two outings, and so it will be interesting to see whether or not he keeps his place in the XI against Lazio this weekend.
Improved play, still missing finish
From his impact off the bench against Roma to his positive display against SPAL in midweek, the Brazilian ace showed his quality at times having been fielded in the playmaker role behind the striker.
Paqueta regularly found pockets of space between the lines to emerge as a real threat on the edge of the box, while he has also displayed some more flair, skill and invention as he grows in confidence.
All that is great, but ultimately what he’ll continue to be judged on is his impact in the final third, and that is still what is missing from his performances.
He had countless efforts on goal vs SPAL, but none of them found the back of the net. In turn, many will argue that he was wasteful and we must be better in that area of the pitch, and in fairness, they have a point.
That said, this is as positive a short run of form that we’ve seen from Paqueta in a long time, arguably since his initial impact when he first joined us and shone under Gennaro Gattuso, and there is surely now a case in favour of allowing him to build on that and keeping faith in him to come good in some crucial upcoming showdowns.
Lazio, Juventus and Napoli now await Milan in the next three games, and we’ll need to be at the races from the first minute, and more importantly, clinical when we create chances. We won’t get a path back into the game like we did at SPAL on Wednesday night, and so every opportunity counts.
Paqueta has not yet shown that he can deliver consistently, but with Giacomo Bonaventura looking faded against Roma, Zlatan Ibrahimovic perhaps still lacking full match fitness and with Rafael Leao making a pivotal impact off the bench in a substitute role which is suiting him and the team currently, it all could point towards Paqueta getting the nod again on Saturday night.
Given our investment in the Brazilian playmaker and the expectation with which he arrived, his spell with us thus far has been a major disappointment. However, there is still time for that to change, and it’s hoped that it can happen in the remaining nine games of this campaign.