It’s Time for the New Signings

With Juventus taking on Hellas Verona tomorrow, it’s as good a time as any for Maurizio Sarri to rotate his eleven and give the bianconeri’s new arrivals some much-needed playing time.

As the Italian champions debuted with a tough schedule that saw them take on Napoli, Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid in succession, the former Chelsea tactician opted not to ruffle any feathers and stick with Juventus veterans such as Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others.

Now with Juventus taking on Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL in the coming weeks, Sarri would be wise to rest his starters and look to integrate the new signings. While Matuidi and Khedira haven’t had bad starts to the season by any stretch, they are limited and are currently holding back ‘Sarriball’ from being in full flow.

New arrivals Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are far more suited to free-flowing football and will benefit from increased playing time in the coming games.

Uruguayan international Rodrigo Bentancur is also expected to feature and has looked impressive in brief cameos thus far. Outside of a revamped midfield, hard-nosed defender Merih Demiral is rumoured to start alongside Leonardo Bonucci.

The Turkish international has patiently waited in the wings and appears more than ready to seize the opportunity. With Giorgio Chiellini out for the foreseeable future, Demiral’s aggression is an asset this Juventus defence desperately craves – as highlighted by their most recent collapse against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Reports also suggest that Gonzalo Higuain will make way out of the lineup for Paulo Dybala. After a summer linking la Joya away from the club, the former Palermo man opted to stay, rejecting a move to Manchester United. Now with Sarri looking to rotate, it’s time for Dybala to prove himself and demonstrate he has what it takes to play as an outright number nine in the former Napoli tactician’s system.

At Napoli, Dries Mertens played this role to perfection and has a similar skill-set to the Argentine. While the Belgian is arguably a better finisher than Dybala, there’s no reason the Juventus forward can’t get into similar positions as Mertens. While the 25-year-old will be eager to play in more important games, proving himself against Hellas Verona will be a good start after an indifferent season under Allegri. Factor in Higuain’s good form, and it’s clear Dybala has to have a good performance against the newly-promoted side to keep up with his compatriot.

As the season unfolds and Juventus get more comfortable with their new boss, expect to see more and more signs of Sarriball in Turin. Introducing the likes of Dybala, Rabiot and Ramsey – players who are more technical than their direct competitors in their position – will only help in this respect.

As a result, the following weeks are of paramount importance to Sarri and co. Not for the table, but for his playing philosophy. If Juventus wish to play free-flowing football in their coach’s image, the time to buy in is now. On Sarri’s end, it’s time to use Juventus’ deep roster and look for alternatives to the current starters. Starting, of course, with the game against Hellas Verona.

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Sarri ponders some changes for Verona game

Sarri was back in front of the journalists today to preview the game against Hellas Verona. He hinted at some lineup changes on Saturday and looked back at the Atletico Madrid clash: “Within a good performance, there were few moments where we were superficial and we must eliminate that. We paid the price on set pieces. I do not like to throw away something that works, I want to analyse it and fix it. There were some lapses in focus and aggressiveness that would have been costly also with man marking.” Continue reading

Matuidi refutes PSG links, news from pratice and financial updates

Blaise Matuidi denied he was close to returning to PSG in the summer: “It was all false. I have always said that I am fine at Juventus. I have been a PSG fan since I was kid and playing for them allowed me to fulfill a dream of mine. However, I am proud to play in one of best clubs in the world now.” The 32-year-old Frenchman has begun the season with an expiring contract after inking a two-year one last summer.

On the competition in the squad: “It stimulates me. Nobody gifts you anything in football, you have to earn your spot. If I am here it is because I have always been ready on the pitch.” Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Two

Atalanta: Timothy Castagne will miss another one as he is recovering from a meniscus tear, but he should be ready after the break.

Bologna: no absentees for the Felsinei who will play tonight.

Brescia: Mario Balotelli continue serving his suspension, while Giangiacomo Magnani will miss another one too. Ernesto Torregrossa has recovered and might start. Continue reading

Sarriball still loading in Turin

Despite replacing Massimiliano Allegri’s conservatism with Sarriball, Juventus still looked lethargic in attack and shaky at the back. At times, the bianconeri had all eleven players behind the ball, conceding the entire pitch to Parma. While Roberto D’Aversa’s men will prove hard to break down this season, they’re no Real Madrid and Juventus should have looked to remain on the front foot.

Juventus started the game with no new signings in the lineup and went with Douglas Costa, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gonzalo Higuain up front. The trio did just enough to secure the three points, despite their Portuguese superstar proving wasteful.

Ronaldo’s inefficiency in front of goal was surprising, but Juve’s lack of movement was even more worrying. When Miralem Pjanic was in possession, the Bosnian international rarely had options and was typically forced to spread the ball wide.

Maurizio Sarri has identified the player as his regista, however, the former Roma midfielder doesn’t look suited to the role. Pjanic is the type of player that likes to dribble with the ball at his feet, while Sarri’s ideal regista takes a maximum of two touches before relinquishing it. Take Jorginho, for example. The Chelsea midfielder is constantly involved in his side’s buildup play and is regularly on the move out of possession.

Pjanic, by contrast, needs to be the one playing the final ball in the final third, otherwise, his creativity is wasted. The reality is, he couldn’t be more different than Jorginho. This is one crucial, fundamental difference between Sarri’s sides in the past and Juventus today. However, let’s be clear: Sarri will have an easier time instilling his philosophy when Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey become regulars.

In attack, Sarri will encounter further headaches. While Higuain or Dybala suffice as strikers, Ronaldo and Douglas Costa aren’t exactly ‘Sarriball’ wingers. Both like to take on the opposition and tend to drift around the pitch freely.

As it concerns Ronaldo, that shouldn’t be an issue as he will be handed carte blanche like Eden Hazard was at Chelsea. However, with Ronaldo moving positions at will, the other winger must be disciplined positionally. For all his strengths, that’s not the first quality you tend to associate with Douglas Costa. The Brazilian is electric in possession and is Juventus’ best one vs one winger, but usually floats around the pitch. At Napoli, Jose Callejon acted as this wide-man as Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens interchanged positions.

The Spaniard’s second-post runs were a crucial aspect to Sarriball and will be something the veteran tactician will be hoping to introduce via Douglas Costa. Otherwise, he will likely turn to Federico Bernardeschi on the bench.

Until the bianconeri’s attack are comfortable with the intricacies of Sarri’s system, the Juventus we see from week-to-week will be closer to their former boss than their current one. Sarri himself mentioned it would take him six months before his football is in full flow, and it’s clear to see why. While it’s still early days, the notable differences between Juventus’ roster and Sarri’s former sides are still a cause for concern. After all, as good as Pjanic and Douglas Costa are, he’s arguably a regista and a winger away from his ideal eleven.

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Ramsey and Sandro ready to begin and Pellegrini to Cagliari

Juventus finished off his pre-season last night with a 1-0 win over Triestina, where Paulo Dybala scored a gem and then missed a penalty. Aaron Ramsey finally managed to get on the pitch after skipping the previous friendlies due a hamstring issue and commented to Sky Sport: “I am very proud for my debut and very happy for the minutes I played. I can help the team now.”

“I am fine, I have recovered very well, now I can focus on improving to support my teammates. I am very pumped for this experience in a completely new League for me. Continue reading

Juventus introduce Ramsey

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Juventus held the introductory presser for Aaron Ramsey earlier today, with a small prelude in Italian before answering questions in English: “Thanks to everybody for being here today. I am happy to have joined Juventus, one of the biggest teams in the world. My Italian is not very good at the moment, but I am learning.”

On his fitness: “I have an injury, but it is going well, it is progressing nicely at the moment. I am doing a lot of work to try and get back as quickly as possible. I am not quite there yet to go into full training, but I am not too far away. I want to start working with the guys as soon as possible. Continue reading

Cristiano returns, Traorè to Sassuolo and corporate news

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Blaise Matuidi have joined the rest of the squad in Turin after the extended vacation due to national team duties. The team will head to Asia next week for two International Champions Cup games, against Tottenham in Singapore on July 21st, versus Inter in Nanjing three days later, and then will face a K-League all-star in Seoul on July 26th. The press reported that Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey are not expected to take part to the tour to recover properly from a calf and thigh injury respectively.

Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi announced in mid-June that he had reached agreement with Juventus for the sale of Hamed Traorè, but the player will instead go immediately to Sassuolo on a two-year loan with obligation to buy from the Azzurri, skipping the middleman, meaning the formal purchase by the Bianconeri. The Neroverdi will pay €15M in 2021 and will receive some compensation if the Madama confirms the decision to acquire him then, which is pretty much how the Merih Demiral deal went down.  Continue reading

Mauro Icardi to Juventus: The Pros and the Cons

Recently it’s been reported that Juventus are heavily interested in Inter forward Mauro Icardi and will turn their attention to the Argentine forward after wrapping up their deal for Matthijs de Ligt. The 26-year-old has fallen out with the nerrazzurri, and is no longer in Antonio Conte’s plans for the upcoming season.

Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta recently went as far as proclaiming this in the media. In an interview, Marotta said: “When building a project, you have to find the right profiles. Both players (Icardi and Nainggolan) know full well they are not part of our plans.” 

While these comments may drop the striker’s valuation, it indicates one thing: Inter are prioritizing the squad over individuals. However, these claims do open up an avenue for a bargain for Juventus; but is Icardi worth it?

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On one hand, Icardi is one of the most lethal strikers in the world and can hurt the opposition with limited touches. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo, the Argentine doesn’t need many opportunities to score, and is proven at the European level as well. In this sense, pairing him with Ronaldo could prove to be a masterstroke, especially with Paulo Dybala pulling the strings behind them.

If Sarri plans on alternating between a 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, two formations he’s used throughout his managerial career, the move for Icardi makes plenty of sense. However, if the former Chelsea tactician plans on going with one striker, Icardi’s arrival will undoubtedly stunt the growth of Moise Kean; something Juventus can ill afford. Kean is one of the peninsula’s most highly-rated forwards and the bianconeri will be looking to make him a centrepiece of the side for years to come.

In a two-striker formation, however, there will be plenty of time to go around for Ronaldo, Icardi and Kean. Meanwhile, Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi and Aaron Ramsey are all capable of playing behind them as the side’s trequartista. As a whole, that’s an elite front-line, which unlike this past season, compliments each other.

On the other side of the debate, Icardi has typically been a negative locker room influence, and resorts to off-field antics when things don’t go his way. When he was stripped of the Inter captaincy, the Argentine sidelined himself with many dubious injuries and refused to train. Then, of course, there’s his agent and wife, Wanda Nara. Nara’s influence on Icardi over the years has only grown and she has shown no regard for Inter this past season.

Much like Icardi, Nara is quick to voice her discontent in public and often plays games on social media. The main fear is that this divisive duo may disrupt the harmony in Juventus’ locker room. With that being said, Icardi has never been part of a team with real leaders, and in Torino, he will have to answer to Gianluigi Buffon, Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini among others. Rather than being tasked with leading the team like he was at Inter, Icardi’s sole focus will be on scoring goals.

The move to Juventus will also represent much more for Icardi. As Inter’s fiercest rivals, the former Sampdoria man will be joining the bianconeri with a point to prove. It’s not every day that one of the best strikers in the world is outcasted from a new coach’s plans. This chip on his shoulder will undoubtedly spur him to new heights and let’s not forget, Juventus have a decent track record with difficult characters. See: Carlos Tevez.

While Icardi has zero goals in open play in 2019, a red flag of its own, a lot of his poor form can be attributed to the fallout between him and Inter. Once he makes the switch, expect to see an eager and refreshed Icardi.

In terms of price, Inter are reportedly looking for 70 million euros for their star striker. However, due to Marotta’s recent comments, Juventus are confident they can close the deal for much less. If reports are to be believed, the Italian champions will soon table a bid in and around the 40-45 million euro range, and will look to close the deal closer to that mark than Inter’s valuation.

Considering the situation and Icardi’s willingness to join Juventus, the bianconeri would be foolish not to make a move. The Argentine is available cheaply, and is an elite number nine that could propel them to the next level. When presented with this type of opportunity on the mercato, you take it. Ronaldo has shown no signs of slowing down, but he won’t be able to lead the Juventus front-line forever either while the 26-year-old is frankly in his prime. Icardi’s arrival, in this sense, works both in the long-run and in the short-term. There’s a reason these rumours have emerged as much more than pure conjuncture. With the ball firmly in their court, Juventus are a few sales away from making Icardi to Juve a reality.

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Are Juventus simply going to steamroll Serie A once again?

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The Serie A season will be starting next month and it is hard to look past Juventus in winning the league yet again. The Old Lady have won it 8 times in a row starting in 2012 and their dominance has been quite bewildering.

In that time Napoli who have not won the competition since 1990 and the days of Diego Maradona have come runners up 4 times and 3 of those of those have been in the last four seasons.

Juventus don’t just turn up and win of course and they have simply been brilliant over this decade, playing great football and working hard for their wins. But they have not faced a great challenge as the 2010′s have been a real struggle for Italian teams.

In the Champions League the decade started off brightly as Inter Milan won the competition in 2010, but that has been Italy’s only success. Juventus did make the final in 2015 and 2017 only to be beaten by Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

But this Juventus side going into the 2019/20 season look superior in every way shape and form to any of their rivals and a 9th title in a row looks odds on.

They have Cristiano Ronaldo of course, who in his debut season scored 21 goals in 31 league games and 28 goals overall. He ages of course and is now 34, but this Ronaldo, super fit and super determined and he will be an integral part of the first team in the new season.

What is brand new is their coach in Maurizio Sarri, known as the coach that keeps on failing and smoking Sarri had a brilliant debut season for Chelsea in the Premier League and won the club the Europa League and came 3rd in the league. But Sarri and Chelsea never really got on and Sarri now returns to his home country with the best team.

Juventus are after Matthijs de Ligt and are the favourites to sign the Ajax defender. It almost looks certain he will join the side, then again this is football and you never know, but if Juve can secure his services that will be major.

Juventus have also dipped into getting a British player, this is rare for the side and in comes Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, his style of holding play is thought to be perfect for Juventus. The problem for Ramsey is he was secured under a different coach and now he will have to impress Sarri to play regular games.

Gianluigi Buffon was a surprise return to the team. He will play as back up goal keeper no doubt with a future role as a goal keeping coach more or less secured within the ranks of the club. The legend is coming home and that is good enough for the fans. And Adrien Rabiot who when given a chance for PSG always seemed to be a threat has joined from them. Initially it is on a free, but with performance the forward could end up costing Juventus around 10m euros.

All in all Juventus have spent close to 50m euros,well within their budget and if de Ligt does come that would raise their spending to around 115m euros, fairly ok for such a huge team. Now it is over to Napoli and Roma and perhaps even the Milan teams, just who will be able to challenge Juventus this season?