Aaron Ramsey looks to continue resurgence against Roma

When Aaron Ramsey joined Juventus from Arsenal last summer, much was expected from the Welshman. The 29-year-old was brought in to address the Bianconeri’s continued midfield woes but failed to make an impact under Maurizio Sarri. This season, however, Ramsey looks rejuvenated and is ready to hit the ground running. 

Ramsey is your prototypical mezz’ala and thrives playing on the outside of a midfield three. The former Arsenal man is at his best roaming dangerously in the final third and making late, unmarked runs deep into the opposition’s territory. After arriving last summer, Ramsey struggled in Sarri’s rigid system and was largely tasked with relaying possession in predictable patterns.

It may only be one game under rookie manager Andrea Pirlo, but the former Juventus legend appears to have completely shaken things up in Turin. The Italian champions defend in a compact 4-4-2, and commit many men forward, ultimately transforming their setup into a hybrid 3-2-5 of sorts. Ramsey has been among the biggest benefactors in this setup, and looked extremely dangerous in Juventus’s season opener against Sampdoria.

Operating from the left-hand side of the midfield three, the former Arsenal man was a constant threat and wandered dangerously in support of Cristiano Ronaldo and Dejan Kulusevski. Ramsey arguably played his best football since joining the club, creating four clear-cut chances throughout. Ronaldo was not his typical lethal self in front of goal, otherwise, the former Arsenal man would have finished the game with three assists.

Beyond contributing in the final third, Ramsey’s newfound freedom ensures he’s present in Juve’s pressing schemes high up the pitch. The Welshman regularly led the Bianconeri’s press, forcing the Blucerchiati into many unnecessary turnovers. Last season, Ramsey was constrained to sitting deep on the right-hand side of the midfield three, and largely let games pass him by.

Pirlo’s footballing philosophy remains mostly unknown until this point, but one thing’s for certain: The Juventus tactician relies heavily on the mobility of his midfielders and asks them to be constantly on the move. Ramsey thrives in similar setups and played his best football at Arsenal when given the license to get forward in support of their front-line.

Ramsey was interviewed by Sky Italia this week and touched upon the recent changes under Pirlo.

“We have a new coach, a new staff, new ideas, and the players are very involved in this,” Ramsey said. “I think we have more fun than last year. The training sessions are hard but there is also a little bit of joy. We started well but we still need to improve.”

While he may be deployed in the midfield on paper, Ramsey acts as a defacto trequartista for most of the game in Pirlo’s setup. Ronaldo lingers dangerously around the 18-yard box occupying the opposition’s defense, while Kulusevski and Ramsey are largely tasked with linking it all together. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see where exactly the Welshman fits in Pirlo’s plans when the whole roster is fully fit.

“In this team, there are many great players, we call all play and help the team reach their goals. I’m happy to be able to play together with these top-quality attackers,” added the Welshman.

It may have taken him a full season to acclimate himself to his new surroundings, but Ramsey appears reborn under Pirlo. The 29-year-old is slowly carving an important role for himself in the middle of the park and will only improve as the season wears on. Pirlo’s fluid system offers his midfielders the ability to get forward, all-while contributing to the press.  The biggest question mark, however, remains Ramsey’s fitness issues. If the Welsh international manages to stay fit, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a crucial piece to Pirlo’s formation.

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A new dawn is upon us: Pirlo’s debut as Juve coach in 3-0 win over Sampdoria

Somehow unable to shake the ludicrous notion that the complete absence of any managerial experience could well lead to the players running around like headless chickens- basically a catastrophe. No chance, though I suppose it is prudent to at least harbor some doubts when diving close to fully and deeply into the unknown. And yet this unknown, which so many pundits have spoken and written of, is more a concept, than a logical appraisal.

All of the players in the squad know how to play football. They have long been trained by various managers, in various systems and all understand the flow and tactics of the game. None of them need to be filled with precise instructions on the eve of each game, to ensure they know where to run and what to do when they reach the point of contact with the action.

This would only matter if Pirlo had the ill sense to expect them to learn afresh a complicated system which had never been applied anywhere but the manager’s head. No, he is far from arrogant or stupid enough to make unreasonable demands. And instead – in the short time he has been with and had the squad together – he has effected some small but significant adjustments to a basic 3-5-2, pretty much kept the players in the positions where they are most comfortable and mainly focused upon building the enthusiasm and belief, the revival of hope and hunger, which came about merely from the departure of Sarri and arrival of Pirlo.

Perhaps that is a little too simplified, as we do have some new players in the squad, and yet largely this was the same group of players as Sarri was given to work with last campaign. Which is not meant to reduce the praise and value of the new recruits, more making a case for the the position that our issues last term – which I covered in depth and with steady despondency – were not solely or even mainly rooted in a lack of quality…

Player ratings

Szcescny: Hardly more than a spectator for the first half but was very much called into action late on in the second, making a series of decent saves, one of which was incredible, when a deflection of Bonucci was pawed off the goal line. His ability as a shot stopper from close range has never been in question. Would like to see him show more command of his box and regain that unerring concentration of the 18/19 season. 7/10

Gianluca Frabotta: A surprise starter with many including myself pleading for Pellegrini who seems set for Genoa and assuming that our old friend De Sciglio would be found on the team-sheet…but no, Pirlo pulled a surprise in selecting the 21 year old left-back who had made last season twenty appearances for the U23s in their league campaign and six in the march to Serie C Coppa Italia victory.

He began not gingerly but carefully, a little stiff perhaps to the occasion, as to be expected when making his full bow in such an important game. And yet as the match wore on he grew in confidence, began to get forward with more determination, put in a few decent crosses, even tested the keeper one on one. A steady and impressive performance 7/10

Leonardo Bonucci: I have long been a detractor of using Leo in a back four, adamant that his finest form has always shown in a back three. And whilst it would be wrong to suggest he was instantly back to his very best, this was a strong and positive step into the new system.

The goal he scored helped his cause and balanced out a fluffed clearance when he bizarrely aimed his head at a ball he could have chested and of course the unfortunate deflection which almost resulted in an own goal…other than that he was comfortable throughout, looked a considerably better fit with two other defenders in the rearguard when stepping forward and I swear I saw him get up the field and stay up the field as our highest player briefly! I up his rating from a 6.5 to a 7, not so much for the goal, but for a flick over a players head then lay-off which brought a smile to my haggard countenance! 7/10

Giorgio Chiellini- It’s superb to simply see him back and physically able to perform. I will retain my expectations of his body proving unwilling to perform week in, week out and be happy whenever we see him involved and in fine form as he was throughout this tie 7/10

Danilo: The Brazilian receives far too much criticism from people when he rarely does much wrong. Operating as a hybrid CBR he was solid, even threatened on goal and did not leave us short on any forage of the opponent into our read third. 7/10

Cuadrado: Preferable to see him higher up the field where he can be more comfortable and dangerous, Juan fared well enough. Nothing special and I remain hopeful that we can upgrade that position as he is our best there and his best is often well below what any elite side seeks to find on the flank. 6.5/10

Weston McKennie: As Pirlo mentioned in his press conference, ‘the american’ misplaced a few passes early doors, but regardless, put himself about brilliantly, tried to support and worked damn hard to defend the center. Was also a menace in aerial combat, made a few lovely tackles and for a debut, this was very promising indeed. 7/10

Adrien Rabiot: Happy to find the Frenchman picking up where he left of last season. Bossed the midfield along with Mckennie, the double pivot working well, made a few stray passes but seems to have such momentum, if a pass goes to an opponent, he is soon upon them to win it back. As good as we have seen him, clearly like every other player, enjoying the early reign of our new mister 7/10

Aaron Ramsey: The best player on the field from start to finish. Unbelievable transformation from lackluster, unfit, lost soul of last season to a world class attacking midfielder who was ubiquitous, absolutely outstanding in every area of his game. Combative, creative, dynamic with as much flair as grit…Even when clearly losing his legs after 60-70 minutes, he still managed to put on the assist for Ronaldo. It is a huge IF…but IF…we can keep him fit, he adds world class talent and technique and experience to our ability to create from deep, connect midfield with attack. 8.5/10

Ronaldo: Worked hard as always and was perhaps a little surprised to have so much of a supporting cast in the final third and whilst taking his goal very smartly indeed, as was the case often last year he missed a fair few chances. The argument of course is how many of those chances does he make himself? Still, hardly a stellar outing yet far from poor. 7/10

Dejan Kulusevski: I have been lauding this kid for months now, even going so far as to suggest he might prove as potent a signing as Zidane…not to suggest he has the same level, but similar in terms of for many a relative unknown, no fanfare accompanied his signing. And yet…clearly from last season and his form before at various youth levels, Dejan is a special talent. Operating as a CF with license to roam, he opened the scoring with a well placed pass of a shot into the box, then carried on creating openings, charging deep to make tackles, retrieve and move the side up the field intelligently and swiftly. This was a splendid debut for the kid who is likely to improve and can play across the front line and in midfield. Great head on his shoulders and wonderful technique in those big feet 7.5/10

Substitutes:

Mattia De Sciglio: Hard to judge but did manage to test the keeper and avoided any glaring errors – usual story with Mattia 6.5/10

Rodrigo Bentancur: N/A

Douglas Costa: Quick mention on Little Doug, who I saw lose the ball in our half, and just walk off in the opposite direction to the ball without any care of what developed behind him, as his team mates then picked up the chase to retrieve. I hope Pirlo noted this as it was in stark contrast to every other player who was involved and indicative to me of Costa’s attitude since joining the club. I felt it was insulting to the fans, to the club, to the new boss and to the rest of the squad

Merih Demiral: N/A

Overall I was very happy with the opening game against a tricky opponent. Far more reasons to be cheerful and to remain excited than to worry.

The new lads all showed definite promise. We still have Sandro, Dybala, Demiral, Arthur, Bentancur and now Morata to include in the mix so will likely only get stronger as a unit.

It is important however to note that without some last ditch defending and top notch saves we could have drawn this 2-2. For Samp had their chances in the second period, they had their period of pressure and forced us back and what I saw resurface was just a hint of calamity a step away in defense when hit with speed on the counter.

This is to be expected. We have not become a completely different team just by changing coach and with a week or two of training together. A period of adjustment is to be expected and there will be disappointing results. This is as important for the team and Pirlo to learn and build from as the victories and strong performances.

What I feel strongly confident of suggesting however is that the change in coach has made a significant difference already. In the energy, enthusiasm, confidence and freedom of the side. And this cannot be down to Pirlo proving already a tactical genius.

Yes, we must take into account the new players involved – Kulu and Mckennie gave much to gain this result – but 12 of the 15 involved had played under Sarri last season.

The importance of a positive human connection on emotional and mental levels is rarely given enough value in discussion. Many of these players love Pirlo, most seemed to despise or in the least dislike Sarri…Character is essential to lead. This difference has already helped us become a better team.

Briefly on Morata…

I was not particularly excited to learn of our interest in Suarez. Concluded Dzeko would be fine if a stop-gap measure when my focus is more inclined towards building a new side and identity. In short, I was very happy indeed to learn of Morata’s return.

The move has many critics which I can understand, to some degree, though do question what player these frowning Juventini expected us to bring in. There is no guarantee of a starting place (but surely the likelihood of considerable playing time) in a side which has a coach with no experience and was very much in a shambles late last season. Also, there is Dybala to consider alongside the heavy preference of Ronaldo demands in regards to his playing time and role.

With all these considerations, to bring back Alvaro, still at a great age, for a 10m loan fee and reasonable wages seems a great piece of business to me. I remember feeling saddened by his departure as he always gave his all, scored some important goals and ever proved a man who works for the team brilliantly. He loved the club and seemed devastated to depart.

His form for the other sides he has featured for since – Real, Chelsea, Atletico and of course Spain – is high level. He is nowhere near the failure some are making him out to be. Add to this his emotional and sporting bond with the club and I remain very pleased with the move.

Still feel we have need for a stronger RWB than Juan and the hapless (of the last TWO seasons) Freddy Bernardeschi, yet this may well be addressed. There is also the lingering rumors of Aouar amid further departures. The Mercato is perhaps not yet finalized.

Essentially, we have made some very positive acquisitions, began to move out the dead wood and have plenty of talent to come into the reckoning as fitness and sharpness is gained.

Our new adventure under Pirlo has begun strongly. Leaving me still bubbling with more youthful excitement than I can remember at this early stage of the season for many moons.

Forza Juve! And remember to follow Daniel on twitter @thegutterpoet

Why a return to a back three makes sense for Juventus

Juventus took the controversial decision to sack Maurizio Sarri and replace him with the relatively unproven Andrea Pirlo this past summer, after a disappointing season. The Bianconeri may have retained their Scudetto, but ultimately fell short against Lyon in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

Sarri was a firm believer in his preferred 4-3-3 and rarely budged from his playing philosophy, despite his side’s lackluster play. While not much is known about Pirlo’s coaching style or formation, all signs are pointing to some form of a return to a back three. Media outlets have speculated that Pirlo will deploy a back three in possession, which will later transform into a back four when they lose the ball.

As of right now, this is Juve’s reported XI going into their season opener against Sampdoria:

Szczęsny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot, Pellegrini; Kulusevski, Ronaldo.

In theory, Pellegrini would drop at left back when Juventus lose the ball, with the remaining midfielders forming a bank of four ahead of their backline. Matthijs de Ligt’s return would hand the Bianconeri a huge boost, as well, while Merih Demiral will slowly be eased into action following his injury.

The back three ensures Pirlo gets the most out of Bonucci and Chiellini, who have thrived in this system before while giving de Ligt and Demiral the license to get forward in possession. Danilo struggled last season, but could benefit from a deeper role, as the Brazilian will no longer be tasked with contributing offensively.

Beyond the back three, this formation offers a crafty solution to Juve’s fullback conundrum. The Italian champions simply do not have the quality out wide to compete with Europe’s elite, but the 3-5-2 helps remedy this. Cuadrado has typically excelled in this position, while Luca Pellegrini will be raring to go on Sunday. The former Cagliari man will be looking to make the most of Alex Sandro’s recent setback and cement himself as Juve’s starting leftback. Pellegrini has demonstrated he can get forward with ease and with Chiellini behind him, he will have all the guidance he needs in his defensive third.

Federico Bernardeschi and Alex Sandro are two players who will be hoping to get their careers back on track after mediocre seasons and the 3-5-2 could just revitalize the duo. The former has experience in this setup during his time at Fiorentina, while Sandro was at his very best as a wingback under Conte.

The midfield is where it gets interesting for Pirlo. As of right now, Rodrigo Bentancur, Arthur, and Adrien Rabiot are his preferred trio, but Juve’s latest signing Weston McKennie is worth monitoring. Arthur will reportedly start as the side’s regista after convincing Pirlo in training and will largely be tasked with dictating play. Rabiot, on the other hand, finished the season in exceptional form and will be eager to hit the ground running once more.

The biggest question mark, however, remains Bentancur. The Uruguayan international has played his best football at the base of the midfield, but Arthur is currently the preferred man there. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see Pirlo juggle the two and potentially introduce McKennie into the fold for one of them.

Up front, Ronaldo and Dybala enter the season at the preferred duo, but the latter’s latest injury will hand Dejan Kulusevski a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the eleven. The Swedish international has emerged as one of the league’s brightest young talents and could force Pirlo’s hand with a strong start. As Kulusevski gains familiarity in his system, the rookie tactician may just be forced to deploy a three-man attack to accommodate him alongside Dybala and Ronaldo.

Given his propensity to work hard without the ball, a 3-4-3 with Kulusevski tracking back, similar to Gian Piero Gasperini’s system, is not entirely out of the question. Edin Dzeko’s reported move to Juve will also prove crucial, as the Bosnian international offers a much-needed physical and creative presence in the final third.

If last season showed us anything, it’s that tactical rigidity got Juve nowhere. The Bianconeri played mediocre football and struggled to create chances. Pirlo’s appointment is by no means a sure thing, but at the very least, the rookie tactician is ready to experiment, starting with their opener against Sampdoria.

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Edin Dzeko represents best fit for Juventus

Juventus has been linked with a move for a new number nine all summer and is reportedly closing in on Roma’s Edin Dzeko. The Italian champions have previously been linked with Luis Suarez and Olivier Giroud, but the Bosnian international has since emerged as the favorite. His arrival will see Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik make the move to Roma, with Dzeko signing with Juve.

The Bianconeri may have been linked with a number of strikers over the past summer, but Dzeko is arguably the best fit for Andrea Pirlo. Juventus has lacked a dominant number nine, capable of imposing himself in the final third and struggled with Gonzalo Higuain spearheading the attack. Cristiano Ronaldo thrived with Mario Mandzukic alongside him in his first season and will be hoping to strike a similar partnership with Dzeko. His 16 million euro price-tag may be a lot for a player on the wrong side of thirty, but the striker still has a lot left to give.

The Roma man offers a towering penalty box presence, much like Mandzukic, but is equally capable of creating chances himself. Last season, Dzeko registered 16 goals and added an impressive 11 assists, highlighting his well-rounded nature. In this sense, he’s unlike any striker Juve have had in recent years.

While Pirlo’s preferred formation remains unclear, Dzeko has all the qualities to complement the likes of Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski. Whether the rookie tactician deploys a 3-5-2 and fields Dzeko in a two-striker setup, or tasks the Bosnian with leading the line himself, the Roma man will slot in seamlessly.

In many ways, Dzeko represents the best stop-gap option for Juve, given the current options. The Roma hitman will reportedly join on a two-year deal worth 7.5 million euros per season. His salary may be hefty, but given the short-term nature of the contract, Dzeko won’t hold up too much of Juve’s wage bill.

Suarez, by contrast, was reportedly ready to ink a three-year contract worth 10 million euros per season. The Barcelona striker is a proven goalscorer but investing 30 million euros in Suarez would be incredibly short-sighted. Juventus has struggled to rid themselves of their deadwood in recent times and has found it difficult to part ways with their declining players. Had it not been for Inter Miami, the Bianconeri essentially had no suitors for Higuain and would have struggled to move him on, beyond a potential buyout.

Dzeko, on the other hand,  has another year of quality football in his legs if last season was anything to go by, and could play a subdued role in the final year of his deal. In addition, Dzeko’s skill-set is constantly evolving and has since established himself as one of the league’s best creators in the final third. Even if the goals begin to dry up next year, Dzeko can still contribute significantly in the final third. Juventus lacked a creative outlet at times last season, relying heavily on Dybala to get things going.

The Argentine international dropped deep into midfield regularly, leaving a gap up front. As a result, opposition defenses focused much of their attention on Ronaldo and stifled the Bianconeri easily with a deep block. Dzeko will not only provide an impressive passing range but will also attract attention from the opposing center-backs, giving Dybala and Ronaldo to license to roam dangerously.

Dejan Kulusevski is another player worth monitoring in this respect and will thrive with Dzeko as his target. The former Parma man excelled last season with Gli Crociati and will be looking to take the next step this season with Juve. Dzeko’s arrival rounds off Juventus’s offensive acquisitions for this summer and offers Pirlo yet another weapon to shake things up in the final third. Last season, the Bianconeri fell short at crucial moments and looked toothless in the return leg against Lyon. Dzeko’s signing may come as a surprise, but make no mistake about it: Of all the reported options, the Roma man is the best fit.

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Dejan Kulusevski ready to hit the ground running at Juventus

Juventus has been linked with a plethora of attacking players in recent times as the new season approaches. Andrea Pirlo has reportedly put a new number nine on top of his transfer list, indicating he’s eager to shake up the Bianconeri’s stuttering frontline. The Italian champions relied heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala in the final third, with the duo combining for over 50 per cent of Juve’s goals in all competitions last season. While their pursuit of a striker rages on, it is a January signing that will arguably have the biggest impact.

When Juve splashed 35 million euros on Dejan Kulusevski this winter, many were left wondering who exactly the 20-year-old is. After all, he had only six months of regular first-team football under his belt with Parma and despite his impressive performances, Kulusevski was relatively unproven.

The Swedish international has now joined Juventus officially and will slot in wonderfully in Pirlo’s new-look front three. Kulusevski established himself as a creative force while on loan at Parma, breaking onto the scene as one of the league’s deadliest counter-attacking threats. The former Parma man initially came through Atalanta’s youth ranks as a creative midfielder and largely featured as a trequartista.

Due to his incredible turn of pace, however, Roberto D’Aversa deployed him on the right-wing. Kulusevski slotted in seamless from a wide position and regularly drifted in centrally, in a free-roam role. At Juventus, the 20-year-old will arguably occupy a similar role and will have ample opportunities to make the right-winger role his own. Douglas Costa has struggled with injuries since joining from Bayern Munich and has simply not looked like a good fit with Ronaldo and Dybala. Bernardeschi, by contrast, failed to make an impact when called upon and will mostly act as attacking depth.

Kulusevski’s vision and wide range of passing will ensure he fits right in alongside Juve’s high-powered front three in a complementary position. The former Parma man is unselfish out of possession and has proven to be a willing runner, as well and will need to bring those qualities to the fore next season. While not much is known about Pirlo’s coaching philosophy, the rookie tactician indicated he wants his side to win the ball back as quickly as possible and press the opposition high. In this sense, Kulusevski is an ideal fit up front and could offer some much-needed defensive cover to Cuadrado when needed.

Another aspect working in Kulusevski’s favour is his impressive versatility. Beyond playing on the wing, the Swedish international has already played significant minutes in middle of the park, be it as a mezz’ala or as a trequartista. Juventus has had issues in the midfield for the better part of three years now and could deploy him on the outside of a midfield three. Given Juventus will be competing on many fronts, Kulusevski may feature in various positions depending on what Pirlo is looking for.

While there are more questions than answers going into the new season for Juve, Kulusevski is one of the few certainties. The former Parma man has demonstrated he’s more than a simple flash in the pan and will be eager to translate that form to a big club. In many ways, Kulusevski will be hoping to follow Dybala’s career path rather than Bernadeschi’s and emerge as a key man for Pirlo. Given the ongoing pandemic and the shortened transfer window, Kulusevski’s signing has fallen off the radar, but make no mistake about it: The 20-year-old is more than ready to hit the ground running in Turin and has all the tools to establish himself as Juve’s X factor in the final third.

Beyond his

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Juventus aiming for a magical tenth Scudetto!

They say that the more things change, the more things stay the same and although the world around us is evolving with each passing day, there is still a constant feature that comes from within the confines of Italian football.

A constant that is found at the Allianz Stadium with Juventus racking up a ninth successive Serie A title last season. Now there is a question that sits on everyone’s lips – can the Old Lady go on and make it ten in a row?

Clearly, there is no doubt that Juventus have been the dominant force in Italian football over the past decade. Although some have come close to bloodying their nose, the status quo has remained since the 2011/12 season with Juve being crowned champions at the end of every single season.

Depending on where your support lies, Juve’s continued dominance has either been a great thing or some scene out of a horror movie. Anyone who supports the Bianconeri be grinning at the prospect of a tenth consecutive league title.

Unfortunately for the anti-Juve crowd, another winning season for the Old Lady would mean more bad news for the rest of the top division in Italy. When you consider that last season’s edition of the Bianconeri was hardly a vintage offering, there is indeed room for the Italian champions to improve this time around!

With potential changes still on the horizon, Juventus remain the favorites to win another Serie A title. Former legendary midfielder Andrea Pirlo is now at the managerial helm- and his name could be etched into immortality at the end of the season.

It’s been a rather tumultuous summer for both Pirlo and Juve- one that has seen the 41-year-old earn a career promotion far quicker than he or anyone else for that matter, could have ever envisioned.

Although they are by far the superior squad on the domestic front, the Bianconeri have yet to return to the top of the continental scene with another disappointing offering in
the Champions League last season. This meant heads would eventually roll.

Even though Maurizio Sarri led the club to their ninth successive and his first-ever Serie A title, it was deemed as not enough by the powers that be. With their European exploits falling short, the former Chelsea manager was shown the exit door.

A decision that meant a replacement for Sarri had to come from within and even though Pirlo had only been appointed as manager of Juventus U23 nine days previously, he soon found himself taking charge of the first team instead.

While the appointment seemingly follows a recent trend all over Europe and one that has seen club greats return to take the managerial reigns and where the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United have blazed a trail, Juventus have now followed.

This means Pirlo either has the easiest job in world football or the hardest because this is a team of talented stars that some claim almost picks itself. On the flip side, it could also be far too big a task for the man who won 116 international caps for Italy.

Even though he was considered one of the greatest deep-lying playmakers of all time, his managerial nous is yet to be trusted and although immortality is perhaps waiting, his coaching career could be over before it has already begun.

Pirlo’s one overriding objective is to make sure the championship link continues. Should it break then whoever oversees the lapse in dominance in Italy will have to carry a huge burden for years to come. Nothing less than the Scudetto is expected. Probably more convincing and entertaining performances are expected as well.

Sarri was brought in to improve the club’s performances and to provide entertaining football because his predecessor Max Allegri had been a serial winner with the Bianconeri yet his last two seasons were marked by dull and unconvincing football.

The rest of Italy’s football fraternity is hoping that Juventus’ luck finally runs out and that this is the season when a new club is crowned king. At the same time, it is unfair to say that the last nine Serie A titles have been won by luck and nothing more.

Quite simply, this is a team that is superior and deeper than all the competition can provide. The fact that the Bianconeri keep winning, may suggest that the man in charge is not all that important as he acts as nothing more than an interchangeable entity.

Antonio Conte then Allegri and Sarri have all won the league title when in charge of Juve. This means Pirlo is up next and if he can secure the tenth consecutive Scudetto with some convincing performances on top of that, a bright future beckons for
both him and the club.

If Juve do get into double figures in terms of successive titles then who knows
at what number the streak will finally end!

Pirlo heavily experimenting in the early days of his Juventus tenure

When Andrea Pirlo was hired by Juventus, not much was known about his coaching philosophy, let alone his preferred formation. The rookie manager is yet to submit his final thesis to Coverciano and will be doing so in October to receive his UEFA badge. As a result, many Italian outlets have speculated heavily about Pirlo’s preferred setup, based on his first training sessions.

Let’s take a look at the different options.

1) (3-5-2/3-4-1-2): Woj; De Ligt/Danilo, Bonucci/Rugani, Demiral/Chiellini; Cuadrado/Bernardeschi, Bentancur/McKennie, Arthur, Kulusevski/Rabiot, Alex Sandro; Dybala, Ronaldo. 

It’s been recently reported that Pirlo is looking to introduce a back three to Juve, a formation he enjoyed plenty of success in during his playing days. The former Milan man is already familiar with the inner workings of the formation and will be eager to impart his knowledge on his new side.

At the back, there are no real surprises with De Ligt, Bonucci, Chiellini, Demiral and Rugani occupying the central positions. Danilo has reportedly been training as a right center-back in recent sessions, indicating a position switch may be on the cards for the Brazilian. In many ways, the deeper role would suit him as the former Manchester City man struggles when tasked with getting forward.

Out wide, Alex Sandro and Cuadrado will arguably start, but Federico Bernardeschi’s progression is worth monitoring. Pirlo is said to be grooming him for the left wingback position, but ultimately, he can feature on either side. The former Fiorentina man played his best football from the right-hand side of a 3-5-2 and will look to get his career back on track under Pirlo.

In the midfield, Arthur is expected to start as Pirlo’s regista with two of Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, and the newly-arrived Weston McKennie. When Pirlo’s looking to shake things up and get a more offensive outlook on the game, he can also introduce Dejan Kulusevski in a trequartista role behind the front two. The Swedish international thrived as Parma’s creative outlet this season and will undoubtedly emerge as a key man under Pirlo.

The front two of Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo will round off the side and will be eager to build on their budding partnership. La Joya has been at his best in this formation in the past, linking up to devastating effect with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The persisting links to Edin Dzeko and Moise Kean should come as no surprise, as either would slot in wonderfully in a front two and would offer some much-needed depth.

In many ways, this reported 3-5-2 would get the most of Pirlo’s current squad and help the Bianconeri’s stuttering players turn their fortunes around.

2) (4-3-1-2): Woj; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot; Kulusevski; Dybala, Ronaldo. 

The main difference here is essentially the back four but is ultimately very similar to the 3-5-2. Dybala and Ronaldo would maintain their spots up front with Kulusevski roaming dangerously behind them. With this setup, Pirlo ensures his front three are in their best positions and could open up any opposition.

The midfield is where the main difference lies with one of Rabiot or Bentancur coming in for one of the center-backs from the back three. While this formation is intriguing from an offensive perspective, it stretches Juve’s depth pretty thin and does not give Pirlo much flexibility off the bench to shake things up. McKennie and Bernardeschi could help in this respect, but the Bianconeri would still need a few reinforcements from the summer mercato – notably a striker or two.

The final option for Pirlo is to deploy a 4-3-3 with any combination of Ronaldo, Dybala, Kulusevski, and Douglas Costa as his front three. The Brazilian, however, appears to be on the outs in Turin, after struggling with recurring injuries since arriving from Bayern Munich. The back four and midfield would remain unchanged from the 4-3-1-2 and is arguably the best formation for Juve’s star man, Ronaldo.

As the season approaches, it will be interesting to see what Pirlo has in store for his Juventus side. As of right now, the Juventus faithful are venturing into the unknown with Pirlo and will get their answers shortly as pre-season approaches.

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Juventus on the hunt for a striker, but who fits best?

Juventus has reportedly prioritized the signing of a new number nine and have already informed Gonzalo Higuain he has been deemed surplus to requirements by Andrea Pirlo. The Argentine’s departure leaves a gaping hole up front, one that the Bianconeri are eager to fill.

Paulo Dybala has deputized as a false nine towards the tail end of last season under Maurizio Sarri but typically is at his best working in tandem. As a result, Juventus has been linked with a plethora of strikers – some who are better fits than others. Let’s now take a deeper look at their transfer targets.

Roma’s Edin Dzeko is said to be atop Pirlo’s list for strikers and has been heavily linked with a move to Juventus in recent times. The Bosnian international is currently weighing up his future and will meet with Roma’s executives shortly to outline the path ahead. While Dzeko may be 34 years old, the striker offers the Bianconeri a physical presence in the final third and will help occupy the opposition’s center-backs. In addition, Dzeko excels at holding up the ball and bringing his teammates into play.

In terms of feasibility, Dzeko’s signing could represent a worthy rental and give the Bianconeri some much-needed depth upfront. Provided Juve can secure him on a short-term deal on reasonable wages, the Roma man could just emerge as Pirlo’s number nine.

Beyond Dzeko, Juve has also been linked with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan is reportedly extremely keen on joining the Italian champions and will begin negotiating his exit shortly. According to reports, Suarez’s does not figure in Ronald Koeman’s plans – who is eager to rejuvenate the Catalan giants. The main obstacle between Juventus and Suarez is undoubtedly his increased wages. However, that may be remedied with a hefty severance package from Barcelona, which in turn, may lead to Suarez accepting a pay-cut to join Juve.

Despite all his experience, Suarez isn’t exactly the best fit and has slowed down since last season. The Uruguayan has not been his typical fiery self in the final third and does not press the opposition with as much urgency. In this sense, Suarez would be very similar to Higuain and would not be a step in the right direction. The veteran forward may be spurred on by a new challenge in Italy, but as of right now, there are better options.

The last name Juventus have been linked with is their former academy graduate Moise Kean. The Bianconeri inexplicably sold the Italian international to Everton last summer and are reportedly eyeing a sensational return. Recent reports have suggested that Juventus are looking to insert Aaron Ramsey in a potential deal for Kean, bringing down the overall cost of the operation.

Kean impressed in a subdued role in his first season with Juve and is already familiar with Serie A. Unlike Suarez and Dzeko, Kean has the benefit of youth on his side and will command fewer wages than the veteran hitmen. The Everton man has struggled to adapt to life in England, failing to impress in his limited appearances, but could revitalize his career with a return to Juve.

With the new season kicking off in under a month’s time, expect Juventus to have their new striker sooner rather than later. Whether they opt for a veteran, short-term option including the likes of Dzeko or Suarez or go for a high-upside move with the return of Kean, remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: Andrea Pirlo is here to shake things up and is clearly eager to rejuvenate Juventus’ stuttering frontline.

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Weston McKennie Could Prove Good Value for Money

Juventus sent shockwaves throughout Italian football on Wednesday after it was announced they were closing in for a surprise move for Schalke’s Weston McKennie. The U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder will join the Bianconeri for an initial three million euros loan fee. Juventus will then have the option to make the move permanent the following year for a further 18 million euros.

While the move came out of nowhere, McKennie’s arrival signals a shift in direction for Juventus in the transfer window. The Italian champions are in the midst of revolutionizing their squad and have already signed two promising young talents, including Dejan Kulusevski and Barcelona’s Arthur.

Andrea Pirlo has wasted no time making an impact in Turin and has already informed Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira are surplus to requirements. McKennie’s arrival indicates the Bianconeri are eager to trim their wage bill, reduce the average age of the roster, and more importantly, return to the past transfer strategy that worked so well from them in the past.

McKennie will offer a dynamic presence in the middle of the park at little to no cost and will complement Juventus’s existing options. If the American international does not pan out, Juventus will simply not trigger their obligation to purchase the midfielder. In many ways, the deal for the Schalke midfielder is a low-risk, high upside deal.

Pirlo alluded to a culture shift in his introductory press conference, claiming he wants his Juventus side to win the ball back as quickly as possible. In addition, the former Juve legend claimed he wants to reintroduce grit back into the fold.

Prior to McKennie’s arrival, the Bianconeri did not have an out-and-out ball-winner in the side and could use one. Rodrigo Bentancur, Arthur, and Adrien Rabiot are all capable of maintaining possession but struggle in the defensive third. Last season, Juventus had one of its worst defensive seasons in recent memory, conceding 43 goals. McKennie’s signing will help in this respect as the American international will offer some much-needed physicality in the midfield.

McKennie excels out of possession and has emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s most intriguing box-to-box midfielders this season, making 32 appearances for David Wagner’s men. Juventus have lacked this exact profile since Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba were still at the club.

Similarly to this deal, Juventus swooped in for both Vidal and Pogba when they were relatively young talents on the rise. While McKennie is far from the final product, his signing is an encouraging one and is a welcome change in transfer policy in Turin.

Last season, Juventus opted for established midfielders like Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey on free transfers, offering both players hefty wages. Rabiot made significant strides forward as the season progressed while Ramsey simply never got going. Ultimately, neither delivered what was expected of them. McKennie’s arrival, by contrast, is a low-cost operation and represents good value for money.

McKennie may not become a starter right away with the Italian champions, but one thing’s for sure: The American international will offer Pirlo something Juve doesn’t currently have at a reasonable price.

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Three Question Marks For Andrea Pirlo

When Juventus announced the decision to sack Maurizio Sarri, few expected the Italian champions to appoint Andrea Pirlo. The former midfielder was just hired to lead their U23 side and is yet to complete his coaching licenses at Coverciano. In many ways, Juve’s decision to fast-track Pirlo into the first team seemed like desperation more than anything. Regardless, the World Cup winner will be eager to hit the ground running in Turin and propel the Bianconeri to new heights.

After crashing out in the Round of 16 against Lyon, more questions than answers were raised about Juventus and their current squad. Here are three things Pirlo will have to adjust immediately if he wants to get his coaching career off on the right foot.

1) Number Nine Conundrum. 

In attack, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala are set starters. The duo was responsible for over half of their goals in Serie A this season and netted 50% of Juve’s goals in the Champions League. Moving forward, Pirlo will not want to be so reliant on Dybala and Ronaldo. Due to this, the Bianconeri are still in the market for a more physical presence in the final third to help them lead the line. Mario Mandzukic’s departure has left a gaping hole upfront; one which Higuain simply can no longer fill. Juventus have since been linked with Napoli’s Arkadisuz Milik, Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, and Luis Suarez among others.

With Gonzalo Higuain’s future looking further and further away from the club, Pirlo will need an alternative to Dybala and Ronaldo off the bench. Parma loanee Dejan Kulusevski will undoubtedly help in this respect, but Juve’s offensive depth still leaves a lot to be desired at the moment. Considering Douglas Costa’s injury proneness and Bernardeschi’s lack of end product, the number nine position is of serious importance.

Mercato suggestion: Alexander Isak.

2) Who joins Bentancur and Arthur in the midfield? 

Much like Juventus’ attack, their midfield lacks one final piece. Rodrigo Bentancur stepped up admirably this season and despite slowing down late in the year, the Uruguayan will definitely be important in the middle of the park for Pirlo. Then, of course, there’s Arthur. The Brazilian was brought in a swap deal for Miralem Pjanic and has all the tools to become a set starter under Pirlo. Arthur has proven to be a great progressor of the ball and has all the qualities to slot in wonderfully alongside Bentancur; which leaves the third and final midfield spot.

The candidates: Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, Mr. X.

Well, Blaise Matuidi is off to enjoy the sun in Miami while Sami Khedira’s contract will be terminated shortly. This leaves last summer’s arrivals Rabiot and Ramsey. The former finished the season strongly and as of right now, should be favored to the Welshman. Ramsey has failed to get going since joining and battled injuries all season. While Sarri’s system demands rigidity, not much is known about Pirlo’s tactics. Regardless, it’s safe to say Juve’s midfielders will enjoy more freedom both in and out of possession, something that will definitely help Ramsey.

Lastly, Juve could bring in another midfielder. Pirlo is reportedly keen on adding a more creative midfielder to his ranks. The Bianconeri have been linked with Rodrigo De Paul and Luis Alberto in recent times, two midfielders who would definitely come in and start right away.

3) Out with the old, in with the new? 

The last debate for Pirlo will be whether he will look to revolutionize Juve’s rearguard or not. Matthijs de Ligt will surely play a key role while Leonardo Bonucci offers some much-needed experience and familiarity. However, Merih Demiral has proven he’s ready to seize any opportunities and has the talent to displace Bonucci. In fact, it wouldn’t be implausible to see the Turkish international start alongside de Ligt.

At fullback, Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado go into the new season as favorites to start. As the new season approaches, it will be interesting to see if Pirlo will call upon Pellegrini at leftback. The young Italian has shown glimpses of his talent and is ready to challenge Sandro out left. At rightback, there’s no denying Juve desperately needs to bolster their ranks and could very well sign a player before the new season.

In any case, Pirlo will oversee a potential revolution and will have tough decisions to make.

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