Maurizio Sarri began the pre-game presser by addressing the fallout of the Napoli loss: “I do not care about any controversy, some of my words were exploited. It is obvious that I am attached to a group that allowed me to be hired by Chelsea and Juventus, the best team in Italy. You win over Bianconeri fans only with results, they were angry because we did not get a poor one there. Losing is heavy when you are in this club, doing in that manner even worse.” Continue reading
Emre Can’s time in Turin is over as Juventus agreed to sell him to Borussia Dortmund, 18 months after signing him for free from Liverpool. The formula for the transfer is a €1M season-long loan with a €25M conditioned obligation to buy. Despite a slow adaptation and a thyroid issue, he notched 29 appearances in 2018/2019, scoring four times. He was severely hurt by the coaching chance, since he gave his best performances as centre-back in a three-man defence, and he never recovered mentally from being excluded from the Champions League list in January and then went on to play just nine times, starting just twice and logging a total of 279 ineffective minutes, expressing frustration publicly in a couple of occasions.
While Maurizio Sarri’s first season has been a relative success thus far, Juventus’ performances haven’t exactly typified their tactician’s vision to the fullest degree. Until now, the bianconeri have grinded out wins due to individual brilliance like they always have. At a certain point, results alone won’t be enough to satisfy Juventus’ top brass. After all, Sarri’s hiring represented an identity shift for the club. One that predicated the importance of quality football along with the club’s innate desire to win.
In order to do this, Juventus will need to take a deeper look at their roster and significantly shake up their personnel to fit Sarri’s needs. Here are five players that the Italian champions should consider selling.
Blaise Matuidi - The Frenchman has established himself as a crucial starter under Sarri for his importance in the defensive third and pressing phases. When it comes to the final third, on the other hand, Matuidi struggles to combine with his teammates and often slows down Juventus’ attack to a point where an over-reliance is created on their right-hand side. If the bianconeri are serious about Sarriball, Matuidi can no longer be an undisputed starter and should be slowly phased out for a more technical midfielder.
While much is made of his defensive responsibilities, the former PSG man is currently averaging fewer interceptions and tackles per game than Miralem Pjanic, Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot. As a result, it’s only a matter of time before Matuidi finds himself on the chopping block. Given his inflated wages and declining form, Juve would be wise to move Matuidi this summer.
Federico Bernardeschi - Since his man-of-the-match performance in the second leg against Atletico Madrid last season, Bernardeschi has been a shadow of his former self and has struggled immensely in the final third. In fact, in his fifteen appearances this season, the former Fiorentina man is yet to score a goal or register an assist. This output is simply unacceptable from a player who came in with such high expectations.
Recently, there’s been reports that Juventus are considering a swap deal for Milan’s Paqueta, indicating their desire to move on from the stuttering winger. With Dejan Kulusevski coming in, Bernardeschi is a luxury Juve can no longer afford and should sell him to the highest bidder.
Emre Can - Like Bernardeschi, Can is yet to display consistency since joining Juve and has struggled to adapt to life in Italy. Recent reports suggest the former Liverpool man will be joining Borussia Dortmund for 25 million euros, a deal the biaconeri should look to complete as soon as possible. Simply put, the German international does not suit Sarri’s football and Juventus could do with the extra money to bolster their midfield.
His sale would not only represent a boosted transfer kitty but also more room for other midfielders. Sandro Tonali, anyone? While Can’s Juventus tenure is nearing its end, it’s best for all parties to move on and cut their losses.
Miralem Pjanic - This one’s a bit more complicated than the other three and isn’t as clear-cut. Despite flashes of quality, Pjanic is not your typical Sarriball regista and simply does not offer enough in the offensive or defensive phases. While he regularly posts impressive pass completion numbers, his stats aren’t representative of his dwindling influence on the pitch. Since his Roma days, the Bosnian international has been far too passive both in and out of possession. At the base of their midfield, Juventus need someone that is capable of taking risks with the ball and is not afraid of jumping into a tackle.
Pjanic specializes in neither of those departments and could be improved upon easily. Once again, Brescia’s Sandro Tonali comes to mind. While Pjanic is far from the problem with Juventus’ midfield, there a plethora of better options at regista; all options the Italian champions should consider come the summer-time. The very best are ruthless and Juventus must be this.
Alex Sandro - Alex Sandro’s situation is very similar to Pjanic’s. Both players face no competition for their respective roles and complacency has seeped into their play. Unlike Pjanic, I believe Juve could do well to keep the Brazilian past this season, however, they must bring in a viable number one left-back to overtake him. Whether it’s Luca Pellegrini, or a bonafide top quality fullback, Sarri can only do so much with average fullbacks.
The former Porto man offers little in the final third and rarely if ever, beats his man. Combined with Matuidi’s inability to contribute offensively, Juve’s left-hand side is a non-factor besides Cristiano Ronaldo. This can’t go on. Despite this, I wouldn’t mind Juve keeping him, as long as it’s as a backup moving forward.
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In a tough day for the whole sports world, Juventus put out their worst and most unexplainable performances of the season in Naples, started playing only when the horse had already bolted and failed to take advantage of the enemies’ stumbles earlier in the day.
Leonardo Bonucci: the back-line was decent for about 70 minutes and the first goal did not come from a mistake by the defenders, but rather from Lorenzo Insigne having too much freedom to shoot from outside the box and Wojciech Szcesny rejecting it too centrally, although the save was not that easy. In the second, instead, which turned out to be very meaningful, Insigne was left alone in the box on a rebound and Matthijs De Ligt slightly deflected the shot, rendering pretty useless a pretty good outing up to that point. So the spot goes to the captain, only because somebody has to get it. Continue reading
Maurizio Sarri kept his cards close to the vest regarding the XI in the presser ahead of the Coppa Italia tilt against Roma: “I expect a very difficult game, you just need to look at Roma’s results on the road to have proof of that. They conceded little and score as much as at home. They are a quality team. We would lose sight of reality if we thought we are not going to have some challenging moments against them.” Continue reading
Maurizio Sarri opened the presser ahead of the Parma game by remembering Juventus great Pietro Anastasi, who passed away on Friday: “He was a very important player for this club and for the national team. It feels right to me to pay homage to a great footballer and man. The 1968 European championship final is one of the first games I recall and he was starring there.”
On the trident: “I would rather have abundance issues than the opposite thing. We will see how they are feeling today. The most important aspect is to dominate while being balanced, without taking risks. Continue reading
Coach Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the journalists to discuss the tomorrow’s Coppa Italia game against Udinese: “Matthijs De Ligt is coming back to peak form and the Roma match is a proof of that. Daniele Rugani is an important player and I hold him in high regard.”
“It is not easy to recover after a big game but we have to do that, we spent a lot physically and mentally on Sunday. We want to move forward, so we have to find the proper motivations and strength to recharge the batteries. Every competition we are in is an objective of ours.” Continue reading
Napoli-Parma: there is great curiosity to see what immediate changes Gennaro Gattuso will bring to the table. In his introductory presser, he hinted that he is going to use 4-3-3, which would lead to few duels up front. The first order of business will have to be reviving Lorenzo Insigne, who has not fared well in a long time, while Dries Mertens is in a domestic slump but has done some damage in Europe. Arkadiusz Milik came back midweek and he looked like a million bucks and he was en fuego before getting injured. He should be front and center in the new project. The new tactic would see José Callejon and Hirving Lozano alternate and the Mexican winger has abated after a decent stretch. It would give Piotr Zielinski and Fabian Ruiz more freedom and the Polish midfielder finally broke through last week. Giovanni Di Lorenzo is trending back up after a period of lull.
With just under a month to go until the transfer window opens up for its mid-season appearance, Manchester United will be active in bringing in new faces to Old Trafford.
The season has, so far, not gone to plan, as they currently languish in 11th place, a point behind Crystal Palace and eight from fourth-place Chelsea. Hopes and aspirations of a Champions League position come May 2020 now appear far away with the season ticking on.
A priority position to strengthen for Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be his midfield, which looks feeble and weak when coming up against teams that have quick transitions. The absence of Paul Pogba since the end of September has not eased matters, but even so, the failure to replace both Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera has been detrimental.
Ideally, the Red Devils want and need a player like Leicester City’s James Maddison. But for all intents and purposes, the Foxes are not going to be easy negotiators, especially halfway through the season when they are in second and the possibility of top-tier European football is more than realistic.
All season, Man United have lacked a midfielder that can pick defences and thread cute passes in between the lines. Fred and Andreas Pereira having taken up the more advanced roles in midfield, but neither have had the success on a regular basis that is needed to threaten teams week in, week out.
There are a lack of world-class midfielders that would want to come to Old Trafford for anything but a pay cheque, and so the market that is accessible for the Red Devils becomes increasingly small.
Emre Can is a name that has been touted around the Premier League once more ahead of January due to his lack of minutes under Maurizio Sarri at Juventus, but there will, rightly, be some reservations over the German international’s potential arrival, mainly due to being a stop-gap filler as well as a player who has been registered with Liverpool.
It is known that Solskjær wants an experienced centre forward that can hold play up and be versatile in his positioning on the pitch. The Red Devils tried to secure a late deal for Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic but ran out of time in the end. Their interest remains in the Croatian, even if, like his team-mate Can, his minutes have been shelved.
Mandzukic would offer a more rounded approach to the club than Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, as well as giving them invaluable advice on and off the pitch. Mandzukic is an extremely hard-working individual that has thrived off the bigger moments: such as his performance for his country against England in the World Cup semi-final.
The centre forward has 18 months left on his contract, but the Bianconeri will do business on him for around £10 million. He might be 33-years-old, but the wealth of experience and positional flexibility he could bring would be a welcome sight.
A lot can change in football in the second half of the season, but one thing is for certain and that is Manchester United need reinforcements.
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Juventus’ first faux pas at home came at the hands of Sassuolo in a great match, which had the proper amount of fun and signifcance, with no disrepect to the fantastic Cagliari-Sampdoria thriller.
The Bianconeri came into the fixture having won four in a row, the most recent out thanks to a late surge against Atalanta, while the Emiliani were pipped at the post by Lazio last week and in general had showed improvements over the last four rounds.
Maurizio Sarri picked Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Bernardeschi over Paulo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey up front, with Cristiano Ronaldo made the XI for the second game in a row after knee injury. Continue reading