Andrea Pirlo has overseen an overhaul at Juventus this past summer, shipping out the likes of Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain, and Miralem Pjanic among others. Juve’s mini-revolution has not been without its challenges, with the Italian champions drawing four of its first seven games under the rookie manager.
As the fixtures begin to pile up going into the holiday season, Pirlo will have to steady the ship and start stringing together positive results. The World Cup winner, however, will do so without the security blanket that is Juve’s BBC.
Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, and Giorgio Chiellini came together to form one of football’s most uncompromising defenses in the past, leading Juventus to unprecedented heights with the legendary Gianluigi Buffon behind them. Barzagli has since retired, while Chiellini is almost definitely heading into his final season. The veteran defender has continuously struggled with injuries in recent weeks, regularly keeping him sidelined.
Bonucci, on the other hand, is arguably the only member of the BBC to occupy an important role in Pirlo’s Juve, featuring in 10 games in all competitions already. The Italian international has since picked up an injury that will keep him out of action for the foreseeable future. In many ways, Bonucci’s absence will force Pirlo to turn to Juve’s budding young defenders and lead the side into a post-BBC era.
Merih Demiral has stepped up admirably in Chiellini’s absence, offering the side some much-needed physicality in their own defensive third. Replacing Chiellini will be almost impossible given his importance in the locker room, but the Turkish international has demonstrated he is ready for a bigger role. The only question mark remains his long-term fitness, considering he is just coming off a length stop. In any case, Demiral has been rock solid when called upon and will only see his opportunities increase as the season wears on.
Matthijs de Ligt is another one of Juve’s young stars gunning for a bigger role at the back. The Dutchman established himself as an undisputed started under Maurizio Sarri, emerging as one of Serie A’s elite defensive talents. De Ligt, however, suffered from recurring shoulder injuries, forcing him to undergo surgery over the summer. The former Ajax man has missed Juve’s first seven games in league action this season but is expected to make his debut against Cagliari.
de Ligt and Demiral’s recent progression alleviates some pressure on Juve’s aging core and will eventually lead to them being fazed out. Given their importance, this transition will not happen overnight, but when the time comes, the two young defenders are more than ready.
Juve’s upcoming clash against Cagliari will be the first time the duo play alongside each other and will serve as an early litmus test for their growing partnership. If de Ligt and Demiral can offer Pirlo solidity at the back and inspire confidence, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be Juve’s first-choice defenders. After all, they represent the future for the club and will be slotting in, long after the BBC hangs up their boots.
While Demiral acts as a vice-Chiellini, de Ligt’s impressive passing range and comfort in possession make Bonucci expendable. The former Milan man occupies an important role in Juve’s buildup, but de Ligt has proven he is more than capable of playing out from the back. When the Dutch international was at Ajax, he regularly jumped into midfield and looked to break lines.
It is a delicate moment in the season for Pirlo and Juventus. On one hand, Juve desperately needs results, while on the other, the rookie tactician is faced with the tall task of integrating Juve’s young stars. In any case, both have proven they are more than ready to step up and lead the Bianconeri into the post-BBC era.
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