Juventus’ Top Three Mercato Priorities

With the season just ten days away, Juventus are scrambling to rejuvenate their roster and offer rookie manager Andrea Pirlo significant reinforcements. As the season approaches, Fabio Paratici will be eager to conclude all his mercato business sooner rather than later, starting with the hunt for a new number nine.

Let’s take a deeper look at Juventus’ mercato priorities going into the new season:

1) Sell the deadwood. 

The common theme this transfer window for almost any Italian team has been ‘buy before you sell’. Weston McKennie arrived from Schalke for virtually nothing, while Arthur was swapped for Miralem Pjanic. This indicates that Juventus’s transfer kitty is limited this year unless they can move on unwanted players.

Blaise Matuidi has already joined Inter Miami while Gonzalo Higuain will soon follow, according to reports. Sami Khedira is another player Juventus are eager to part ways with, but the German international is determined to prove his worth to Pirlo. Beyond the former Real Madrid man, Paratici has been unable to move on Douglas Costa, who has spent the better part of the last two seasons sidelined with injuries. Aaron Ramsey is yet another Juventus man whose future is worth monitoring, after failing to make an impact last season despite high wages.

Before the Juventus faithful can dream of a big signing, these are exactly the types of players they need to move on. It won’t be easy and the clock is ticking for Paratici.

2) A new number nine

Juventus parted ways with both Mario Mandzukic and Moise Kean last summer and have failed to replace either ever since. With Higuain declining and on his way to Major League Soccer, Pirlo requested a new number nine for his setup. Edin Dzeko and Luis Suarez are the two most recent strikers linked with a move to Turin, with the Uruguayan emerging as the favorite.

Juventus will reportedly pay Barcelona three million euros with potential bonuses rising to 16 million euros, and will offer Suarez a three-year deal. The entire operation will reach around 45 million euros between wages and transfer fees if recent reports are credible. While Juventus need a number nine and Suarez fits the bill, this is a move that reeks of desperation and resembles the Bianconeri’s past mishaps on the transfer window.

There is currently a dearth of quality number nines available, making Suarez one of Juve’s only realistic options. Paratici’s hands may be tied, but he may regret this move a year or two down the line.

3) One surprise signing? 

After securing a number nine, Juventus could use another profile, be it at fullback or in the midfield. Reinforcing at fullback seems to be down Paratici’s list of priorities, but Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon could be an interesting opportunity. The Spanish giants have made it clear he’s available and he could be available at a decent price. Reguilon’s arrival could make Alex Sandro expendable, freeing up some much-needed transfer budget.

Beyond their fullback needs, Juventus could arguably use another creative midfielder. The likes of Rodrigo De Paul and Luis Alberto have been previously linked with a move to Turin, indicating a move for a midfield maestro may be on the cards. In this sense, Lyon’s Houssem Aouar should be a priority and is reportedly available at a decent price. If Juventus can broker a deal for the French international, it would go a long way at addressing their lack of dynamism and creativity in the middle of the park.

However, let’s be clear – any surprise move is completely contingent on selling their deadwood, something Paratici has struggled with since assuming his position.

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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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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 38

Standings implications: Inter saved best for last as they sunk Atalanta, securing the second place and closing one point shy of Juventus, which did not bother showing up against Roma. Lazio stayed in fourth as they were bested by Napoli. In the relegation zone, Lecce went down in typical chaotic fashion versus Parma, while Genoa’s win over Verona was never in doubt and so the Salentini are the final team to move back to Serie B.

In the meaningless portion of the schedule, Milan kept it going against Cagliari, Udinese picked up a quality win over Sassuolo, Bologna shared the spoils Torino, Sampdoria with Brescia.

Continue reading

Juventus Top Perfomers – Round 38 vs Roma

An already checked-out Juventus could not find a way to contain a more spirited Roma team and ended up throwing away one of the few things they had going for them, besides winning the title of course, as they soiled their home invincibility.

Danilo: it is again tough to find something good in the back-line, but the Brazilian fullback was more lively than usual and produced a pair of interesting runs that switched field position in a hurry, won a bunch of duels and drew some fouls in dangerous spots. He ends his campaign on a slight crescendo, despite the unlucky PK foul. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 38 – Saturday Games

BRESCIA-SAMPDORIA

Brescia: they actually played better than expected versus Lazio, where they had some opportunities to score, in particular with Ernesto Torregrossa, but were unable to cash in. Several injuries left them with a skeleton crew as Torregrossa, Florian Aye, Nikolas Spalek and Jaromir Zmrhal are the only attackers available. All of them, excluding Aye, have been able to hit the net recently, while Sandro Tonali and Bruno Martella have been pretty good in the less offensive roles.

Suggested picks: Torregrossa, Spalek, Zmrhal. Continue reading

Three Takeaways From Sarri’s First Season At Juventus

Maurizio Sarri’s first season with Juventus did not exactly go to plan, with the Bianconeri losing two finals and stumbling to their ninth consecutive Scudetto. After securing the league title against Sampdoria, the Italian champions now have their sights set on overturning a narrow first-leg deficit against Lyon in the Champions League.

With the season officially behind us, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on Sarri’s first year in charge. Here are three takeaways from the season that was:

1) Individual brilliance reigns supreme. 

Much was expected from Sarri in his first season, but the veteran tactician disappointed and was regularly bailed out by individual brilliance in the final third. Beyond some encouraging signs of ‘Sarriball’ at different stages in the season, Juventus often relied on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala to lead them to the title. Moving forward, Sarri will be hoping the Bianconeri acquire technical players, which will help him further implement his playing philosophy. The additions of Dejan Kulusevski and Arthur will help in this respect, but Juventus arguably need another midfielder.

If Juve’s top brass is hopeful of every seeing Sarriball at the Allianz Arena, they will need to bolster the side and the midfield in particular, starting with this summer.

2) Shaky defense responsible for dropped points. 

Juventus have struggled at the back this season, conceding 38 goals on the season with two games to play. In fact, no Bianconeri side has conceded more over the last ten years, dating back to Luigi Del Neri’s Juventus, who finished 7th place. Their lapses in concentration have cost Sarri’s men crucial points throughout the year, dropping a league-leading 18 points from winning positions.

Sarri has had to make do with middling fullbacks and even converted Juan Cuadrado to right back at the beginning of the season. With Alex Sandro failing to hit his former heights and Danilo struggling when called upon, Juve’s defense was as vulnerable as they have ever been. Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci formed an uncompromising partnership at the heart of defense, but were often let down by their fullbacks. Next season, Sarri will be hoping for a more solid Juve side, otherwise, their domestic dominance may just come to an end.

3) Juventus need to cut their deadwood. 

If one thing was made clear this season, it’s that few teams around the world have more deadwood than Juventus. The Bianconeri have a number of players on inflated wages contributing little to nothing on the pitch. Sami Khedira featured under 1000 minutes on the season, collecting 6 million euros a year. Bosman signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot make 14 million euros between them and combined for a mere four goals on the season. Gonzalo Higuain, the side’s third-highest earner, regressed significantly this year, netting seven goals.

Moving forward, this is something Juventus are going to have to address and cut ties with mediocre players on increased wages. Recent reports suggest that the club is pondering a mutual termination of Khedira’s contract while Higuain is weighing a return to Argentina. Beyond them, the Bianconeri’s top brass has important decisions to make in the middle of the park. Ramsey has not looked sharp when called upon while Rabiot has kicked into another gear in recent weeks. Given their high wages, it may be difficult to find a suitor, just one season after acquiring them.

In any case, Paratici will  be a busy man this summer as he will be looking to rejuvenate this Juventus side and decrease their wage will significantly. The former Sampdoria director is off to a strong start so far, but is arguably just getting started.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 37

PARMA-ATALANTA

Parma: Dejan Kulusevski willed them to victory, again, versus the lowly Brescia with an assist and a scorcher and he is finishing his stay in style, while Gervinho has been pretty paltry in recent matches, scoring just once in the last seven. Gianluca Caprari took advantage of his increased minutes and converted a PK, while among the other back-ups Luca Siligardi has been the liveliest. Roberto Inglese is tough to trust since his minutes are still spotty. Juraj Kucka returned from a short absence and he and Jasmin Kurtic are surely capable of doing damage offensively. Matteo Darmian is coming off his first goal of the season and also Riccardo Gagliolo notched one lately but their fullbacks will have their hands full defensively in this one.

Suggested picks: Kulusevski, Kucka, Caprari. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 36

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is again sidelined due to lack of form. Duvan Zapata (ankle), José Palomino and Berat Djimsiti (toe) picked up knocks in the last game but they are all available. The most at risk of being rested is the last one.

Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu closes his season in advance due to a biceps femoris strain. Jerdy Schouten is unlikely to be back here from the same injury.

Brescia: Stefano Sabelli is suspended. Simon Skrabb is nursing an ankle sprain. Jesse Joronen, Birkir Bjarnason, Jhon Chancellor and Alfredo Donnarumma will get the day off.

Cagliari: Christian Oliva and Luca Pellegrini  will stay on the shelf again with their ankle sprains.

Fiorentina: Gaetano Castrovilli is suspended. Dalbert subbed off versus Inter but it was just fatigue, Bartlomiej Dragowski missed some time with back spasms.

Genoa: Lukas Lerager is out due to yellow-card accumulation. Cristian Romero bowed out in the Derby, Francesco Cassata, Stefano Sturaro and Antonio Sanabria are dinged up but they have been pretty secretive with their injuries.

Inter: Nicolò Barella is suspended. Stefan De Vrij left the last game with a knee sprain but it is not believed to be a major issue.

Juventus: Mattia De Sciglio is expected back soon from his thigh strain. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) and Gonzalo Higuain (back) are day-to-day. Douglas Costa suffered a grade two thigh strain that will likely cost him the rest of the season, Champions League included. 

Lazio: Manuel Lazzari is banned. Luis Alberto (knee), Joaquin Correa (knee), Jony (thigh) and Adam Marusic (thigh) all came back in the last game, while Djavan Anderson missed it with fatigue. Stefan Radu (calf) might be back maybe in the season finale. Francesco Acerbi is questionable with knee soreness.

Lecce: Marco Calderoni  returns from a contracture, while Khouma Babacar and Diego Farias were late scratches for the past game and are questionable, but at least they are available this time around. Luca Rossettini has shaken off his worrying illness.

Milan: Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer are suspended. Simon Kjaer is not 100 percent but should gut it out, especially because Alessio Romagnoli pulled his calf and will miss the remaining matches. Andrea Conti hurt his knee but the exams ruled out structural damages. Samu Castillejo and Leo Duarte (thigh) are available after spending time on the shelf. 

Napoli: David Ospina missed the last game with fatigue, but shook it off quickly, while Mario Rui will be rested.

Parma: Gaston Brugman is out due to yellow-card accumulation and also strained his calf, so he is done for the season. Bruno Alves (hip) came back in the previous game, while Riccardo Gagliolo might miss another one with a similar ailment. Hernani suffered a quad strain and he too will skip the remaining fixtures. Matteo Scozzarella (calf) and Andreas Cornelius (thigh) are trying to come back but face an uphill battle.

Roma: Roger Ibanez is likely to miss another one due to a thigh injury, while Cengiz Under is being assessed after being ruled out late for the previous match. Federico Fazio (ankle), Antonio Mirante (calf), Juan Jesus (hip) and Davide Santon (calf) are nursing minor stuff that cost them some time.

Sampdoria: Omar Colley and Ronaldo Vieira are suspended. Albin Ekdal subbed off in the last game after hurting his ankle and he is out.

Sassuolo: Mehdi Bourabia was sent off versus Milan. Jeremie Boga picked up a muscular injury and he is being evaluated. Pedro Obiang (thigh), Gregoire Defrel (thigh) and Vlad Chiriches (calf) will probably sit out another one.

SPAL: Kevin Bonifazi was red carded from the bench against Roma. Andrea Cerri fractured a phalanx in the left hand that will cost him some time. Jacopo Sala sprained is ankle and is iffy, while Sergio Floccari and Lucas Castro have been ruled out in advance. 

Torino: Armando Izzo is expected to return from his mild knee sprain, while Lorenzo De Silvestri is out for the season due to an AC joint sprain in the right shoulder.

Udinese: Kevin Lasagna was ruled out very late against Juventus due to a thigh issue. Walace has a shoulder problem but he is good to go, William Troost-Ekong is suspended.

Verona: Giampaolo Pazzini (thigh), Pawel Dawidowicz (pec) and Claud Adjapong are trying to come back from their minor physical problems, while it is probably too early for Marash Kumbulla. Alan Empereur, Salvatore Bocchetti, Valerio Verre and Matteo Lovato are out with last-minute issues. 

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Serie A Injuries and Suspensions Report – Round 35

Atalanta: Hans Hateboer is suspended, while Josip Ilicic again was left out to work on his conditioning.

Bologna: Mitchell Dijks is disqualified, Jerdy Schouten (thigh) remains sidelined.

Brescia: Nikolas Spalek is out due to yellow-card accumulation, Simon Skrabb is questionable with a bruised ankle. Jesse Joronen returned in the last game. Time is running out for Andrea Cistana. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 33 vs Sassuolo

Juventus believed have tamed the Sassuolo with a one-two punch in the first 15 minutes, but could not have been more mistaken as the Neroverdi managed to fully rally back. The Bianconeri re-focused late and came away with a tie, garnering the third negative result in a row.

Alex Sandro (1 point): the back-line was facing another quality attack, but still conceded way too easily, although it is likely no coincidence that things really fell apart only after Giorgio Chiellini subbed off. Granted that the first two goals were a bit random and product of the shooting prowess of the opponents, the defenders were often on skates when Sassuolo came close to the box. Continue reading