Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Serie A Match of the Round – Juventus vs Milan

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Few tilts were high-scoring and intense up until the final whistle in this round and Juventus-Milan was the most meaningful one out of the bunch. The Bianconeri came into the game looking to get closer or possibly clinch the title with an advantageous combination of results that would have to start with a win, while the Devil were seeking to rebound after three unsatisfactory results, as they had recently lost to Sampdoria and Inter and tied with Udinese.

The Old Lady recuperated and started both Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic, but opted to rest Giorgio Chiellini and Miralem Pjanic. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Round – 30

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Emiliano Viviano (7 points): he contributed to SPAL’s impressive victory with a solid save on a Ciro Immobile’s shot and a rather lucky rejection with the help of the post on Lucas Leiva point-blank attempt.

Merih Demiral (13 points): he almost ruined a perfect night with a silly penalty foul late, but Emanuele Giaccherini missed and so his fantasy haul remains the best of the season for a defenders thanks to two outstanding headers.

Leonardo Bonucci (9 points): a commanding performance by the Juventus defense in Cagliari and the veteran centre-back embellished it with a great header on a corner kick.

Pol Lirola (7 points): a dominating performance for the energetic fullback, who was no match for the opponents on the right flank and set up two goals for Sassuolo

Josip Ilicic (10 points)he single-handedly knocked out Bologna in the span of ten minutes, punishing them with two venomous lefty strikes and then teeing up Hans Hateboer three-nothing goal. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 30

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Standings implication: Juventus overwhelmed Cagliari, while Napoli fell to Empoli and therefore the Bianconeri could potentially clinch the title in the weekend. In the Champions League race, it was a positive round for Inter, which thumped Genoa on the road, and Atalanta that demolished Bologna, while Milan had a disappointing tie with Udinese and Lazio were outlasted by SPAL. The Biscione built a little lead while the Orobici are one point behind the Rossoneri.

Torino returned to winning ways against Sampdoria, while Roma again failed to take home the W as they equalized with Fiorentina. The Granata pulled even with the Nation’s Capital teams and distanced Sampdoria. As it is often the case in this time of the year, the relegation strugglers are starting to get some surprise victories: SPAL and Empoli gained points on Udinese and Bologna. Frosinone snatched their first home win of the season, but it might be too late for them as they are * behind the 17th position. Continue reading

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci’s shame as he fails to back team mate Kean after racist abuse

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Moise Kean has been in one word spectacular the past few weeks for Juventus as the promising young striker has stepped into the Juventus team and started scoring goals right off the bat. He has notched 4 goals in a few weeks and helping to ease Juventus to another Serie A title.

But in the match against Cagliari everything came to a head when Kean suffered racist chants from a frustrated and very confused set of Cagliari fans. His best response of course was scoring the goals which condemned Cagliari to defeat. What happened next was shocking. After he had to put up with racist chants he wasn’t even given the support of one of his teammates Leonardo Bonucci, a superb defender with ancient views.

Bonucci instead claimed that the racist chanting towards his team mate was 50/50 for the share of the blame, because Kean had faced off against the rival support. Did his face off warrant racist chanting? Anyhow that chanting had started before his goal celebration.

But Bonucci has thrown down a shocker- could one even fathom any England player for example not defending Raheem Sterling’s latest racial abuse? Bonucci has had to come out and say that his words were misunderstood, but this is cheap talk from someone who should know better.

The truth is that the Premier League in England is head and shoulders above any other major European league when it comes to stamping out racism. Yes there are still problems within the game- the lack of black managers being one, and yes you could argue that racism hasn’t disappeared from the English game but there is back up, organisations and education that would never lead someone like Bonucci to come out with such a response.

Unfortunately there is still no huge understanding of racism in some European countries- some would even just call what fans say banter. That’s the sad reality of it and we have been down this road so many times- why do you think that Mario Balotelli does not play in Italy, when he could? He was another player subjected to racist comments, and that was over a decade ago.

Sadly it seems that very little will be done and little will change within the game of Italy. And of course it must also be pointed out that there are many great fans, who are not racist in Italy and that the chants and singing are from a minority of so called fans.

Bonucci most probably regrets what he said, and is a good person. But questions must be raised as to why he would want to partly back the fans with his 50/50 comment. It feels that in some countries there is this respect with the ultra fans, because they make a noise at games. That respect must be dissolved when racist chanting comes into effect.

What huge leagues like Serie A must understand is that if you don’t curb racism it affects everything right down to sponsorship which means less money for the game which in turn means less quality players in the league. Italy has already felt that effect in the past 10-15 years, does it want to go further under?

What is certain is that Kean who could have ended up being a Juventus legend will most probably leave the club and country. In short change is needed, but will it happen has to be questionable.

 

Juventus Top Performers – Round 30

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Differently from the Empoli game, Juventus managed to control the pace of the game and stymie the opponents’ weapons in Cagliari, taking home a sweet victory despite several absences.

Leonardo Bonucci (9 points): when Wojciech Szczesny is not asked to make any save, it means that the back-line has worked to perfection. The opponents had some vigor only in the late stages of the contest, but all in all their attempts where pretty tame. The three-man defense has often been a great crutch for the Bianconeri in difficult situations and its effectiveness was on display again here. Continue reading

Spinazzola speaks, Romero update and UEFA international ranking

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Leonardo Spinazzola spoke to Rai Sport and Tuttomercatoweb after his solid showing with Italy against Lichtenstein: “I am back and I can still improve a lot physically, I need this type of games to find the peak form. Cristiano Ronaldo told us that he is serene, he believes he will be back in ten days. We hope he will return in time for the next Champions League match.”

On the skirmish with Atalanta in January of 2018: “It was a particular moment, I do not want to revisit it. Juventus were looking for fullbacks and I believed I could help, I was feeling strong mentally too. I thought I could do the jump right away and move up my arrival. Anyway, I was happy to stay with Atalanta and we fared well in Europe too.” Continue reading

Ronaldo gets hurt and Kean in the spotlight

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Cristiano Ronaldo subbed off after 30 minutes in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Serbia on Monday night, signaling a thigh problem. He downplayed it after the game saying that he will miss one week or two, which is aligned with a first diagnosis that indicates a minor thigh flexor strain. Since a midweek round is coming up, Juventus will play against Empoli, Cagliari and Milan in the next 14 days.

Moise Kean has been the talk of the town recently due to his goal with Italy, which allowed him to become the second-youngest scorer in the Azzurri history. Continue reading

Three Players Juventus Should Sign in The Summer

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With Juventus on the brink of Champions League elimination after a number of unimpressive performances, it’s time for a squad overhaul. While Aaron Ramsey is a good start at addressing their woeful midfield, the Welshman alone will not be enough to propel the bianconeri to European glory. In defence, Juventus’ core is getting old with Leonardo Bonucci showing signs of wear and tear. Daniele Rugani, by contrast, has frankly not lived up to the hype and has proven to be nothing more than a luxury option off the bench. Up top, on the other hand, it’s time Juventus sign a young, link-up target man, as Dybala, Ronaldo and Mandzukic have been an awkward fit for one another. Here are three players Paratici should have at the top of his wish-list.

1) Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

Matthijs de Ligt needs no introduction and is without a doubt Europe’s top young defender at the moment. If you look up the definition of leader in the dictionary, the young Dutchman’s face will pop up. After having won the Golden Boy award in 2018, becoming the first defender to ever win the award, de Ligt has gone from strength to strength.

Right now, de Ligt is Ajax’s rock at the back, and is captaining the side deep into the Champions League, past European supergiants and reigning champions Real Madrid. Just last month, the 19-year-old became the youngest ever player to captain his side in a Champions League knockout clash, and has not looked one bit out of place.

While competition for the defender’s signature will be at an all-time high, Paratici and co. must go all out and sign de Ligt. If it takes 80 million euros, then so be it. With Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli on the wrong side of 30, it’s time to refresh their backline, and what better place to start than with de Ligt. Despite his age, the Dutchman is arguably already in the top ten defenders in the world, and must emerge as a priority for the bianconeri. Otherwise, Juventus’ elite defence of the past will become nothing but a distant memory.

2) Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

For the past two seasons, Juventus’ midfield has held the side back in Europe’s elite competition and cannot be ignored come summertime. With Ramsey already on his way on a bosman transfer, Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele would be an ideal fit alongside Juventus’ current options.

NDombele is a one-man midfield, and has consistently proven he can cut it at the highest level, especially in Lyon’s most recent clash against Barcelona. Much like de Ligt,the Lyon midfielder does not let his inexperience seep into his play, and largely dominates proceedings as if he’s a seasoned veteran in the middle of the park.

Alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, the Frenchman would be able to express himself freely and offer some much needed creativity without sacrificing industry. Right now, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can have looked out of place in Allegri’s setup, and have proven to be far too limited for elite football.

Considering Paratici will have to deal with notorious negotiator, Lyon president and French businessman Jean-Michel Aulas, it won’t be easy. In any case, NDombele is Juventus’ best option to rebuild their midfield, both in the short-term and in the long-run.

3) Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) 

This one is a bit trickier for Paratici. Safe to say, Ronaldo hasn’t yet blended in with Mandzukic and Dybala, despite his impressive goalscoring record, and Juventus require an all-round support striker to get the best out of him. At Real Madrid, Benzema acted as the Portuguese superstar’s foil.

With Mandzukic showing signs of slowing down, it may be time for Juventus to start looking at younger options up top. Since making the switch to Germany, Jovic has improved all aspects of his game and has developed into a real force to be reckoned with, scoring 21 goals and registering five assists in all competitions.

With Jovic alongside Ronaldo and Dybala behind them, whoever’s at the helm of Juventus, could recreate Zidane’s blueprint at Real Madrid and get the side scoring freely again. While it may not be an immediate need, Juventus will not have Ronaldo forever and must make the most of his presence while he’s in Turin. Jovic would go a long way in this respect.

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Benatia opens up on Juventus exit and Pirlo news

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Medhi Benatia reflected on his departure from Juventus in an interview with Sky Sport: “In December, I was on vacation in Dubai, I talked with my wife and my kids were asking me all the time why I was not playing. I was burning inside and I was unhappy for that. I left a team full of friends I am very attached to, but I would have liked to give my contribution on the pitch.”

“When Leonardo Bonucci came back, I talked to Massimiliano Allegri, who told me that he needed me and that I would have found some room. However, things changed after that, but I do not have any problem with him, I do not look back at what could have been and was not. I played my last game against Milan in San Siro, which was a tough one because I had to guard Gonzalo Higuain. I played well but I stayed out the following fixtures.” Continue reading