Premier League Game of the Week: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United

The biggest fixture in England was played at the weekend and this match against two teams who have won 39 league titles between them was always going to generate all of the attention, the world over and not just in England. That it ended 0-0 shouldn’t deter from the hype around the game and what it currently means for the league title.

You couldn’t have had a better build up to Liverpool vs Manchester United. Liverpool who haven’t lost a home game in 2 years in the league and, who currently have the best home record this season up against the team who have the best away record this season.

No one could have expected it but Manchester United are unbeaten away and we are almost at the half way stage of the season. They are also top of the league and Liverpool could have bounced back to the top with a victory. In the end it felt as though both teams wanted to keep their fantastic records in check and it wasn’t the most exciting game to watch.

The real surprise for Liverpool was having two midfielders starting in defence. When we will ever see captain Jordan Henderson in central defence again? But somehow he looked assured and for the most part Manchester United were contained.

It was a game of two halves where Liverpool threatened in the first, controlling the pace of the game without really giving United much food for thought. But the way Liverpool were bossing the ball about it seemed like it would be a long afternoon for United.

In the 2nd half though that wasn’t the case and United started to find their groove through the brilliant Bruno Fernandes. His shot from a Luke Shaw assist made Alisson work hard in goal. Indeed Shaw had a terrific game and was all over the pitch and very inspired.

Paul Pogba had another chance after Fernandes but shot the ball at Alisson. This could have been quite a turning point in the Frenchman’s season, the player who scored the winner in Manchester United’s last game against Burnley could have been the hero again. Pogba has had a difficult season at the club and this could have gone some way to redeeming that.

Perhaps the game was telling that Liverpool had 14 attempts on goal but only 3 shots on target, indeed United had one shot on target more and not many teams over the past 2 years have had that at Anfield.

In the end it was a good result by Manchester United getting a point away from home and a disappointing one for Liverpool dropping another two at home. There must be some concern that Liverpool’s most dangerous strikers have gone quiet of late in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

It should say everything about the game that the players who picked up the most points were the goalkeepers. Both Alisson and David de Gea picked up 7 points each for their clean sheets.

Liverpool can still win the league and they remain the danger but th drop off from last season is quite evident and one has to wonder if fatigue has caught up with Jurgen Klopp’s team?

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Should Juventus target Paul Pogba?

European super-agent Mino Raiola sent shockwaves through the footballing world when he recently claimed he was actively looking for transfer destinations for his blockbuster client – Paul Pogba. The World Cup winner has reportedly set his sights on moving on from Manchester United this summer, as his contract is set to expire in the following year. Intent not to lose him on a free transfer, the Red Devils are ready to negotiate.

A plethora of clubs have since been linked with Pogba, in hopes of securing one of Europe’s premier midfielders. In Italy, rumours have surfaced about Juventus potentially making a move for him, but he will not come cheap. The English giants spent over 100 million euros to bring him back to Manchester and will be looking to recoup most of that fee this summer.

When Pogba initially made the move to Manchester United back in 2016, many expected the Frenchman to lead the side back to their former glories. Fast forward four years and nothing of the sort has happened, with the Red Devils failing to win the league since his return. Pogba may have lifted the Europa League and EFL Cup in his first season, but the Frenchman will not want to stop there. With one foot out the door already, it begs the question: should Juventus do what it takes to bring back Pogba?

For one, his price-tag is a major stumbling block. Juventus has reportedly offered players and cash in a swap deal, an advance Manchester United quickly rebuffed. Recent reports have suggested Paulo Dybala may be involved in a deal for the midfielder, which could sway the negotiations. La Joya may be struggling under Andrea Pirlo, but Juventus would be foolish to part ways with Dybala. Despite his recent woes, the 27-year-old should not be sacrificed to bring in Pogba. After all, isn’t the objective to compete for the Champions League, and for that, Juve will need all hands on deck.

The next question is whether the French international is a good fit for Juventus. Pogba thrives on the left-hand side of a midfield three, while Pirlo has regularly opted for a double pivot and an advanced midfielder. Pogba has struggled in similar positions during his second stint with Manchester United, but Juventus would be foolish not to accommodate him.

Pogba is exactly the type of profile the Bianconeri lack in the middle of the park and would add some much-needed creativity in the final third. Pirlo would be wise to consider a formation change if Juve’s interest in the midfielder is serious. However, the 27-year-old will struggle if he is shoehorned in Pirlo’s hybrid 4-4-2/3-4-1-2 setup.

The last step in bringing in Pogba back to Turin revolves around Juve’s remaining midfield options. With Rabiot, McKennie, Arthur, Bentancur, and Ramsey, the Bianconeri’s midfield is slightly congested at the moment. Arthur and McKennie appear set to stay, leaving the remaining options in limbo over their futures. Ramsey seems the likeliest to be heading out, considering the increased reports over his departure.

Fabio Paratici will have big decisions to make in the middle of the park should they decide to target Pogba. The Juventus sporting director has often gotten it wrong in recent seasons, but simply can no longer afford to. Cristiano Ronaldo is heading into the final stages of his career and they will want to get the most out of their superstar. It may be their best shot at winning their first Champions League in 24 years.

When assessing whether to bring back Pogba or not, the answer is simple. Anytime a player of his caliber is available, you do your best to sign him. With that being said, if Juventus are not prepared to accommodate him or need to sacrifice a future pillar in Dybala, the deal becomes a little more complicated. If recent reports are anything to go by, expect Juventus to do their best to secure Pogba. If that is a good decision or not, remains to be seen.

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Why didn’t Manchester United’s Paul Pogba believe he was already at a huge club?

Early on Monday morning, on a weekend following another Manchester United comeback as they beat West Ham 3-1, Mino Raiola dropped the news: Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United.

It was news and it wasn’t news, because anyone who has followed football for the past few years could see that Pogba wanted out almost the moment he stepped back in at Old Trafford. Pogba isn’t the type of person who could play poker successfully, he can’t hide his body language and his despair almost an dis-attachment in his face was there for all to see for a long time.

It could well be the right time for Pogba to leave Manchester United and the Frenchman would have spent five seasons at the club by next summer. But it wasn’t the right time to announce it. Pogba’s agent Raiola said that the player wanted to leave the club in the summer, right before one of United’s biggest games of their season, their Champions League match against RB Leipzig. The club went on to lose that match 3-2, and the irony of course is that Pogba scored.

The timing though feels like a lack of respect for the club and its values, why did Pogba’s agent come out with the news then? Why not wait at least until the week after, after the Manchester derby. Would it have been that hard to do?

But another question must surface and that is why didn’t Pogba believe that Manchester United are a huge club? Why couldn’t he understand that it might not get any better than being at United? True United haven’t been the same since Sir Alex Ferguson retired but they have still maintained an air of quality, and players from around the world are still happy to sign for the club knowing that the Red Devils are one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Could it be that Pogba transferred from Juventus and saw the old lady and Serie A as simply better in every department? Could he believe that he was therefore taking a step down when he re-joined United? When you analyse his performances it does come across like this. Of course his obscene fee of £89m doesn’t help matters but at the same time the price tag isn’t Pogba’s fault. He probably wasn’t worth half of that but that is the nature of the football business.

In hindsight United would have done good business had they sold Pogba just after the 2018 World Cup where, with France he won. Pogba was electrifying in the knock-out stages with his pace and power. Indeed he produced in 2 weeks with France what he couldn’t do in five years with United. But at the World Cup Pogba seemed like a man possessed, like he had a mission, and he did. But with United had he kept to this theory he could have helped land United a title in his time at the club and gone down as a club legend.

The truth is that Pogba’s time at United will be more remembered as a simple footnote, which is a tragedy in itself given what quality the player has in his locker. The problem with Pogba is that it doesn’t matter where he goes next, the team will receive Pogba, the player that shows flashes of brilliance, the player that gives 100%, the player that raises his voice above others in the dressing room and gets the team hyped and ready for the game ahead, but all of this happens in 2 games per 10, and that is his problem in a nutshell.

Pogba’s future could be linked to PSG, a return to France and with a club who look guaranteed to win trophies could fit Pogba fine. Real Madrid have been linked with the midfielder for some time, but maybe they will take a rain check if they were to look at his overall form. Barcelona’s era is ending and they have a lack of funds so they won’t be a player. Other choices could see a return to Juventus or maybe somewhere like AC Milan who have improved and are currently in 1st position in Serie A.

Pogba is going to leave United at the end of the season this looks absolutely certain now. Fans knew it was going to happen, but it seems when it does Pogba may not get the goodbye he could have deserved and on reflection his transfer to United feels like a wasted moment for both parties.

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Do Juve really need Federico Chiesa?

In the end, Juventus got their man, just. Only hours remained of the transfer window when it was officially announced that the club had signed Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina.

Juve had to shift some pieces of the jigsaw around in order to get the 22-year-old; a Douglas Costa loan move to Bayern Munich here and a Daniele Rugani loan move to Rennes there, freed up the necessary funds in order to get the Chiesa deal finalised.

As has been the story of this Covid-influenced transfer window, Juve signed Chiesa on a two-year loan deal, but in reality it’s just a creative method of staggering the payments for the winger.

So everyone was happy: Juve got their man, Chiesa got the move he wanted a year ago, and Fiorentina offloaded a player who clearly didn’t want to be there for a cool €50m. But is Chiesa actually what the champions need?

There is no doubting Chiesa’s talent. The son of Parma and Sampdoria legend Enrico has seemingly unlimited barrels of energy, and can skip past players at will, when in the mood. Yet since his graduation to the first team at Fiorentina, Chiesa’s decision-making has been questionable. Too often he has beaten an opposing defender in a one vs. one situation, only to produce an inadequate cross or fail to pick out the correct pass. On occasion he’s simply been guilty of supreme selfishness, aiming for goal when a colleague was in a better position.

Chiesa posted 10 goals and six assists in Serie A last season for the Viola, a respectable record for a player in a side that finished 10th. Yet it should also be pointed out that he took more shots on goal than any of his teammates, with an average of 3.3 per game. Next in line was striker Dusan Vlahovic, with 2.2.

On the verge of his 23rd birthday, Chiesa is still incredibly raw. His development has been hampered by a succession of coaches at Fiorentina utilising him in a myriad of different positions, thus denying him the possibility to hone his ability in one position. Vincenzo Montella, Paulo Sousa, Stefano Pioli and now Beppe Iachini have shifted Chiesa everywhere from right wing-back to left winger, via stints as a second striker and attacking midfielder. It’s left the player as a non-accomplished jack-of-all-trades, and certainly a master of none. It’s a wonder Chiesa hasn’t been tried out at centre back, given the poor performances of Federico Ceccherini recently.

So where does Juve’s new €50m signing fit in Andrea Pirlo’s starting XI, and was Chiesa an essential purchase?

Due to the lack of pre-season games, Pirlo has been given little margin for experimentation as Juve boss thus far. In their opening game of the season against Sampdoria, Juve lined out in a 3-5-2 formation. A week later Pirlo changed to a 4-4-2 in order to accommodate the returning Alvaro Morata, but the switch didn’t work, and Juve played like the ghost of Maurizio Sarri had returned for one final game.

Speaking of ghosts, for the game that wasn’t against Napoli on Sunday, Pirlo had intended to line up in a 3-4-1-2 system. Should Pirlo return to this set-up in matches that actually happen, then this could be where Chiesa is set to play, replacing Juan Cuadrado on the right-hand side.

Chiesa’s arrival also gives Pirlo the option to utilise a 3-4-3 system, with Chiesa either being deployed as a right-winger, or on the right in the four-man midfield.

Whilst plotting theoretical positions for Chiesa is all well and good, do Juve actually need him? The answer is no, they don’t. Sporting director Fabio Paratici should’ve prioritised signing a right-back, with Danilo fluctuating somewhere between injury and unconvincing since joining the club from Man City a year ago. Cuadrado has done fine job as a makeshift right-back, but the Colombian is now 32, and defensively suspect, as is the case with someone who spent the majority of their career playing as a right winger.

Midfield is still another fragile position that’s been underfunded over the last half decade, with the shadows of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal still looming large. It’s early days in Weston McKennie’s Juve sojourn, but the American produced a positive display against Sampdoria on his debut. Is he the Vidal-replacement the team has required for five years? Only time will tell. The signing of Arthur may alleviate the creative burden from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Dejan Kulusevski, but the Brazilian lacks the dynamism the midfield area so badly requires.

Bringing things round to Chiesa once more, recent history isn’t on his side. Giorgio Chiellini, signed by Juve in the summer of 2005, remains the last player to arrive from Florence and succeed. Since then, the likes of Felipe Melo, Neto, Valeri Bojinov and Federico Bernardeschi have all made the switch and failed to make an impact, and in the case of Melo, damagingly so.

There are similarities between Chiesa and Bernardeschi, the most recent player to make the jump. Like Chiesa, Bernardeschi arrived at Juve as the Viola’s brightest star in the summer of 2017 with a price tag of €40m. Furthermore, Bernardeschi, again like Chiesa, possessed some degree of versatility. This has proved to be his downfall at Juve, with the Carrara-native operating in various positions in the final third of the pitch, and in the process blunting his own skillset. The club would’ve accepted an offer to offload him during the transfer window, but there were no serious takers.

The pressure is firmly on Chiesa now to make the qualitative leap that playing for Juve demands. He wanted the big move for over a year, and now he’s got it. His father Enrico never got to play for Italy’s biggest club, it’s up to Federico to demonstrate that he’s more Roby Baggio or Chiellini, than Melo or Bojinov.

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Why Manchester United could have a nightmare start to the Premier League in 2020/21

There has been a clear pattern with Manchester United since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the club in December 2018, the Red Devils are either brilliant or poor. There’s been no in between and maybe that has cost the club a trophy or an extra league position.

The Norwegian manager and United great currently has a 54% win rate with the club, which is very decent. Jose Mourinho who Solskjaer replaced had a 58% win rate. So there is certainly room for improvement. However the way United finished last season left everyone slack jawed. It was a fantastic run that saw the club not only qualify for the Champions League but leap frog Chelsea and finish 3rd.

However new season and perhaps a new United. The club at home in their first game lost against Crystal Palace 3-1. The score felt like a big loss for the club, this was a game that was supposed to be made simple, they have the players and yet all that goal scoring talent in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could not pull them back into the game. True they did have 17 attempts on goal but only 4 shots on target at home is not good enough. Palace finished with more shots on target and the first surprise result of the season had been sealed.

United fans will be hoping that it is a one off and that the club will win their next few games and be able to move on. But that isn’t how Solskjaer teams have worked up until now. A blip quickly turns into a few games. Now when we look at the clubs upcoming fixture list it isn’t going to be an easy ride for them.

This weekend United will play Brighton who, like last season have started brightly. Even when they lost against Chelsea many observers said that they were the better team. Graham Potter’s side made amends with the defeat against the Blues by beating Newcastle away from home 3-0. That was a statement win and the club will be up for producing another upset.

After that game United will face the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. Many tricky ties in there plus the beginning of the Champions League will kick off in October adding further games and travel for the club.

Could it be that United will start the campaign off poorly and lose touch to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City so early on that they will have no touching distance and chance of a league challenge?

Of course it is still early days but their fixtures do not look to have piled up well for the club. History says they will come good, but only after they have gone through the ‘Ole’ struggle once again.

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4-3-3: How Man Utd could line up with van de Beek

Manchester United have this evening completed the signing of Donny van de Beek in a £35 million deal from Ajax.

The highly-rated midfielder played a key role in the Dutch giants’ surprise semi-final run in the 2018-19 Champions League, which included scoring an important goal in the victory at Juventus.

This deal appears to be a massive coup for the Red Devils, who have tied the Dutch international down to a five-year deal at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer employs a 4-3-3 system most of the time, which makes it particularly interesting to see where van de Beek will fit into the team. He’s not a holding midfielder and Bruno Fernandes is arguably the first name on the team sheet.

Does this mean Paul Pogba is set to depart Manchester United this summer? It will most likely be to help the Norwegian manager rotate this side.

it was noticeable after the restart that Solskjaer lacked confidence in many of the squad players as there was very little rotation, particularly as they were playing two games a week as a result of their run to the FA Cup semi-finals.

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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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Fan Zone: Enrico covers many Juventus topics including legends Buffon & Del Piero

In the latest Q&A, we welcome Enrico Passarella, a writer who covers diligently the Italian league, in particular fantasy football and transfer news. If you want the latest injury news as well as other updates regarding Serie A then you should give Enrico a follow on Twitter @Guardalinee. You will not regret it.

Check out the Q&A’s first segment below and read what Enrico has to say about legends such as Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and others. Feel free to reach out to both Enrico and @RamiSoufi on their respective Twitter account. You should scroll below and look for Enrico’s take on Juve’s all-time best player!

1) Name your 3 favorite Juve players, and tell us why?

Gianluigi Buffon: This is a particularly easy one. I was a goalkeeper when I was a kid and that plays a huge role. It is very simple, I always looked up to him and felt a strong
connection because of playing in a similar position on the field despite of course the gap in levels.

Alessandro Del Piero: This is another simple choice. He is an undisputed icon for all things Juventus. He is one of those star players who brought endless joy to the Juve fan base.

Giorgio Chiellini: I always loved his grit and charisma. I absolutely admired the way he went toe-to-toe with the best opponents while still setting the tone for the whole squad, particularly in key matches.

2) From the current squad, list your favorite players per position & state why? 

Among defenders, I am going with Chiellini again for the reasons I just mentioned a short while ago. I feel confident Matthijs de Ligt can and will fill the void once the captain retires.

In midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur is my choice. Juve can always count on his contribution, including his fair share of yellow cards, and he has shown exponential growth since joining the club. He already has about 30 caps for Uruguay.

In attack, it must be Paulo Dybala. He is truly a joy to watch when he is able to express himself and when he is in good form. I would add that he is a true difference-maker and I strongly believe he can still improve to get to another level.

3) Name the most important Juve triumph in your lifetime, and explain why?

The first Scudetto under Antonio Conte back in 2011 because it meant Juve were finally back where they belong after several difficult years. It was also an incredible achievement as the squad was inferior when compared to other title contenders. At the end, the players pulled it off, with much of it thanks to their drive and perseverance.

4) Choose your favorite Juve match. Why?

No doubt when talking about this one. It is Juventus-Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2003 with the Bianconeri winning 3-1. Juve performed a remarkable comeback against a legendary team and the best Bianconeri players, Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved scored while our number one Buffon saved a penalty. So all the key players from that squad chipped in on that memorable night. I cannot stress enough how it was a truly magical night.

5) Choose two from Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and state why?

I am definitely picking Pirlo and Vidal -both unique contributors. There is really nobody like Pirlo, who remains unmatched for the way he was able to pull the strings and dictate the tempo with his class and vision. Vidal was an animal in his prime, he embodied the fighting spirit of the club and it was a gut punch when he decided to leave.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Many focus on the midfield while some say it is the lack of creativity when Dybala is not playing. Your thoughts?

The current fullbacks are not great but the biggest issue lies in the midfield- an area that is too dependent on Miralem Pjanic from a creative standpoint. To make matters worse,  Pjanic has been subpar this year, and does not provide much scoring in any case.

Summer signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot were supposed to fix that, but the former has been too injury prone and the latter has yet to really settle in. It is another cautionary tale when it comes to signing free players as it can backfire too. I can see a major investment coming in to fill the gaps in midfield if Juve plan to compete regularly in Europe.

7) Who is the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

In the modern era I would confidently say a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. His achievements speak louder than all the words of praise any of us can give. In the past, I’d single out Michel Platini. The Frenchman achieved a lot on both the individual and team level while with the Bianconeri. Still, Buffon’s standing in the history of the sport should not be underestimated so his is a name we must always keep in mind. I am not going to single out one name, so I would let my fellow Juventini ponder on this point.

Fan Zone: Giuseppe is back with focus on Juve’s transfers & European chances

Giuseppe Bognanni is back for the second segment of the Q&A discussing everything Juventus from club legends in the previous part to the Bianconeri’s transfer targets as well as European dream in the section below.  Feel free to share your opinion and ask us any questions you may have on Juve’s potential European run as well as the upcoming transfer campaign by connecting with us on Twitter @RamiSoufi and @BognanniG.

1) Juve built a reputation signing players for free. Who could be the next bargain signing?

How about Paul Pogba in July 2021? That’ll be a funny scenario. A full circle for a player Juve signed for free (only a small fee was paid per rules) several years ago. Just imagine Juve signing Pogba for free twice and both times from Manchester United! That would be hilarious!

Another possible name could be PSG’s Thomas Meunier. He is a useful player since the right-back sport is a weak one. No doubt Juan Cuadrado has given his best as a makeshift right-back but still it should be one of Juve’s priorities this summer transfer campaign to sign a full-back.

2) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? He has decent stats despite mostly being used as a substitute. Would you sign Jesus or prefer to pick Harry Kane?  

Both are quality players. It is difficult to choose between them as their game is very different. They bring different qualities to a team. With Douglas Costa leaving or consistently injured, we need to add a player who has the skills and technique to create something out of nothing. I think Gabriel would be a nice addition.

3) What’s your take on BVB’s Erling Haaland? Would you sign Haaland, or Mauro Icardi? Would you sign Barcelona’s Arthur or Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic? And who’d you pick from BVB’s Achraf Hakimi and Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira? 

I wanted Juve to sign Icardi before they signed Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli. That’s how much I wanted Mauro at Juve as I believe the guy is strong, still young and a proven scorer. Still, Haaland is an upgrade on Icardi with at least 8 years more in the game than the current PSG striker. I go with the young BVB man.

For Juve’s midfield, I would love to see Pogba, Rodrigo Bentancur and Arthur holding the fort and combining together. If this is not possible then I’d choose Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fondly known as SMS. He knows Serie A, is just 25-years-old and still has tremendous potential. So I am going with SMS.

For the right-back spot, I think it’s impossible at the moment but I’d go with BVB’s Hakimi- he is reportedly heading back to Real Madrid. If I must pick one position to improve then considering Higuain is leaving, we need a true 9. Out of the 6 players discussed above, and this is going to shock many since Juve’s midfield is weak but I would still invest in Haaland.

4) Will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Before the stop I was not confident at all. The Lyon game was awful and despite the quality game win against Inter, I’m not sure Juve was mentally strong enough to win.

Today it’s difficult to predict any result. France stopped Ligue 1 what means Lyon will not play any official game before the return match against Juve. It is hard to predict.

5) One team you want Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League?

Juve and the Champions League is a crazy love-hate relationship. Juve were able to beat Barcelona and Real Madrid in the knock-outs in the past few years but not in the final! Something about playing a single-match to determine the trophy winner I guess.

Juve lost to a young Ajax team last season- that’s how unpredictable this Bianconeri side is. I would for sure like to avoid Atalanta. They know Juve, they are fast and have nothing to lose. Also, it would pain me a lot to eliminate them before the final because they have been this season’s true Cinderella story in the Europe.

6) Which team would you like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Juve have lost 7 out of 9 finals. It’s not the opponent that scares me. It’s Juve and the mental barrier the squad must overcome- not just the psychological aspect for the current players but also the history of the club failing in one final after another. It’ll depend on how we enter the pitch. If we are confident enough we can beat any opponent.

Fan Zone: Elio on Nedved, Pirlo, Marchisio and of course Del Piero!

In the latest Q&A, Elio Salerno- a football writer and contributor- discusses his love affair with Italy’s Old Lady, Juventus. Elio talks in detail about legends such as Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved as well as current stars like fan favorite Paulo Dybala.

Some of his answers may surprise you but Elio methodically proceeds to explain why he made certain choices- particularly that of Blaise Matuidi. Below is the first part of the Q&A:

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players, and why?

Alessandro Del Piero – This is the obvious answer for me. Del Piero is probably the name the majority of Juve fans would choose. Watching him when I was a young boy inspired me. He is the reason I support Juve. The person and the player were truly iconic and one of a kind. Obviously, the career he had also speaks for itself.

Gianluigi Buffon – This was a close call between Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon. I really cannot separate them. However, Buffon’s longevity and ability to play through different eras of the game while staying in the conversation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers sets him apart. It is an incredible achievement. He has brought so many qualities to the club over the years on and off the pitch. He has collected a large number of trophies and showed unquestionable loyalty even during the darkest of times.

Pavel Nedved – What a player! The level of intensity and ferocity at which Nedved played were admirable. He was a winner and a fighter but also had boundless quality with not one but both feet. A creator and scorer of wonderful goals, he is a timeless player & would be at home in the modern game. The Bianconeri could do with a player of his versatility now.

2) From the current squad, name your favorite Juve player by position (DEF/MID/ATT).

DEF: Chiellini – The captain, the leader and the squad’s foundation. It is a pleasure to watch the passion he defends with. The enjoyment he takes out of thwarting attacks puts a smile on your face. As a fan, he is the example you want at the top of your squad. I say enjoy him before he retires.

MID:  Blaise Matuidi – It is not easy to pick a midfield player out of the current group but, and surprisingly so, I am going with Blaise Matuidi. I am sure very, very few fans would pick him. On face value, Blaise isn’t the type of player I’d enjoy watching. I would not even choose to have him on my team but you cannot belittle what he does and what he brings to the table. Yes he has the obvious flaws but he is arguably the only Juve midfielder who offers consistency- he isn’t going to let you down and at the moment it is undeniable that Juve are better when he is in the starting lineup.

ATT: Paulo Dybala – La Joya has been a favorite of mine from the day he arrived. Yes he has had his problems in recent seasons but his love for Juve is apparent and it is a trait we all want from our number 10. Dybala’s name in the Starting XI always bring joy to my heart. The way he controls the ball so smoothly and can change the course of a game in one magical moment is the reason why we watch football. I hope Juve can build a more complete team because Dybala has more to bring.

3) Name Juve’s most important moment in your lifetime, and why?

It has to be the first Scudetto of the current historic run- it came under Antonio Conte. After everything that happened and everything that has followed this was a pivotal moment and a welcome, much needed success. It felt like the beginning of something special and it has turned out to be the case.

4) Pick your favorite Juve match, and why?

The return leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2003. Everything about that night was perfectly scripted except for the Nedved yellow card!!! Where to start? The Delle Alpi was on fire. That Juve team, the Del Piero & Nedved goals and of course the Buffon penalty save on Luis Figo’s attempt. The game had it all.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

It has to be Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. Pirlo is unique, there won’t be another Pirlo. To watch him in full flight is football poetry. As for Marchisio, aside from what he means to Juventus and the fans, he was an underrated and superb midfield player. He was the glue in almost any midfield set-up, his versatility and ability to adapt allowed for others to shine and he was a huge asset to the coaches and the team.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Is it the right-back position or the midfield which is under constant scrutiny? 

The glaring weakness is in midfield and it has been since 2015. It is the primary area that needs addressing and needs an injection of youth and energy. Juve need midfielders who have a more complete game combined with strong physical characteristics.

Beyond that, do the full back areas need an upgrade? Yes but it isn’t a significant problem and there aren’t many great or available full backs in Europe so I would not waste time in that area unless it is to sell one who is already in the squad.

I also would add that Sarri must decide what formation he will be using going forward. Since it is obvious Sarri favors 4-3-3, I would say a creative attacker/wide player would be a welcome & important addition. A fit Douglas Costa is that player, but we all know his injury problems.

Juve must also sign a versatile striker to replace Gonzalo Higuain- someone such as Timo Werner who can play wide or centrally. Werner would allow room for Ronaldo to be Ronaldo.

7) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It is really tough for me not to say Del Piero. I can only comment on players that I have been fortunate enough to watch in my lifetime & Del Piero succeeded in every way. He has the trophies and the stats to back this up. He was a complete forward, scoring & creating goals, able to link up the game and take on defenders with a sharp turn or a piece of skill. Del Piero was strong physically and difficult to dispossess and he gave you a chance to win whenever he was on the pitch.

8) Who is the one player you would sign from Erling Haaland (STR), Arthur (MID) and Achraf Hakimi (DEF)?

That’s a tough choice. I don’t particularly have a strong feeling towards any of the three names. I would favor Haaland for the simple reason he is a player set to take Europe by storm. He has everything you would want from a modern center-forward and more importantly he knows how to find the net.

9) Juve built a strong reputation signing free agents. Who will be Juve’s next bargain signing?

I feel this is something Juve should move away from unless it really is a deal they cannot afford to pass up. These free players come with a heavy wage, older age and are not always a big enough improvement to really help the team. I would like to see Juve invest more in Italian youngsters but keep them, perhaps even allow room for players currently at the club such as Hans Caviglia, Nicolo Fagioli and Manolo Portanova.

10) What do you make of Mauro Icardi? His stats are decent despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you sign Icardi, Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane

I would go with Gabriel Jesus, for the reason I mentioned earlier with regards to versatility, a player that is not a typical 9 and can allow for Ronaldo to express himself. Harry Kane is a fantastic player, arguably the best in his role but similar to Icardi. I don’t see them at Juve whilst CR7 is still on the books- it just doesn’t make sense to me.