Man Utd: Three key battles to look out for ahead of the Everton fixture at Old Trafford

Going into gameweek 23, with the key fixture of the weekend being between Liverpool and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United have the huge opportunity of either closing the gap on the league leaders or extending their distance away from the teams below them, should they beat an Everton side that have been knocking around just below the top four spots.

The head-to-head amongst the two teams is predicted to be an aggressive and intense battle, as both sides have shown the high quality of energy, movement and work rate time after time this season. Not only that, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men head into the weekend as one of the best away teams in the league, as they have only lost on two out of ten occasions away from Goodison Park.

Meanwhile, for the Red Devils, the side’s home form in the league has been quite on and off, where they have won five games, lost four games and drawn twice. Although they are currently sitting in second place, United cannot afford to drop more points at Old Trafford, whether they want to challenge for the league or finish confidently in the top four, the form at home must be rock-solid.

With no further ado, here are the three key battles to look out for ahead of the fixture…

Marcus Rashford vs Mason Holgate

Although he has not consistently been involved in the goals and assists in recent weeks for his team, Marcus Rashford continues to look dangerous with his dribbling and movement on the ball as well as his linkup play down the left flank with Luke Shaw. Also, with his ability to roam into other areas of the pitch, he has shown great understanding of being a threat and a problem for the opposition on the right wing, an area that the side are missing the presence of a winger that is a consistent creator.

Rashford is expected to be up against Mason Holgate, who could potentially be the preferred option over Seamus Coleman at right-back, with his recovery pace and physicality being superior when compared to the latter. Despite being known for his natural abilities as a centre-back, the 24-year-old has the versatility to be utilised at right-back and even at defensive-midfield, which could prove to be more than useful for Ancelotti, as his squad tends to pick up a few injuries here and there.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Harry Maguire

Currently on the best goal-scoring form of his life, Dominic Calvert-Lewin could certainly finish the season with 20-25 league goals under his belt, should he keep his determination and hunger for goals at a high level. The forward is only one league goal away from matching his 2019/20 Premier League season of 13 league goals, showing how far he has come as a player personally and how much he has improved since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park in December 2019.

Calvert-Lewin will be in for a really intense and physical battle with Harry Maguire, who has got the better of the Everton forward on two occasions so far this campaign. The captain of Manchester United has proven to be influential individual in the backline for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, where his leadership skills, aerial prowess and composure on the ball has helped the team, even when he is not appreciated highly by everyone. On top of that, Maguire has played in every single minute of Premier League football so far this season, and is yet to miss a game through injury or suspension.

Pogba vs Abdoulaye Doucoure

After having the perfect month at a personal level and in terms of his contributions to the team, Paul Pogba is back in business and is expected to continue to show his excellence on Saturday evening after being well rested in the mid-week fixture against Southampton. With crucial goals away to Burnley and Fulham in the league as well as a dominant performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup, the Frenchman is showing to be at his best, which is perfect news for all parties at the club.

On the other hand, for Everton, Abdoulaye Doucoure will be looking to play in the double pivot alongside Andre Gomes, where he will be hoping to nullify the threat that the Manchester United midfield pose through Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Along with his defensive duties and the shift he will be putting in for the team, the side will look to breakthrough and attack through the midfielder himself, as he has shown his ability to dribble and take on two-three players with ease.

Locatelli, Pogba, and the midfielders Juventus should be targeting

Juventus may be coming off a triumph in the Italian Supercup, but the Italian champions are in serious danger of relinquishing their stranglehold over Serie A. Milan and Inter have run away with it in the first half of the season, with the Bianconeri trailing Stefano Pioli’s side by 10 points already. As the second half of the season approaches, Juve’s midfield woes have become more apparent.

Manuel Locatelli has been heavily linked with a move to Turin, reuniting him with his idol Andrea Pirlo. The Sassuolo midfielder has taken Italian football by storm this season, establishing himself as one of the league’s elite deep-lying playmakers. In many ways, Locatelli is exactly the type of profile Juventus lack in the middle of the park. Comfortable in possession, the Italian international would be a significant upgrade on Rodrigo Bentancur and could slot in nicely next to Arthur. His 40M euro price-tag will seem like a bargain in 2 years time.

Beyond Locatelli, Juventus is reportedly interested in a sensational swoop for Paul Pogba. Mino Raiola – the Frenchman’s agent – sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world when he claimed his client was on the market come the summertime. Pogba allegedly would appreciate a move back to Italy, where he has played the best football of his career. The major stumbling block, however, is his pricetag as he won’t come cheap. Manchester United will, at the very least, be seeking to break even on the midfielder, demanding well over 100 million euros.

Other than the increased price-tag, it will be interesting to see where the World Cup winner would slot in Pirlo’s system. Pogba does not thrive in a double pivot and may just be an awkward fit between the lines alla Aaron Ramsey. Juve should think twice before pulling the trigger and ask themselves whether they have what it takes to accomadate the French international.

If finances are tight, Juve can always shift its focus to Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul. The Argentine midfielder is crying out for a move to a bigger club and is more than ready for the step up. De Paul is arguably the best fit for Pirlo’s Juve, given his ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker or roam between the lines. The Udinese man would walk directly into Juve’s starting 11, usurping Aaron Ramsey in the trequartista role. De Paul boasts an impressive engine and is versatile enough for Pirlo’s hybrid 4-4-2/3-5-2 formation.

The final option for the Bianconeri is Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. Juventus has been heavily linked with a move for the French midfielder in the past and could just return for him this summer. A dynamic midfielder by trade, Aouar has all the tools to emerge as a bonafide creative threat for Pirlo’s Juve. At just 22 years old, the midfielder has his entire career ahead of him and would make for an excellent fit in Turin. Aouar thrives when tasked with linking up the midfield and the attack and has even shown he can play in a double pivot.

Fabio Paratici often says it is incredibly difficult to improve on Juve’s current roster, but the reality is, any of these midfielders would become starters in the side’s current setup. While a Pogba reunion may steal the headlines, Locatelli and De Paul are arguably the better fits and would come cheaper. Given Juve’s working relationship with Sassuolo and Udinese, the Italian champions can negotiate a crafty deal for both midfielders, without sacrificing the club’s finances. Aouar remains an interesting option should either midfielder become unavailable, but the next step for Juve is ridding itself of its deadwood.

Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot, and Rodrigo Bentancur have all shown glimpses of their potential, but are the furthest thing from consistent. Only once these midfielders are sold can Juve begin dreaming of De Paul and Locatelli.

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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.