Why a return to a back three makes sense for Juventus

Juventus took the controversial decision to sack Maurizio Sarri and replace him with the relatively unproven Andrea Pirlo this past summer, after a disappointing season. The Bianconeri may have retained their Scudetto, but ultimately fell short against Lyon in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

Sarri was a firm believer in his preferred 4-3-3 and rarely budged from his playing philosophy, despite his side’s lackluster play. While not much is known about Pirlo’s coaching style or formation, all signs are pointing to some form of a return to a back three. Media outlets have speculated that Pirlo will deploy a back three in possession, which will later transform into a back four when they lose the ball.

As of right now, this is Juve’s reported XI going into their season opener against Sampdoria:

Szczęsny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot, Pellegrini; Kulusevski, Ronaldo.

In theory, Pellegrini would drop at left back when Juventus lose the ball, with the remaining midfielders forming a bank of four ahead of their backline. Matthijs de Ligt’s return would hand the Bianconeri a huge boost, as well, while Merih Demiral will slowly be eased into action following his injury.

The back three ensures Pirlo gets the most out of Bonucci and Chiellini, who have thrived in this system before while giving de Ligt and Demiral the license to get forward in possession. Danilo struggled last season, but could benefit from a deeper role, as the Brazilian will no longer be tasked with contributing offensively.

Beyond the back three, this formation offers a crafty solution to Juve’s fullback conundrum. The Italian champions simply do not have the quality out wide to compete with Europe’s elite, but the 3-5-2 helps remedy this. Cuadrado has typically excelled in this position, while Luca Pellegrini will be raring to go on Sunday. The former Cagliari man will be looking to make the most of Alex Sandro’s recent setback and cement himself as Juve’s starting leftback. Pellegrini has demonstrated he can get forward with ease and with Chiellini behind him, he will have all the guidance he needs in his defensive third.

Federico Bernardeschi and Alex Sandro are two players who will be hoping to get their careers back on track after mediocre seasons and the 3-5-2 could just revitalize the duo. The former has experience in this setup during his time at Fiorentina, while Sandro was at his very best as a wingback under Conte.

The midfield is where it gets interesting for Pirlo. As of right now, Rodrigo Bentancur, Arthur, and Adrien Rabiot are his preferred trio, but Juve’s latest signing Weston McKennie is worth monitoring. Arthur will reportedly start as the side’s regista after convincing Pirlo in training and will largely be tasked with dictating play. Rabiot, on the other hand, finished the season in exceptional form and will be eager to hit the ground running once more.

The biggest question mark, however, remains Bentancur. The Uruguayan international has played his best football at the base of the midfield, but Arthur is currently the preferred man there. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see Pirlo juggle the two and potentially introduce McKennie into the fold for one of them.

Up front, Ronaldo and Dybala enter the season at the preferred duo, but the latter’s latest injury will hand Dejan Kulusevski a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the eleven. The Swedish international has emerged as one of the league’s brightest young talents and could force Pirlo’s hand with a strong start. As Kulusevski gains familiarity in his system, the rookie tactician may just be forced to deploy a three-man attack to accommodate him alongside Dybala and Ronaldo.

Given his propensity to work hard without the ball, a 3-4-3 with Kulusevski tracking back, similar to Gian Piero Gasperini’s system, is not entirely out of the question. Edin Dzeko’s reported move to Juve will also prove crucial, as the Bosnian international offers a much-needed physical and creative presence in the final third.

If last season showed us anything, it’s that tactical rigidity got Juve nowhere. The Bianconeri played mediocre football and struggled to create chances. Pirlo’s appointment is by no means a sure thing, but at the very least, the rookie tactician is ready to experiment, starting with their opener against Sampdoria.

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Edin Dzeko represents best fit for Juventus

Juventus has been linked with a move for a new number nine all summer and is reportedly closing in on Roma’s Edin Dzeko. The Italian champions have previously been linked with Luis Suarez and Olivier Giroud, but the Bosnian international has since emerged as the favorite. His arrival will see Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik make the move to Roma, with Dzeko signing with Juve.

The Bianconeri may have been linked with a number of strikers over the past summer, but Dzeko is arguably the best fit for Andrea Pirlo. Juventus has lacked a dominant number nine, capable of imposing himself in the final third and struggled with Gonzalo Higuain spearheading the attack. Cristiano Ronaldo thrived with Mario Mandzukic alongside him in his first season and will be hoping to strike a similar partnership with Dzeko. His 16 million euro price-tag may be a lot for a player on the wrong side of thirty, but the striker still has a lot left to give.

The Roma man offers a towering penalty box presence, much like Mandzukic, but is equally capable of creating chances himself. Last season, Dzeko registered 16 goals and added an impressive 11 assists, highlighting his well-rounded nature. In this sense, he’s unlike any striker Juve have had in recent years.

While Pirlo’s preferred formation remains unclear, Dzeko has all the qualities to complement the likes of Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski. Whether the rookie tactician deploys a 3-5-2 and fields Dzeko in a two-striker setup, or tasks the Bosnian with leading the line himself, the Roma man will slot in seamlessly.

In many ways, Dzeko represents the best stop-gap option for Juve, given the current options. The Roma hitman will reportedly join on a two-year deal worth 7.5 million euros per season. His salary may be hefty, but given the short-term nature of the contract, Dzeko won’t hold up too much of Juve’s wage bill.

Suarez, by contrast, was reportedly ready to ink a three-year contract worth 10 million euros per season. The Barcelona striker is a proven goalscorer but investing 30 million euros in Suarez would be incredibly short-sighted. Juventus has struggled to rid themselves of their deadwood in recent times and has found it difficult to part ways with their declining players. Had it not been for Inter Miami, the Bianconeri essentially had no suitors for Higuain and would have struggled to move him on, beyond a potential buyout.

Dzeko, on the other hand,  has another year of quality football in his legs if last season was anything to go by, and could play a subdued role in the final year of his deal. In addition, Dzeko’s skill-set is constantly evolving and has since established himself as one of the league’s best creators in the final third. Even if the goals begin to dry up next year, Dzeko can still contribute significantly in the final third. Juventus lacked a creative outlet at times last season, relying heavily on Dybala to get things going.

The Argentine international dropped deep into midfield regularly, leaving a gap up front. As a result, opposition defenses focused much of their attention on Ronaldo and stifled the Bianconeri easily with a deep block. Dzeko will not only provide an impressive passing range but will also attract attention from the opposing center-backs, giving Dybala and Ronaldo to license to roam dangerously.

Dejan Kulusevski is another player worth monitoring in this respect and will thrive with Dzeko as his target. The former Parma man excelled last season with Gli Crociati and will be looking to take the next step this season with Juve. Dzeko’s arrival rounds off Juventus’s offensive acquisitions for this summer and offers Pirlo yet another weapon to shake things up in the final third. Last season, the Bianconeri fell short at crucial moments and looked toothless in the return leg against Lyon. Dzeko’s signing may come as a surprise, but make no mistake about it: Of all the reported options, the Roma man is the best fit.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round One

Bologna: Gary Medel is suspended and is also recovering from a grade one strain in the semimembranosus muscle on the right thigh, therefore he could miss week two as well.

Cagliari: Luca Ceppitelli, Filip Bradaric and Kiril Despodov are quarantining after catching COVID-19 in late August. Gaston Pereiro suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in the right foot about two weeks ago and he has a 45-day timetable. Alessandro Deiola is recovering from a clean-up surgery on the right knee he had during his time at Lecce. Continue reading

Dejan Kulusevski ready to hit the ground running at Juventus

Juventus has been linked with a plethora of attacking players in recent times as the new season approaches. Andrea Pirlo has reportedly put a new number nine on top of his transfer list, indicating he’s eager to shake up the Bianconeri’s stuttering frontline. The Italian champions relied heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala in the final third, with the duo combining for over 50 per cent of Juve’s goals in all competitions last season. While their pursuit of a striker rages on, it is a January signing that will arguably have the biggest impact.

When Juve splashed 35 million euros on Dejan Kulusevski this winter, many were left wondering who exactly the 20-year-old is. After all, he had only six months of regular first-team football under his belt with Parma and despite his impressive performances, Kulusevski was relatively unproven.

The Swedish international has now joined Juventus officially and will slot in wonderfully in Pirlo’s new-look front three. Kulusevski established himself as a creative force while on loan at Parma, breaking onto the scene as one of the league’s deadliest counter-attacking threats. The former Parma man initially came through Atalanta’s youth ranks as a creative midfielder and largely featured as a trequartista.

Due to his incredible turn of pace, however, Roberto D’Aversa deployed him on the right-wing. Kulusevski slotted in seamless from a wide position and regularly drifted in centrally, in a free-roam role. At Juventus, the 20-year-old will arguably occupy a similar role and will have ample opportunities to make the right-winger role his own. Douglas Costa has struggled with injuries since joining from Bayern Munich and has simply not looked like a good fit with Ronaldo and Dybala. Bernardeschi, by contrast, failed to make an impact when called upon and will mostly act as attacking depth.

Kulusevski’s vision and wide range of passing will ensure he fits right in alongside Juve’s high-powered front three in a complementary position. The former Parma man is unselfish out of possession and has proven to be a willing runner, as well and will need to bring those qualities to the fore next season. While not much is known about Pirlo’s coaching philosophy, the rookie tactician indicated he wants his side to win the ball back as quickly as possible and press the opposition high. In this sense, Kulusevski is an ideal fit up front and could offer some much-needed defensive cover to Cuadrado when needed.

Another aspect working in Kulusevski’s favour is his impressive versatility. Beyond playing on the wing, the Swedish international has already played significant minutes in middle of the park, be it as a mezz’ala or as a trequartista. Juventus has had issues in the midfield for the better part of three years now and could deploy him on the outside of a midfield three. Given Juventus will be competing on many fronts, Kulusevski may feature in various positions depending on what Pirlo is looking for.

While there are more questions than answers going into the new season for Juve, Kulusevski is one of the few certainties. The former Parma man has demonstrated he’s more than a simple flash in the pan and will be eager to translate that form to a big club. In many ways, Kulusevski will be hoping to follow Dybala’s career path rather than Bernadeschi’s and emerge as a key man for Pirlo. Given the ongoing pandemic and the shortened transfer window, Kulusevski’s signing has fallen off the radar, but make no mistake about it: The 20-year-old is more than ready to hit the ground running in Turin and has all the tools to establish himself as Juve’s X factor in the final third.

Beyond his

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Pirlo heavily experimenting in the early days of his Juventus tenure

When Andrea Pirlo was hired by Juventus, not much was known about his coaching philosophy, let alone his preferred formation. The rookie manager is yet to submit his final thesis to Coverciano and will be doing so in October to receive his UEFA badge. As a result, many Italian outlets have speculated heavily about Pirlo’s preferred setup, based on his first training sessions.

Let’s take a look at the different options.

1) (3-5-2/3-4-1-2): Woj; De Ligt/Danilo, Bonucci/Rugani, Demiral/Chiellini; Cuadrado/Bernardeschi, Bentancur/McKennie, Arthur, Kulusevski/Rabiot, Alex Sandro; Dybala, Ronaldo. 

It’s been recently reported that Pirlo is looking to introduce a back three to Juve, a formation he enjoyed plenty of success in during his playing days. The former Milan man is already familiar with the inner workings of the formation and will be eager to impart his knowledge on his new side.

At the back, there are no real surprises with De Ligt, Bonucci, Chiellini, Demiral and Rugani occupying the central positions. Danilo has reportedly been training as a right center-back in recent sessions, indicating a position switch may be on the cards for the Brazilian. In many ways, the deeper role would suit him as the former Manchester City man struggles when tasked with getting forward.

Out wide, Alex Sandro and Cuadrado will arguably start, but Federico Bernardeschi’s progression is worth monitoring. Pirlo is said to be grooming him for the left wingback position, but ultimately, he can feature on either side. The former Fiorentina man played his best football from the right-hand side of a 3-5-2 and will look to get his career back on track under Pirlo.

In the midfield, Arthur is expected to start as Pirlo’s regista with two of Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, and the newly-arrived Weston McKennie. When Pirlo’s looking to shake things up and get a more offensive outlook on the game, he can also introduce Dejan Kulusevski in a trequartista role behind the front two. The Swedish international thrived as Parma’s creative outlet this season and will undoubtedly emerge as a key man under Pirlo.

The front two of Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo will round off the side and will be eager to build on their budding partnership. La Joya has been at his best in this formation in the past, linking up to devastating effect with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The persisting links to Edin Dzeko and Moise Kean should come as no surprise, as either would slot in wonderfully in a front two and would offer some much-needed depth.

In many ways, this reported 3-5-2 would get the most of Pirlo’s current squad and help the Bianconeri’s stuttering players turn their fortunes around.

2) (4-3-1-2): Woj; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot; Kulusevski; Dybala, Ronaldo. 

The main difference here is essentially the back four but is ultimately very similar to the 3-5-2. Dybala and Ronaldo would maintain their spots up front with Kulusevski roaming dangerously behind them. With this setup, Pirlo ensures his front three are in their best positions and could open up any opposition.

The midfield is where the main difference lies with one of Rabiot or Bentancur coming in for one of the center-backs from the back three. While this formation is intriguing from an offensive perspective, it stretches Juve’s depth pretty thin and does not give Pirlo much flexibility off the bench to shake things up. McKennie and Bernardeschi could help in this respect, but the Bianconeri would still need a few reinforcements from the summer mercato – notably a striker or two.

The final option for Pirlo is to deploy a 4-3-3 with any combination of Ronaldo, Dybala, Kulusevski, and Douglas Costa as his front three. The Brazilian, however, appears to be on the outs in Turin, after struggling with recurring injuries since arriving from Bayern Munich. The back four and midfield would remain unchanged from the 4-3-1-2 and is arguably the best formation for Juve’s star man, Ronaldo.

As the season approaches, it will be interesting to see what Pirlo has in store for his Juventus side. As of right now, the Juventus faithful are venturing into the unknown with Pirlo and will get their answers shortly as pre-season approaches.

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Three Question Marks For Andrea Pirlo

When Juventus announced the decision to sack Maurizio Sarri, few expected the Italian champions to appoint Andrea Pirlo. The former midfielder was just hired to lead their U23 side and is yet to complete his coaching licenses at Coverciano. In many ways, Juve’s decision to fast-track Pirlo into the first team seemed like desperation more than anything. Regardless, the World Cup winner will be eager to hit the ground running in Turin and propel the Bianconeri to new heights.

After crashing out in the Round of 16 against Lyon, more questions than answers were raised about Juventus and their current squad. Here are three things Pirlo will have to adjust immediately if he wants to get his coaching career off on the right foot.

1) Number Nine Conundrum. 

In attack, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala are set starters. The duo was responsible for over half of their goals in Serie A this season and netted 50% of Juve’s goals in the Champions League. Moving forward, Pirlo will not want to be so reliant on Dybala and Ronaldo. Due to this, the Bianconeri are still in the market for a more physical presence in the final third to help them lead the line. Mario Mandzukic’s departure has left a gaping hole upfront; one which Higuain simply can no longer fill. Juventus have since been linked with Napoli’s Arkadisuz Milik, Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, and Luis Suarez among others.

With Gonzalo Higuain’s future looking further and further away from the club, Pirlo will need an alternative to Dybala and Ronaldo off the bench. Parma loanee Dejan Kulusevski will undoubtedly help in this respect, but Juve’s offensive depth still leaves a lot to be desired at the moment. Considering Douglas Costa’s injury proneness and Bernardeschi’s lack of end product, the number nine position is of serious importance.

Mercato suggestion: Alexander Isak.

2) Who joins Bentancur and Arthur in the midfield? 

Much like Juventus’ attack, their midfield lacks one final piece. Rodrigo Bentancur stepped up admirably this season and despite slowing down late in the year, the Uruguayan will definitely be important in the middle of the park for Pirlo. Then, of course, there’s Arthur. The Brazilian was brought in a swap deal for Miralem Pjanic and has all the tools to become a set starter under Pirlo. Arthur has proven to be a great progressor of the ball and has all the qualities to slot in wonderfully alongside Bentancur; which leaves the third and final midfield spot.

The candidates: Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, Mr. X.

Well, Blaise Matuidi is off to enjoy the sun in Miami while Sami Khedira’s contract will be terminated shortly. This leaves last summer’s arrivals Rabiot and Ramsey. The former finished the season strongly and as of right now, should be favored to the Welshman. Ramsey has failed to get going since joining and battled injuries all season. While Sarri’s system demands rigidity, not much is known about Pirlo’s tactics. Regardless, it’s safe to say Juve’s midfielders will enjoy more freedom both in and out of possession, something that will definitely help Ramsey.

Lastly, Juve could bring in another midfielder. Pirlo is reportedly keen on adding a more creative midfielder to his ranks. The Bianconeri have been linked with Rodrigo De Paul and Luis Alberto in recent times, two midfielders who would definitely come in and start right away.

3) Out with the old, in with the new? 

The last debate for Pirlo will be whether he will look to revolutionize Juve’s rearguard or not. Matthijs de Ligt will surely play a key role while Leonardo Bonucci offers some much-needed experience and familiarity. However, Merih Demiral has proven he’s ready to seize any opportunities and has the talent to displace Bonucci. In fact, it wouldn’t be implausible to see the Turkish international start alongside de Ligt.

At fullback, Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado go into the new season as favorites to start. As the new season approaches, it will be interesting to see if Pirlo will call upon Pellegrini at leftback. The young Italian has shown glimpses of his talent and is ready to challenge Sandro out left. At rightback, there’s no denying Juve desperately needs to bolster their ranks and could very well sign a player before the new season.

In any case, Pirlo will oversee a potential revolution and will have tough decisions to make.

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Paulo Dybala is Juve’s MVP

It caused quite a stir this week when Juventus’ Paulo Dybala was named as Serie A’s MVP for the 2019/20 season. Many argued that Papu Gomez, pivotal to Atalanta’s on going fairy-tale story, should’ve been the correct recipient of the award for another brilliant season in which he provided 16 assists in 36 league games for La Dea.

Of course a large contingent of Cristiano Ronaldo fans flooded social media bemoaning the league’s decision to hand the award to his Juve teammate and not to the Portuguese striker, pointing out how his 31 goals in Serie A effectively sealed the club’s latest title in their streak of unbroken dominance.

Whilst there is an element of truth to those claims, there can be little argument that in a season of uncertainty for new coach Maurizio Sarri, Dybala has unquestionably been the one constant throughout. The Argentine was Juve’s MVP this season, which makes it all the more startling considering how Dybala started it.

The club made little attempt to disguise the fact that they intended to sell Dybala last summer. Juve shopped him around the biggest clubs in Europe, hoping to balance the books and layoff some of the expenditure involved in the Ronaldo deal from the prior summer. A transfer to the Premier League seemed closest, with Manchester United and Tottenham interested. Rumours circulated that Juve were demanding in the region of €70-80m.

However Dybala put the brakes on any potential move. Despite Juve’s apparent desire to offload him, he was happy in Turin, and refused any offer that was forthcoming. “I have not experienced an easy summer,” he told Tuttosport last August. “Obviously hearing your name with every team you don’t want to go to is not a nice thing, but this is football. But I wanted to stay here, I wanted to continue my career at Juventus.”

Despite hoping Dybala would stay, Sarri struggled to implement the 26-year-old into his starting XI in the earliest parts of the season. He was left unused in two of the opening three league games of the season, and got a mere 14 minutes in the encounter against Napoli. It seemed like in Sarri’s 4-3-3 system, there was no room at the inn.

However Dybala became the beneficiary of Douglas Costa’s fragile limbs, and was slowly integrated back into the starting XI in the aftermath of the Brazilian’s injury against Fiorentina. A first goal of the season arrived in the Derby d’Italia in early October – a scorcher that gave Samir Handanovic little chance – and Dybala never looked back.

With Sarri attempting to overhaul Juve’s style of play from his more pragmatic predecessors Antonio Conte and Max Allegri, their performances were often stodgy, lacking in rhythm and dynamism. Games were often won through moments of individual brilliance from Dybala or Ronaldo. A case in point was the game against Milan in mid-November, when Dybala made a mockery of Alessio Romagnoli on the edge of the penalty box before sliding the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma to seal a 1-0 victory over the Rossoneri.

As is always the case against the perpetual champions in Serie A, teams would entrench themselves in their own half of the field and invite untold pressure. With Ronaldo usually operating on the left hand side or on the periphery of the opposition’s box and often double-marked, Dybala would therefore float between the right and central positions, searching for minute pockets of space to manoeuvre in. Like all great Argentine No.10s, his low centre of gravity made all the difference when faced with a wall of opposing defenders.

Dybala was the biggest casualty of Ronaldo’s arrival in Turin, in 2018/19 he posted his worst stats since arriving at the club: 10 goals and two assists from 42 games in all competitions represented a personal nadir. Allegri struggled to accommodate Dybala and Ronaldo in the same starting XI, and there is a belief that relations were so poor between Allegri and Dybala towards the end of last season that had the former stayed at the club, the latter might’ve moved on.

This season however, Dybala has personally contributed to 31 of Juve’s goals in all competitions, and such has been his elevation in importance to the side that the club is sweating on his physical status ahead of tonight’s crucial Champions League Round of 16 second leg against Lyon.

“I love his way of playing,” new signing Dejan Kulusevski told Tuttosport in a recent interview. “He invents magic that is usually only seen on the PlayStation.”

As the club aim to end their prolonged agony of winning the Champions League for the first time since 1996, Sarri will hope that Serie A’s newly-crowned MVP still has more magic tucked up his sleeve.

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Three Takeaways From Sarri’s First Season At Juventus

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

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

1) Individual brilliance reigns supreme. 

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

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

2) Shaky defense responsible for dropped points. 

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

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

3) Juventus need to cut their deadwood. 

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

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

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

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Dejan Kulusevski taking Serie A by storm

When Juventus spent nearly 40 million euros on Dejan Kulusevski, many were left scratching their heads in the January transfer window. The Swedish international had only just broken onto the scene at the Ennio Tardini with Parma and was only just starting to make a name for himself. Today, Juve’s move for Kulusevski looks to be the bargain of the summer, with the Parma forward emerging as one of the league’s elite talents.

Kulusevski has been in fine form in recent weeks, netting three goals and one assist in his last three games. The Parma man has come back from the halt in play in phenomenal shape and has since established himself as a true counterattacking force. Kulusevski’s recent goal brought him to 10 strikes on the season, becoming the first foreign player under the age of 21 to reach double figures for goals in a Serie A season since Mauro Icardi and Erik Lamela in 2013.

As a big-money move to Juventus beckons, Kulusevski will be eager to take the next step in his career and offer some much-needed creativity and unpredictability in the final third in Turin. Maurizio Sarri’s first season in charge hasn’t exactly gone to plan with the Bianconeri stumbling to their ninth consecutive title.

Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo have demonstrated signs of a budding partnership since the restart but lack a winger to tie it all together. In many ways, Kulusevski fits the bill. The Parma man is capable of playing anywhere across the front three and will slot in seamless on the right-wing alongside Dybala and Ronaldo. Recent reports suggest Juventus are considering playing Kulusevski as the side’s number ten but that would warrant a formation change.

Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi have both been given opportunities to make the right-wing spot their own, but for whatever reason, have not been able to cement their place in the starting eleven. The latter netted his first goal in Serie A in two years highlighting his inconsistency while the Brazilian is constantly battling injury problems. In this sense, the right-wing spot is there for the taking next season.

Kulusevski regularly looks to take on his man and is unafraid to drive at the opposition’s defense in possession. While Roberto D’Aversa’s counter-attacking football suits his pace, it will be interesting to see the Swede in Juve’s measured buildup play. The 20-year-old starts from a wide area but often drifts centrally to collect possession. Few players in Italy possess a better final ball than Kulusevski, with the winger trailing only Luis Alberto, Papu Gomez and Lorenzo Pellegrini for most assists this season.

Next season, Kulusevski will need to adjust quickly to life in Turin and will be hoping to form a deadly partnership with Dybala and Ronaldo. The Swedish international is at his best combining in tight spaces and fits Sarri’s playing philosophy. Sarriball may not have taken off this season, but the addition of Kulusevski will definitely help in that respect.

As the season draws to a close, Juventus will be monitoring Kulusevski’s progress closely and will be hoping to integrate him into their starting eleven upon his arrival. Whether he can translate his impressive form with Parma to a big club remains to be seen, but at the moment, Kulusevski is on the right path to stardom.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 36

BOLOGNA-LECCE

Bologna: they stayed in the game until the end but they could not perforate Atalanta’s defence and, result-wise, they have been on a pretty steep downward trajectory. They could use some offensive help because Musa Barrow and Roberto Soriano have been the only ones producing in the last month, since Riccardo Orsolini’s effectiveness has abated, Nicola Sansone has not been great all season long and Rodrigo Palacio, while being a tactical weapon, is not very prolific. Deploying Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen has not changed things and they also lost one of their most trusted contributors in Takehiro Tomiyasu. However, the match-up could help their attackers get off their schneid.

Suggested picks: Barrow, Soriano, Orsolini. Continue reading