Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

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Juventus Top Performers – Round 21

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A very sloppy and uninspired Juventus still managed to come away with a win against Lazio despite being severely outplayed for the first hour of the game. Here are the top performers in each position.

Joao Cancelo (4 points): undoubtedly the man of the match for the Bianconeri. He put his fingertips all over both goals, slotting the first home on a rebound and drawing a penalty with a terrific cut. He was deployed as right winger when the Old Lady was looking to push and the move could have looked like a head-scratched, but that position simply unleashed all his offensive prowess and he looked like consummate attacker in both the key actions. Continue reading

Is Aaron Ramsey Juventus’ Missing Piece?

Earlier this month it was announced that Juventus secured Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer at the end of the season. The Welshman’s arrival isn’t the bianconeri’s first bosman dealing, and has come to be a defining feature of the club on the transfer market in recent times. In the past, Juventus signed the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Kingsley Coman, Paul Pogba  and most recently Emre Can among others.

While in the past these transfers helped the Italian giants boost their depth, Ramsey’s signing represents something entirely different. This time around, Juventus are turning to Ramsey to complete their midfield ranks and to give them some much needed creativity and drive from deep. But does the 28-year-old fit the bill?

Since breaking onto the scene with Arsenal, a defining characteristic of Ramsey’s game has been his ability to get forward and create space for himself in the opposition’s box. Last season, the player made the most of his chances in close and registered seven goals and eight assists. Juventus are expecting him to bring this aspect of his game to Turin and take some creative burden off Miralem Pjanic in the midfield. You could even argue Juventus haven’t had a player with Ramsey’s characteristics since Pogba. As of right now, Allegri’s side don’t have a single midfielder with more than two goals, and could use some production from deep.

In Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur, the bianconeri have two deep-lying playmakers with a pass-first mentality. In Matuidi and Can, Allegri finds the defensive responsibility he seeks without compromising his team’s balance. With Sami Khedira’s output dropping significantly, it’s normal Juventus are in the market for a progressive midfielder; someone to pick up the slack and drive the team forward in tight affairs. Ramsey is different to what Juventus already have, and will act as an ideal foil alongside Pjanic and Matuidi.

Capable of playing anywhere down the middle, Ramsey’s versatility will undoubtedly be a welcomed addition in Allegri’s setup. However, expect him to make the mezz’ala spot – outside of the midfield three – his own rather quickly upon his arrival. With Pjanic pulling the strings from deep and Matuidi doing much of the dirty work, Ramsey will have the freedom he seeks to push forward.

While the Welsh international, at times, has held onto the ball for too long, expect this to change quickly in Juventus’ extremely structured setup. Simply put, he won’t be afforded minutes if this persists. That being said, over the years the bianconeri have demonstrated an uncanny ability to iron out a player’s weaknesses and quickly turn them into strengths.

Despite arriving on a free transfer, Ramsey is expected to make around £300,000-a-week; a wage typically given to top players. Moreover, his salary indicates that he’s likely going to be Juventus’ only midfield reinforcement in the upcoming summer as it would simply be unfeasible to commit similar money to another player. Given his increased wage and Juventus’ desire to get the deal done as quickly as possible, it highlights the club’s belief in the player.

Over his Arsenal career, Ramsey has polarized opinion, especially in his early days, but has since established himself as a fan favourite. At Juventus, the 28-year-old will be armed with both the proper coaching, a clear system and the teammates to take his game to the next level, competing for Europe’s top honours in the process. This on its own should motivate Ramsey to succeed and hit the ground running upon his arrival.

Juventus are putting many of their eggs in one basket with this investment, but Ramsey will prove to be the midfielder the club are missing. For one, he’s got all the characteristics they’re looking for and have lacked since Khedira’s drop. Secondly, considering Juventus’ rigorous system, Ramsey’s job will be clear. While this signing has all the makings of a good one, only time will tell if Ramsey will be the man to finally solve Juventus’ midfield conundrum.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 20

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Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available.  Continue reading

Mandzukic gets hurt, Bentancur talks and Ronaldo case update

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Mario Mandzukic suffered a thigh flexor injury yesterday and will be further evaluated in the next few days: he is in jeopardy of missing for the next two games against Bologna in Coppa Italia and Milan in Supercoppa. Coach Massimiliano Allegri should provide an update in the next presser.

The upcoming Serie A match against Chievo has been slightly postponed and will kick-off at 8.30 pm, rather than at 7 pm, because the fixture in the late spot, Genoa-Milan, has been moved to 3 pm for public order reasons. Continue reading

Supercoppa protests and Bentancur opens up

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The fact that the Supercoppa will be played in Saudi Arabia is causing some political protests in Italy, stoked by the mishap of selling tickets to women only in some selected areas. The League has defended the profitable decision to hold the game in Jeddah, citing the country’s overall foreign policy, but some parties are asking the teams to boycott it. Today there will be a sit-in in favour of women’s rights in front of Juventus headquarters.

Rodrigo Bentancur talked to DAZN prior to the most recent stretch of games, talking about the move to Turin and his time in Italy: “When they told me there was the chance to come to Juventus, I panicked. I was happy, but also frightened. I was worried about transferring to another country, leaving my family, learning the language.” Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 19

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Medhi Benatia missed the last game, but they will be available to play. Federico Bernardeschi has been called up after missing time with a thigh pull. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended. Juan Cuadrado underwent knee surgery and could be on the shelf for three months. 

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly were handed two-game bans. Marek Hamsik subbed off against Inter due to a thigh injury and will try to recover for the first game of 2019. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 17

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Juventus withstood Roma’s second half push and came away with yet another win mostly built thanks to a dominant first half, even though they were unable to seal the game.

Mattia De Sciglio (7 points): his growth has been visible, not only compared to his last days at Milan, when he looked lost, but also from last year. A real resurgence. At times in his two seasons at the club he was handpicked in some matches because he was a more defensive option than the alternatives, which is surely true, but, with Joao Cancelo out and the starting job on lockdown for the next few games, his confidence is skyrocketing and it shows when he attacks. In this one, he capped his recent satisfactory run with a majestic lefty cross for Mario Mandzukic, where he really looked like his Portuguese teammate. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 17

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Juan Musso: Udinese have been sturdy since Davide Nicola took over and conceded multiple goals only to Atalanta. This week, they will be facing a Frosinone team that has failed to score in the last three road games. The goalkeeper has been trustworthy so far.

Kalidou Koulibaly: the Napoli back-line is improving and have managed to keep three clean sheets in the last four games. They will host SPAL on Saturday, which have had troubles in away fixtures so far. He has been dominating opponents with his physicality recently. Any Azzurri defender is worth considering.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury Report – Round 16

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Juventus: Joao Cancelo has a torn meniscus and will return after the break. Juan Cuadrado hyperextended his knee against Young Boys and he will not play in the weekend, while Medhi Benatia (knee soreness) has recovered. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended, Sami Khedira will not come back from his ankle injury. Andrea Barzagli is out with a quad strain.

Napoli: Mario Rui subbed off against Liverpool due to a muscular injury that has yet to be evaluated, while Simone Verdi should make the squad list after being on the mend for a good chunk due to a pair of injury, the latest being an ankle sprain. Continue reading