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Juventus FC 2016-17 Midseason Review

January 5, 2017

With the Christmas break now upon us, I felt like it was the perfect time to create a detailed review of our season thus far. This is my first article for Juvefc.com, and I hope that there will be more, so I definitely appreciate anyone reading this and providing some input on what they think, and also to give me feedback regarding any areas I can improve on. You can follow me on Twitter here.

After a summer of tremendous spending, where the purchases of Gonzalo Higuaín, Miralem Pjanic, and Marko Pjaca resulted in a net expenditure of around €150 million, this was a wonderful time to be a Juventus fan. Additionally, the signings of Juan Cuadrado and Mehdi Benatia on loan, as well as the free agent acquisition of Dani Alves completed the influx of quality players into the club. These purchases were balanced by the departures of Pereyra, Zaza, and of course Paul Pogba to the Premier League, with Morata also heading back to Real Madrid upon the completion of his glorified loan deal. Simone Padoin, the legend himself, as well as a few other squad rotation players were shipped out to lower level clubs to complete the summer overhaul. By taking arguably the best player on each of our main rivals’ team in Higuaín and Pjanic, and for the short time before Pogba’s damning silence was finally broken, Juventus had a starting XI that no other player in Serie A would be able to find a place in. This XI was backed by enough bench strength to create an entirely different XI which would hypothetically be pushing for a top 3 finish in the league. With the eventual departure of our ex “No. 10” for a fee of €105 million, we were still left with a vastly improved squad on paper (with no net loss), capable of easily dismissing all domestic challengers, and pushing ourselves into the bracket alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich as the true superpowers of world football. It hasn’t worked out that way just yet.

 

The men tasked with helping us reach Champions League glory.

The season’s opening fixture came against Fiorentina at home, where we took the lead shortly before halftime through Sami Khedira’s glancing header. Following that opening goal, for some inexplicable reason we dropped off far too much and allowed Fiorentina a route back into the game, and they eventually grabbed the equalizer. This frustrating response after taking the lead has not left our game since. A poacher’s finish from €90 million, record breaking, substitute Higuaín, who at the time was dubbed the “World’s Heaviest Footballer” restored normality and Juventus ended up winning 2-1. The following week, Khedira continued with providing his best Arturo Vidal impression and scored the lone goal from midfield against Lazio at the Olimpico. This was by no means a breathtaking start to the season, and there was a noticeable lack of fluidity in the midfield. However, it was attributed to the fact that “Il Principino” Claudio Marchisio had not recovered from his long-term injury at the time, and Pjanic was also still unavailable due to a slight knock. Regardless of the performances, we were a full 6 points ahead of where we were at the same stage last season, and with key players returning from injury, there were enough reasons to remain optimistic for the times ahead.

That optimism was fully realized in our 3rd game of the season, playing Sassuolo at home after the international break. Within half an hour, Juventus attained a 3 goal cushion over their opponents, with Higuaín scoring two exceptional goals, and Pjanic fittingly adding another on his debut. €90 and €32 million for the respective players started to seem like peanuts, and this performance was perfect preparation for the first Champions League game of the season. That match unfortunately ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw against a stubborn Sevilla side. Cue the same old story that Juventus are lions in Italy, but kittens in Europe. Twitter was ablaze with Milanisti claiming that their club is the only Italian team who perform consistently in the Champions League, yet they had somehow forgotten that their team haven’t qualified for the competition for the 3 years. Truthfully, Juventus played decently in that match, and a Higuaín header off the crossbar so nearly brought all 3 points. Still, against a top quality side that has won important titles several seasons running, the result, and indeed the performance, could have been much worse.

 

Higuaín and Pjanic started off with a bang.

Onto the biggest match of the season as yet; the Derby D’Italia away at the San Siro on September 18. In another scrappy performance, where we managed to take the lead through the almost forgotten Stephen Lichtsteiner, Inter showed resolve to come back from behind through a great goal and an even better assist from their talisman Mauro Icardi. In this match, it became painfully obvious that players like Kwadwo Asamoah, who despite their best attempts, just do not have the ability to play for a club of this stature. Marchisio was desperately missed, and more than ever, so was Paul Pogba.

 

He may have fetched the world record transfer free, but on the pitch, he is missed dearly.

We managed to bounce back immediately via the 4-0 thrashing of Cagliari, which could have ended in an even more farcical score line was it not for some fine saves from our former champion Marco Storari. 3 days later however, another sub-standard performance was witnessed away to Palermo, where a disjointed Juventus side managed to scrape 1-0 win thanks to a deflected strike from distance by Dani Alves. This match did not make for pleasant viewing, but football is a “results” business, and we had managed to push ourselves back up into 1st place in the standings after the blip away to Inter. In our next CL match we dismantled an average Dinamo Zagreb side in front of their own fans 4-0, where Pjanic and Higuaín again demonstrated all of their obvious ability. This match was also notable for bringing Paulo Dybala’s first goal of the season, after he went through a difficult period without much luck. The €130 million Argentine strike force teamed up again to batter 3 goals in 5 minutes away to Empoli the following weekend, which had been resolute for over an hour before then. It now seemed like the new players were settling in nicely and getting accustomed to each others play, and with the news that Marchisio would be back again after the upcoming international break, all seemed rosy again.

On Matchday 8 against Udinese, Dybala continued his fine form with two goals, both from dead-ball situations. Juventus had fallen behind in this match due to an uncharacteristic error from Gianluigi Buffon. This was his second goalkeeping mistake in as many games, following his completely missed kick against Spain the week before. The media was starting to call for his head, saying that the old man had finally had enough. Buffon’s response was incredible. Away to Lyon in the 3rd CL match of the season, Buffon performed miracle after miracle between the sticks to keep Juventus in the match. He warmed up by saving a first half penalty from Alexandre Lacazette, and continued the trend with even more ridiculous saves against Nabil Fekir and Juventus-target Corentin Tolisso. Mario Lemina was sent off early in the 2nd half to complicate matters even further for us, but ultimately Cuadrado scored a beauty from an acute angle that managed to squeeze into the near post, settling the tight affair in our favor. After the match Buffon, as intelligent as ever, said that of all the criticism he had received over the past few weeks, the only criticism he listened to was his own. “You can arrange my funeral” he said, “but there will be no one there”. A decade after showing immense loyalty to a club that had been demoted to the second tier of Italian football, Buffon was still proving himself to the best goalkeeper in the world, and one of the greatest footballers of all time.

 

The ageless wonder continues on…finding a worthy replacement will be a near impossible task.

The tough matches kept on coming, as we found ourselves again away at the San Siro, this time to face Milan. Up against a strong team in very good form playing in front of a passionate crowd of over 75 thousand is always going to be a tough ask, and when referees make senseless decisions against you, it doesn’t help matters at all. Pjanic had a perfectly legitimate free-kick goal ruled out for offside. It was initially deemed a goal, but after some heavy protesting from the Milan players and bench, the ruling was reversed. I didn’t know players are allowed to argue with referees until they switch their decision, no matter how ridiculous their claims are, but I guess you learn something new everyday. To make matters worse, Dybala went off injured as he pulled a muscle attempting a shot from the halfway line that ended up nearer to the corner flag than the back of the net. 18-year-old Manuel Locatelli went on to score a great goal for Milan, with a shot from the edge of the box that even Buffon couldn’t get a hand to. Despite some pressure applied from an again visibly disjointed Juventus side, Milan held out for the win. 2 matches played at the San Siro, 2 losses. Not good enough.

Just as before, we were blessed with the opportunity to bounce straight back with a midweek fixture at home against Sampdoria. With Marchisio now ready to start, Juventus were 2 goals to the good in the first 10 minutes. That the midfield looks so much more competent and complete when Marchisio is playing is testament to not only his ability, but also to the lack of quality alternatives in the squad. The match ended 4-1, and set us up perfectly for the huge test against Napoli on the weekend. The story of “Higuain vs. His Ex-Club” was always going to be the main talking point in the lead-up to the affair, and it was fitting that he was the one who settled it. After a cagey first half, where neither team was truly on top, a sliced clearance from Napoli defender Ghoulam allowed Leonardo Bonucci of all people a shot at goal. He took it unbelievably well. A left-foot volley from near the penalty spot was struck with so much venom that Pepe Reina and his family are fortunate that he didn’t manage to get in the way, as that ball would’ve taken whatever was in its path along with it to the back of the net. It was a welcome relief for Juventus, and even more so for Bonucci, who had horrible personal issues to contend with regarding the health of his infant son. Juventus, as they have made a habit of this season, presented their opponents with a pathway back into the match right after taking the lead. Up against a side with as much quality upfront as Napoli have, this was incredibly dangerous. Naturally, Napoli equalized with Callejon tucking away a first-time volleyed shot from a lovely through ball by Insigne. Up to this point, Higuaín had been shackled well by the Napoli defence, but as with all great strikers, he only needed one chance to make the difference. After he played a chipped pass into the box which was poorly dealt with again by Ghoulam, Higuaín sprinted into the area and struck a sweet first-time left-footed bullet which scorched the Earth on its way into the Napoli goal. No celebration followed as a sign of respect to the club he had once played for, but a smile after the match was over to show love for the club he represented now. 2-1 to the hosts, and a serious statement made along with it.

 

A calm response after receiving so much criticism from the Napoli faithful.

Higuaín scored again in the midweek CL game, this time from a spot-kick, at home against Lyon early in the match. From then on, we were unable to double our advantage, and almost inevitably Lyon managed to equalize through a neat header from Tolisso, who is really making a case for himself if he wants to move to Juventus in the summer. A potential swap with Lemina would make sense. Additionally, a rare error from Andrea Barzagli gifted Lacazette an opportunity to win the game for Lyon deep into stoppage time, but Barzagli did just enough to recover and put the striker off. The following Serie A match away to a decent Chievo side was another close affair, and was only settled 2-1 in favour of Juventus via a stunning free-kick from Pjanic, after the opposition again managed to equalize after we had taken the lead.

Following yet another dreary international break, Juventus returned to action with a routine 3-0 victory at home against the struggling Pescara. This match was notable for two instances. Firstly, the much-maligned Hernanes finally managed to find the back of the net from one of his seemingly hundreds of strikes from distance, and 16-year-old Primavera product Moise Kean made his senior debut to become the first player born in the year 2000 to play at this level. Up next was the crucial CL trip to Sevilla, where nothing short of a win was needed to all but confirm Juventus would finish the group in top spot. After a shaky start, where Juventus was clearly outplayed, Sevilla capitalized by taking the lead early doors. All was not looking well, before Dybala’s old friend Franco Vazquez allowed us to put a massive foot back into the match by stupidly getting himself sent off in the first half. Sevilla continued to lose the plot, and conceded a penalty on the stroke of half-time, which Marchisio managed to squeeze past the keeper and into the net. The momentum had definitely shifted in favor of the Old Lady, but it was deep into second half when we finally took advantage of it as Bonucci rifled home a left-footed pile driver not too dissimilar to the one Higuaín produced against Napoli. Mandzukic added another to add some polish to the score line, and with this 3-1 away win to Sevilla, Juventus managed their most important win of the season. The Milan faithful were now nowhere to be found.

 

A great goal followed by his classic celebration.

The joy was short-lived however, as away to Genoa on the weekend, Juventus undoubtedly produced their worst performance in the last five years. A horrific first half ended with Juventus being 0-3 down, and also two key players out with seemingly long-term injuries in Dani Alves and Bonucci. We performed relatively better in the second half, although completing two passes in a row would have been better than what was produced in the first, and even managed to grab a goal back with another superb free-kick from Pjanic. However, the damage had already been done. In many ways, a result like this was inevitable. Despite winning the vast majority of our encounters, we could not continue with this mediocrity in the league and not be punished eventually. This match needed to serve as a wake up call to the club, and with the squad now being stretched due to injuries, the onus was on the players and manager to overcome these difficulties and remain focused on each match against every opponent.

Up against a high-flying Atalanta side in Matchday 15 at home, Juventus needed to bounce back immediately and assert themselves as the best team in Italy. They did just that with a comfortable 3-1 win to indicate that on their day, they have no competition domestically. Alex Sandro scored with a graceful finish early on before Rugani and Mandzukic scored either side of the break from two perfectly delivered corners by Pjanic. The victory against Atalanta set the tone for the final CL game of the season, at home against Zagreb. A win would confirm a 1st place finish in the group, and against a side who had lost all 5 of their previous encounters without even registering a goal, the outcome was merely a foregone conclusion. Zagreb were duly dispatched 2-0, with Higuaín scoring a great goal to end his mini-drought, and Rugani adding another headed goal to his impressive collection.

 

The young defender is already a key member of this Juventus side.

The next Serie A match pitted us against our neighbours Torino, who were having a fine season by their standards. An excellent team goal, finished by their talisman Andrea Belotti, gave Torino the early advantage, but Juventus showed great resilience to battle back from then onwards. Firstly, Higuaín equalized after some excellent build up play from Mandzukic allowed him to face Joe Hart one-on-one before he tucked the finish away in the bottom corner. Higuaín’s second of the night was even better, as he created a goal seemingly out of nothing. An innocuous thump up field from Chiellini bounced towards Higuaín at the edge of the box, and he managed to wriggle his way into getting enough space to unleash a stunning first time volley that left Hart with no chance. A third goal was added by Pjanic after some brilliant work from Dybala on the right wing, who had recovered from his injury and was no slowly being reintegrated into the team.

The following weekend we played at home against Roma, in a crucial 1st vs. 2nd showdown. After taking the lead through another sensational goal by Higuaín, we expectedly slowed down the tempo of the game to allow Roma far more time and space on the ball. This would have proved costly, were it not for some tremendous defending and despite their increased possession, we never allowed Roma a clear opportunity at goal. While some criticized the performance, it must be recognized that keeping a clean sheet against the top scoring side in the league is always a worthy accomplishment, and were it not for some fine saves from the Roma keeper, there could have been more gloss added to the score line. Still, a 1-0 win is generally good enough, and when it is gives you a 7-point advantage at the top of the league, it is all the better. The last match of 2016 was the SuperCoppa Italiana against Milan in Doha. By having a superior team, being in good form, and even having an extra day of training than Milan as their flight to the Middle East was delayed, everything pointed to a win for Juventus that would secure our first piece of silverware for the season. And for the first 30 minutes or so, things were going according to plan. We took the lead through a quality finish from Chiellini, again set up by the perfect delivery from a corner by Pjanic, but from there on the game plan was painfully obvious. Sit back, and allow Milan to make inroads into the game. You would’ve thought that, with this being a cup final and all, that there would be more intensity shown from the boys. That was not to be. After Alex Sandro limped off injured, Patrice Evra replaced him and was terrorized for the rest of the match by Suso, who at times made him look he was playing his first match, not nearly his 700th. Or maybe it was just that. Maybe all his antics off the field have tired a player who is know into his mid-thirties. Who knows, but regardless, it was unacceptable. To single out Evra though would be unfair, as there were more players out there than just him who treated this match as a friendly. After Milan equalized, they dominated for the majority, bar a few instances where we applied pressure. Dybala, after coming on from the bench, even had a glorious chance to win the game in extra time but blasted over from 6 yards out. In fairness, a victory would have been undeserved, and so rather fittingly Milan won the match on penalties, with Dybala missing the decisive spot kick.

 

Although a player with great talent, Dybala still lacks the consistency to make him truly world class.

The Players

Starting off with the goalkeepers, I took a look at how each individual has contributed to the cause so far. Regarding Buffon, there is no reason for concern, and despite one or two mistakes creeping into his game every now and then, he is still reliable between the sticks and will continue to be so. Buffon recently completed his 600th match for Juventus, and the great man will definitely add another 60 or 70 to that before he hangs up the gloves. Neto has done a fine job as Buffon’s deputy, and will see even more time in the latter half of the season with the Coppa Italia now coming into our sights as well. Emil Audero has outdone Rubinho as the 3rd choice goalkeeper. He may have played a grand total of 0 minutes as Rubinho did, but unlike the Brazilian he hasn’t managed to get himself sent off either. Audero will surely be sent out on loan next season, and if Juventus end up needing a reserve player to sit on the bench and try not to get sent off, I will gladly take up the offer. These three will definitely be there until the end of the season, but from there on, who knows?

Analyzing the defenders is not as straightforward as it seems, as prior to the season Juventus had 9 top-class defenders fighting it out amongst themselves for 4 or 5 spots. Despite conceding the fewest goals in Serie A, and with an overall record of only 17 conceded in 24 games, there have been times where the defence has looked shaky. This may be in part due to the inability of the midfield to control possession for long periods of time, but they will be scrutinized in more depth below. Dani Alves and Lichtsteiner have both had mediocre seasons thus far by their standards, and will need to be on top of their games in the latter half of the season when the CL knockout games pit us up against one of Europe’s top sides. They have played 13 and 12 games respectively, and I believe that this trend of alternating them game by game should continue to keep these two energetic players, who are both well into their thirties, in peak condition. Benatia started the season off fantastically, but as is always the case, injuries have prevented him from having a sustained run in the team and he has only managed 10 appearances thus far. His worst performance came against Genoa, and thus it is likely that Allegri has lost some faith in him as he is now firmly behind Rugani in the pecking order. Rugani as well has unfortunately suffered from some injury concerns this season, which has restricted him to 10 appearances as well. In those 10 appearances however, he has greatly impressed. Not only with his defensive abilities, but also with the knack of scoring goals from set-pieces. He has 3 thus far. He has also gained a far more competitive edge to his play, as is evidenced by the fact that he has been shown 4 yellow cards in 7 Serie A appearances, contrasted to a grand total of 0 in his first 50. The BBC have each played roughly two-thirds of the total matches, but have rarely played in conjunction. They have also had their fair share of breaks. Whether it be through injuries in the case of Barzagli and Chiellini, or through personal issues as well as injuries in the case of Bonucci, they have not appeared as much on the field as we would have liked. Still, they are all great defenders and if all of them can stay fit for the rest of the season, Juve’s chances of success greatly improve. However, if that were to actually happen, J-Medical should change its name to be more appropriately known as “J-Miracle”. Alex Sandro has improved leaps and bounds from his somewhat lackadaisical performances in defence from last season. He is definitely one of Juventus’s best performers of the season so far. His consistency, in addition to his ability to stay on the pitch (he has featured in more matches than any other player barring Higuaín), make him one of the first names on the team sheet. With all that being said however, Alex Sandro did actually get injured in the SuperCoppa. His replacement left a lot to be desired. While Patrice Evra is undoubtedly one of the best left-backs of all time, and also one of the best football Instagrammers of all time, his performances have been on the decline. We all knew he wouldn’t be able to replicate what Alex Sandro is capable of when he replaced him, but his performance was truly shocking. Still, I believe the management sees this as a more of a one-off, and I hope they are right, because he desperately needs to improve on the pitch if he wants to stay at this club.

Moving onto the midfield now, where the real problems lie. Although Marotta and Paratici have done incredibly well over the last 5 years, their inability to replace Pogba with another star midfielder will definitely count against them. But then again, how do you replace a player with such tremendous all-round ability as Paul Pogba? Regardless, with Pogba departing in the summer, along with Pirlo and Vidal leaving the previous summer, three-quarters of Juventus’s starting midfield in the 2015 CL final is gone, and they are proving to be tremendously hard to replace. Firstly, Kwadwo Asamoah, despite his best efforts, has proven that he does not have the capability to play for one of Europe’s best clubs, and thus Allegri has restricted him to just 8 appearances this season, despite him fortunately being relatively injury free this season. Cuadrado has had an indifferent campaign thus far as expected. He has mixed some scintillating performances with some brainless displays. He will continue to be the most frustrating player in our squad because despite all of his obvious talent, he seldom uses it effectively. It seems like Hernanes’ time at Juventus is also up, despite featuring quite prominently at the start of the season due to Marchisio’s absence. His poor performance against Genoa highlighted the liability he is, and hopefully did not detract them enough from purchasing him in January. In my opinion Sami Khedira has been the standout performer in midfield, but even his performances tailed off after a flying a start to the season. Still, he has performed solidly, and better yet has managed to stay healthy and appeared 20 times this season. Mario Lemina is a conundrum. He has real talent and his potential is clear, yet he does not have a defined role in the team which is hurting his performances. Unless Juventus gets a great offer for him, I feel he is definitely one to be persisted with. In his 14 matches he has managed to showcase not only his talent, but also his flaws, and is responsible for the only red card we have picked up all season. Since his comeback, Marchisio has played 9 matches and is slowly getting back to full fitness and form, but it is a huge sigh of relief when his name is on the team sheet. Onto our major summer signing in midfield; Miralem Pjanic. On paper, 6 goals and 8 assists from 20 matches is an excellent return for a midfielder, but stats alone do not tell the whole story. Most of his major contributions have come against lesser tier opposition, and only recently when he has been shifted to playing behind the strikers have his performances found some consistency. His ability from dead-ball situations is peerless, and thus we hope that once his contributions to open play improve, he will be a truly world class midfielder. Sturaro is another player who has talent, but needs to showcase it more regularly to deserve a place in the starting XI. That puts him into a similar category as Lemina, but unlike Lemina who has the technical ability, Sturaro has the grit. If they can both improve quickly then they will make a fine pair at the heart of midfield.

Onto the forwards, an area which saw us break our record transfer fee with Higuaín coming in for €90 million. Higuaín’s record of 13 goals in 23 games is very good, but he can and must do better. Although he has been able to scrap the notion that he struggles in big games with goals against both Napoli and Roma, he has also gone missing at times, most evident in the SuperCoppa against Milan. His lower goal : game ratio is mainly due to him receiving less direct service as compared to his Napoli days, but also due to the fact he had to play deeper when Dybala was injured to aid Mandzukic. As is often the case with such a huge transfer fee, he has to prove himself consistently, and only if we win important trophies at the end of the season will he be looked at as a successful signing. Mandzukic’s record of 5 goals in 21 appearances does not make for great reading from an outsider’s perspective, but those who watch him play on a regular basis know how important he is to this team. His incredible work-rate makes up for his technical deficiencies, and with Dybala now fully fit, he represents an excellent option to have off the bench. Dybala himself has had an inconsistent season so far. He started the season off looking incapable of scoring, and only in his 7th game did he manage to break the deadlock. From there on he seemed to be quickly getting back into form before another injury stopped him in his tracks for 6 weeks. Once he returned however, he quickly made his mark as an impact substitute, producing a Messi-like run and pass against Torino that resulted in a Pjanic goal. However, he showed his inexperience with an erratic performance against Milan just prior to the break, when he should’ve scored to seal the trophy. He then went on to miss his penalty, as did Mandzukic, but I fully expect him to come back stronger from this experience and become a better player for it. He is the present and future of this club. A quick word on Marko Pjaca, whose 7 substitute appearances only resulted in 76 minutes of competitive action. He was destined to be given more time to prove himself before an injury prevented him from playing, and he has only recently returned to full training. If he can stay fit for the rest of the season, he will prove to be an invaluable player to have in the squad, and will truly set the world of football alight in 2017.

 

They have to always fight for the shirt, in any match, against any opposition.

 

The Manager

You may have noticed that I have stayed relatively quiet on Max Allegri throughout this entire review. That is mainly because if I was to analyze Allegri’s choices in each match then this article would be released sometime in 2020. It is also partly because I feel that he has done a fine job as manager again this season, despite some mixed reviews from fans and the media. The team’s record after 24 matches stands at 18 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses. This represents a 75%-win percentage, higher than both of his previous two seasons in charge. Allegri is also known to produce better results in the second half of the season once his squad has fully acclimatised to and accepted his demands. This was seen not only in his first season in charge with the run to the CL final, but also last year when we were unluckily knocked out by Bayern while dismantling all opposition in the league. His habit of being more successful in the latter half of the season is also tracked back to his Milan days. With the addition of some steel in the midfield in the form of Rincon, and players now coming back from injury, the potential is there for Allegri to rotate the squad as he likes and implement the tactical fluidity that he showed in his first season in charge that allowed us to reach the CL final despite being inferior to other squads on paper. Also, sacking Allegri at this stage makes absolutely no sense, as the only better option available in my opinion is currently dominating the Premier League managing Chelsea, and has no intentions of coming back home in the near future.

However, Allegri has had his flaws this season. The inability to maintain the same standard of play upon taking the lead must be put on his shoulders, as it has become a far too prominent part of our performances this season. He needs to improve on that immediately. Additionally, at times he has been too conservative in some of his selections. Against Genoa for example, his decision to play Dani Alves over Rugani in central defence was unbelievable, and also deploying Cuadrado in any position other than far on the right wing is ineffective. I must also agree with his detractors in saying that he hasn’t gotten the best out of this team so far, but I believe that is more reason to stay optimistic because we are still at the forefront of the league and CL despite not playing as well we can do. However, those who were saying he should be fired after the loss to Milan don’t understand football, as these performances can happen occasionally, and is unfair to a man who has been so successful over the last two seasons.

 

He may have his naysayers, but he is doing a fine job.

If you’ve made it this far, I’d first like to say “Congratulations”, but more so “Thank You”. Now where does this all leave us again? Well, we have a 4-point advantage at the top of Serie A, with an extra game in hand against the worst team in the league. We finished winners in our CL group and have now been paired up rather favourably against Porto in the Round of 16. We failed at our first chance of attaining silverware this season, but there will be three far more important opportunities in the future to look forward to. All in all, not bad so far, but the potential to do far better is definitely there. At the halfway mark, I’d give our season a solid “B”, hoping that, with a few additions in the January transfer window and Allegri to finally get the team playing as he wants, we should be looking at a legendary 6th Scudetto win in a row, potentially a third Coppa Italia win in succession, and also a deep run in the Champions League with the goal always being to win the damn thing. Then, and only then, will this season receive an “A”. Ciao for now.

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  • Welcome to the community, Basim and many thanks for your epic piece above. Whilst I breezed through the run down of the games played I slowed to scour with narrowing eyes the player and manager analysis.

    Pretty much I agree on most points you raised…bar a dwarf’s handful-

    The best I can say about Khedira is that he seems to have avoided the consistent muscle injuries which have plagued him for several years. Other than which he has ben decidely average. Deployed in an advanced central right midfield channel he has failed with most of his own chances to score and by his own high standards, he should have done better. At least he is getting into the positions, yet perhaps his role will change with Dybala back to roam between the lines.

    Lichsteiner was treated – from afar it seems – poorly by the club. Without a competitive fixture played he was demoted to pretty much third in the pecking order behind ALves and Cuadrado. No new contract offer was made. And to add insult to injury he was left out of the CL squad. This is no way to treat a stalwart of our five titles on the trot. Discarded, given the odd game to allow others to rest, and then…we needed him. So what will Stephan be thinking? No new contract on the table? They need me only when others are injured or need a rest? AM I valued here? Do I still believe I have something to offer at the top level? If the answer to the last question is YES, then he may well already be working out his next move, which is not at all what we need of any player in the squad, especially one who is our ONLY natural RB or RWB presently.

    Sturaro has been suffering from injuries since just before the EUROs and has barely a month or so of first team action under his belt. His performances have seemed rusty, as to be expected, but he offers more than grit. And is of a much higher technical level than many give him credit for.

    As I was saying to a Man U supporter today…I was happy to see Spurs beat Chelsea, for they have been playing lovely football. And as for Mourinho’s flock, as with City, they are yet to play anywhere near to their potential, yet Chelsea have been playing at their potential and are unlikely to improve drastically. We are in a similar state, but even more so…for we are no way near out potential, due mainly to injuries all over the squad. Considering what we have achieved whilst barely stringing together 2-3 decent performances on the trot, in both Europe and domestically, I retain high hopes of everything falling into place.

    Pjaca, Khedira, Dybala, Sturaro, Marchisio, Rugani, Pjanic and Higuain all have higher ceilings to reach. Which is half the first XI on some match days.

    I have been most impressed with the development of Sandro and Rugani. Yet plenty of others will have their chance to excel as the second half of the season gets underway. Its a great time to be a juventino…when is it not!

    Great work, Basim! Will look forward to the next dose of your reportage. And hope you get involved in the discussion that will surely ensue from your debut…Cheers, TGP.

    • Basim Khan

      Thank you very much TGP! I always appreciate the amount of effort you put into not only the pieces you wrote, but also when responding to the comments that ensue below. I’m actually not new to the community my friend, as my previous moniker was “ADP#10”, and I have read and commented on articles regularly.

      Yes, I agree with your assessment of Khedira as well. I feel that his ability to stay on the pitch has made me give him a higher rating his performances deserve, and I feel that he has still been the best midfielder this season. This is due to him having a great start, and then being average or slightly above average for the rest of the season so far, whereas no other midfielder has been able to be as consistent just as yet in my opinion. But yes I agree, I feel like him switching roles with Marchisio could be an option, but it does’t seem like Allegri will consider it.

      Lichtsteiner has definitely been treated poorly in my opinion, but his performances this season haven’t granted him the opportunity to attain much sympathy. Still, he has been an absolutely key member of the side for the past 5+ years, and deserves much more credit than he gets. Dani Alves has been average at best when he has played, and I don’t think I will ever trust Cuadrado with defensive duties. Lichtsteiner is an important player no doubt, and will only be more important in the latter half of the season. Apparently he has been offered a year contract extension as well now, a sign that Marotta may be atoning for his previous error.

      I like Sturaro quite a bit, but I am still leaning towards the camp that says he has been given this opportunity and contract extension solely on the basis of being Italian. I don’t mind that at all, because Italians can demonstrate how important it is to play for this club better than most foreign players will be able to. I still expect more from him, but he also deserves more chances to showcase that he is starting material.

      Yes, I enjoy watching the Premier League as well. Yesterday’s match highlighted the potential that this Spurs team has, but I still believe that Chelsea, with them having the advantage of not being in European competition, will see them finish as league winners. If their performances start to waver, Conte’s will will be enough to take them over the finish line.

      I have huge faith in the squad for the rest of the season as well, and I firmly believe that the boys will start to realize their potential. Forza Juve!!!

      • Thanks for the swift and solid response, Basim! I in turn believe that Chelsea will most likely win the premier league and wit will be a fine achievement, yet two elements of the premier league continue to bother me, perhaps even three…The refereeing has become consistently appalling, the more eyes of officialdom on the play the less accurate the decisions. Every week there are obvious mistakes which I do not see as often in European competition or Serie A. Next on the chopping block is the defending, which appears to be getting worse year upon year…I do not believe any of the bottom 3 or 4 sides would survive in Serie A.

        Finally the damn diving…yes yes! the italians used to be past masters at that part of the game, but watching the way teams in Serie A collide like bulls and berserkers, with the ref shrugging his shoulders, begrudginly blowing for a mere free kick for challenges which in the PL would be Yellow or Red. It has become such watered down football, no hard men, no warriors, just pretty football such as the likes of Firmino with his idiotic ponytail play…not a man’s game any more in the top flight of english football.

        It is still damn glorious a spectacle to watch for the most part, but the football on offer is not consistently top drawer, other than from Chelsea, Spurs in patches and City when Aguero is jolly and Kompany is at the back. Arsenal impress but lack steel as has been the case for many moons. Liverpool are attractive in their game but I have quickly come to dislike Klopp, whose smarmy smile when things goes wrong and moments of disrespect towards other sides and managers and arrogance all combine to make me cringe and wish to see him falter.

        Back to the title race…If Chelsea were to lose Costa and Hazard in the same period, it will reopen. In absence of which, the title is theirs to lose now.

        My comparison with Man U and City and Spurs was that they are well placed without hitting top form, as we are in turn (better placed). We will not be able to judge Allegri until he has something close to a settled squad to pick from with all players fit and gaining match sharpness. Marchisio, Pjaca and Rincon are like new signings. Once up to speed, we will either find our way and prosper, or continue to play generally drab football winning enough through individual quality to glean a 6th title on the trot, maybe the coppa in turn and in that case, I suspect Allegri might leave…yet he might either way. Go out with a CL trophy? or another domestic double? Then we will see who Beppe and Co’ have up their sleeves…Sousa? Deschamps? Blanc? That is for another discussion entirely…

        • Dar Black

          Yes the refs are often thinking they are the attraction…. Generally the EPL has become huff and puff football, kick and rush – exciting for sure, but devoid of real quality as the defensive play is woefully inept. Perhaps if Serie A defending was as poor it would attract bigger tv audiences?

        • Basim Khan

          Well in all honesty I don’t follow the PL with as much as fervor as I do Serie A. I really just watch the matches when the top 6 teams play against each other. However, from the little I have seen I do tend to agree with you that the PL is probably the most over hyped league in the world. It is nowhere near as good as the British media suggests. With that being said however, it is very entertaining, because there aren’t any world class teams in the entire league that dominate consistently, and the skewed scheduling of matches, especially around the festive period when other leagues around the world are being normal and enjoying a break, adds an intriguing edge to the PL.

          • Dar Black

            Eddie Howe from Bournemouth is more likely. Team plays very good football, is showing himself to be successful on a small budget and already has good relations with Arsenal via the loan of Jack Wilshere. Putting three goals past Arsenal midweek will not have done him any harm either, despite the ultimate 3-3 scoreline.

  • Dar Black

    Good stuff man. I would only say for feedback the player section could have maintained tgp’s style of individual bolded player headers for clarity, blog style consistency and to break up the paragraphs. But otherwise an epic effort!

    • Basim Khan

      Thank you! Yes, TGP’s work is always an example to follow.

  • BelgianJuventino

    Wow, what a huge piece! Will read as soon as I have some time! But welcome to the group and thank you for the effort in advance!

    • Basim Khan

      Thank you so much! I am not new to the group actually haha, I have been commenting under the name ADP#10 for quite a while now, but I have always wanted to write an article, so I thought I’d make it a long one! Probably too long but I’ll learn from here.

      • BelgianJuventino

        Just finished reading it, I liked it, I also agree with most of what you said mate. It’s one hell of a long piece, but so what!

        Aha you are adp10! Welcome to writing then 😛

  • Brava Basim – I read it this morning and felt inclined to agree with all you wrote. Totally agree with the ratings as well – some fair and just criticism leveled at the right players and a great assessment of where we are as a club right now.

    Good mention of Allegri as well – Some strange talk of him wanting to join Arsenal, bizarre reports of his Juve ‘cycle’ being over. Can;t say i agree, but as you rightly point out, he’s been ” too conservative in some of his selections” – Some strange choices in some of those early games. Great point on 2nd-half-of-the-season Allegri too – performances got better in both of the new years under his reign….so we only have better things to look forward to.

    What do you make of the CL draw? Think we can go all the way?

    Great read, great work and a huge thank you – So glad to have you on board…..but its good to know you have been here all along, albeit under a different guise 😉

    • Basim Khan

      I can’t thank you enough for the help Rav, I appreciate it very much. Regarding the CL draw I believe we should be able to beat Porto both home and away to show Roma how it’s done in Europe. With that being said though, Porto is a good team and a draw in the first leg would not be disaster either. Getting knocked out in the R16 would be though. I’m not sure if we can make it all the way, I think we are one star midfielder away from being level on paper with Real, Barca, and Bayern, but anything is possible, and if Higuain and Dybala can really hit form, we have a decent chance of surpassing even those teams. Getting to the semi-finals is a realistic aim, and I hope we have gained an insurmountable lead in the league by then so we can focus all of our attention to the CL. That is one advantage we can have over Real and Barca. As for Bayern, well Allegri has got one over Ancelotti already, and he can do it again.

  • Jack Handey

    Very nice review, Basim! I hope we don’t play Sturaro except as a substitute in a game where we want to defend a lead. Otherwise, he just doesn’t have the technical ability to play for this team. I can’t wait for Hernanes to finally go! Pjanic has been the most disappointing signing for me so far. Although his stats are deceptively good, his impact on the game is much less than I expected. If he worked out as expected, we probably wouldn’t talk about the midfield crisis like we do now. Rincon looks like Nainggolan in that he has both the hustle and technical ability. He could have a great impact if given the chance.

    • Basim Khan

      Thank you! Sturaro needs to develop his game, and he is still young so he has time on his side. I think he has the potential to deserve to start for us every week, but not yet. Hernanes unfortunately has proved to be a poor signing, so yes the sooner he leaves the better, for all parties. Pjanic has been sensational with his set-piece delivery, but apart from that he has been mediocre. Playing just behind the strikers might help him out, I sincerely hope it does. Finally, in regards to Rincon, I haven’t seem much of him except for a few games against us where I am mostly analyzing our own players, and also in a couple of YouTube compilations recently haha. I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but by now I trust Marotta and Paratici completely!

      • I think Stefano simply needs to stay fit and get match sharp. His performance against Roma was back to his very best. When sharp and fit he makes more tackles, covers more ground, finds more goalscoring opportunities, and sticks more away, than any of our other midfielders except Marchisio. In terms of a complete midfielder, he is the closest we have and yes, I suppose he can develop, but for me, he simply needs to be fit and playing and sharp. His lay off was many months…Many seem to forget that.

      • Jack Handey

        TBH, what sold me on Rincon is the YouTube compilations. His play very much reminds me of Radja Nainggolan and if he plays like that, he would be a real steal for €8m.

    • Couldn’t disagree more on your appraisal of the technical ability of Sturaro. The nearest comparison we can make are Asamoah and Lemina. Indeed Asamoah has been injured, so his awful form in one of the two side roles in CM is understandable, he also was playing LB/LWB for two seasons before. Lemina? A fit Sturaro shows more technical potency, in both phases of the game for me. and he makes his presence felt far more powerfully. He has also been off and on injured, since at least last May.

      Could chuck in Khedira, whose final product has been poor this season.

      • Jack Handey

        Yeah, our midfield has been lacking all around. I was watching some of our 2015 CL games yesterday and the midfield back then was so fluid and in control. I hope we can get back to that level again this year.

    • Dar Black

      Good job Hernanes didn’t go first half of the season eh Jack! Otherwise we would have been really in the midfield sh*t for some matches where only he provided the defensive cover and distribution so needed. I guess some players never get the credit they deserve.

      • Jack Handey

        Hernanes has done a decent job in Marchisio’s absence, but Lemina wasn’t too bad in that position either. Given Lemina’s age and potential, I would rather develop Lemina and let go off Hernanes at this stage.

  • E.Micallef

    Is this an article or an encyclopidia of the fist half of the season. Its seems and feel i have read a whole book. :).Fantastic effort. Reading comments below. Khedira this year is doing much dirty work. Believe me its not easy to go up and down the pitch all the time. Allegri is very conservative in his idea of football he requires tremendous effort from both left and right back and midfielders. I believe we can play better football. In the CL we did everything not to win the group and ended up top. Against OL away and home the performance given was not up to standard in the CL. We were graced in both matches by their star striker whom missed a penalty and other decent chances and his terrible performance (lacazette). But i have to say against Seville away it was not easy.Lately Spanish teams who are technically inferior start kicking one and all. If you could revisit the game you’ll see what i am talking about . Ending the game with ten on the pitch was the least that could happen to them. It was dreadful to watch. However tomorrow we start again. Buon campionato a tutti. FORZA JUVE and thank you for this site and articles. You are the best.