The 2015/2016 season is over and Juventus can look back and smirk with satisfaction. For what looked to be a disaster, ended with glory yet again. We conquered 3 more trophies: The Scudetto, a Coppa and the Supercoppa. Only the Champions League eluded us in a somewhat unfortunate manner…
However, let us see what we have achieved and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the squad as a whole, beginning with our strike force (arranged and discussed in no special order)
22 Years old, Argentina, 176cm
Paulo Dybala arrived last Summer at Juventus for the hefty price of 40million euros from Palermo. It was the most expensive purchase from our current Juve management, putting a lot of faith in the talented Argentinean. It was a calculated risk, but as the season has drawn to an end, it has proven to be money very well spent.
He has won himself a guaranteed starting position in the team with some stellar performances. He is the only striker who can be considered indispensable at this point.
His stats don’t lie either: In 2465 minutes of Serie A football (34 games, from which 5 he started on the bench) he scored 19 goals and made 9 assists, earning only one yellow card. He also scored a goal to win the Supercoppa and scored 2 goals in 3 substitute appearances in the Coppa Italia. He has scored and assisted more in his one season at Juve than in both of his seasons at Palermo put together! Talk about adapting eh!
In the Champions League his stats are a tad less spectacular: one goal in 420 minutes (7 games in total, 2 of which as a substitute). All of this added together creates a total of 23 goals, 9 assists and 3 yellow cards in 2885 minutes, spread over 45 appearances. A goal or assist every 90 minutes.
Compared to our previous Argentinean goal scoring machine Tevez: he also scored 19 Serie A goals in his maiden season for Juve, and none in the CL (followed by 1 in the EL). Tevez played 2605 Serie A minutes for his 19 goals, compared to Dybala’s 2465 minutes for 19 goals. This makes it even more spectacular for young Dybala, who has plenty of room and time to further improve his game, where Tevez was an established player at his peak when donning our colours.
Besides the stats, Paulo is a joy to the behold. He has fantastic technique, great speed and acceleration, a splendid eye for goal and has worked on his free kicks, which are quite deadly already as we speak. He has also added muscle to his frame, so he has better control over the ball when handled roughly by defenders. Dybala likes to dribble and take on players 1 on 1. His passing is excellent, his vision is good, he is a threat on free kicks and penalties, he has high rapid acceleration and speed, especially so with the ball at his feet… The list goes on.
There isn’t much to say about obvious flaws in his game. Due to his size, he isn’t exactly great at headers, yet his low centre of gravity encourages his brilliant dribbling technique a la Messi and Maradona. Perhaps a need of more consistency and scoring on the big stage is asked for, but in his first ever Champions League campaign, criticism is undeserved. We were unlucky to miss him against Bayern Munich, for he is by far our most capable striker. And could well have made the difference.
Dybala has shown a lot of positives in his maiden Juve campaign and this was only the tip of the iceberg. Expect more of this glow to brighten to blinding as his career unfolds.
He might very well become a Juve legend if he continues in the same vein. And of course, staying at Juve for a long time is a recommended thing to do…
He recently missed a call-up for the Copa America, but made the team for the Olympics. However, as the tournament takes place at the same time as our season kicks off, Juve did not allow him to attend. Dybala accepted this decision graciously, but undoubtedly he is disappointed. He should have made the Copa squad. He won’t have to wait much longer for a call though, his star is rising at breakneck speed.
23 Years old, Spain, 189cm
Alvaro was in hot form last season. Combined with Carlitos, he was simply deadly. Especially in the Champions League where he tore teams apart, on the way matching Del Piero’s Juve record of scoring in 5 consecutive CL games. His victims included Real Madrid (twice!), Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City.
Coming into this season, much of that sensational form disappeared. His domestic campaign was haphazard, combined with often playing out of position on the left wing, he cut a frustrated figure. In the Champions League however, he was still Morata of old, swiftly dismantling enemy defences.
In Serie A he played a grand total of 1456 minutes, 16 games as a starter and a further 18 games as a substitute. In these games he managed 7 goals, 7 assists and 6 yellow cards. In the Champions League he started 6 games and was twice used as a substitute, resulting in a grand total of 534 minutes, 2 goals, 2 assists and 2 yellow cards. Finally, he played 4 Coppa Italia games and was used as a sub once, scoring 3 goals there and earning one yellow card.
His grand total: 2052 minutes, 12 goals, 9 assists and 9 yellow cards.
So how does one evaluate Morata? His biggest enemy is himself. He is a player who plays with heart and soul. If his heart is a mess, so is his play. Is that a bad thing? Not at all, but it can make you subject of criticism and inconsistency. He is only 23 years old and he still has a lot of room to develop. As a player, he likes to roam for the ball, dribbles a lot and uses his speed to get himself in good scoring positions. He is not very selfish, often laying the ball off to his teammates when better placed. (Note however, during his 20 game goal drought, he became increasingly desperate for goals and selfishly spurned some good opportunities doing so. Again, that is the emotion that got to him)
His combination of characteristics makes him a unique striker in the team. He has a bit of everything. His weakness, as mentioned before, is consistency. When his head isn’t clear, he buckles under the pressure. The past season has shown us the good, the bad and the ugly of Morata.
The good: Champions League. Morata thrives on big games. Just watch the return leg against Bayern Munich (if you can stomach the result) and witness the glory of Morata. The team played to his service and he made it count.
The bad: His domestic form. After a break-up with his girlfriend, dear Alvaro must have been heartbroken. He was a shadow of himself on the field. Didn’t show anything of value in a spell of 20 games.
The ugly: The Mercato. Much has been said, Morata’s own comments are much like a pendulum: one day he wants to go back to Real Madrid ASAP, the other he sees Juve as his home.
What Morata needs most, is a steady environment. A place to call home, truly home. People around him to give him confidence and love him. Will he get that at Juve? Yes. Wholeheartedly yes. Will he accept it? Now that is the big question. He doesn’t HAVE to stay at Juve, but for his own interest, he should get a team that offers the best environment; a place to call home. It’s unlikely he will get that at a club like Real Madrid (or is it?). Will it be elsewhere then? Only time will tell. There is nothing we can do, but wait and see. Good luck Alvaro, whether it’s with us or not: you can be one of football’s greats.
30 Years old, Croatia, 190cm
Mandzukic arrived for about 18 million from Atletico Madrid. His move was one that divided opinions. On one hand, he is a very experienced striker, having won the Champion League at Bayern Munich and always displaying a big heart and even bigger lungs.
On the other hand, he struggled ever since leaving Munich. He wasn’t spectacular but merely solid at Atletico. Thus the signature of Marotta lies heavily on this transfer: a good player gone amiss, with a good chance of recovery. (Ain’t that right Tevez?)
In Serie A he started in 24 games and was used as a substitute in 3 more games, resulting in a total of 2050 minutes. In which he scored 10 goals, 4 assists and 5 yellow cards. He started 4 CL games and was used once as a substitute: this yielded 2 goals and 1 assist. In the Coppa he started twice and came in as sub once, without any goals or assists. He played in the Supercoppa Italiana and scored one goal. All put together, he played 2481 minutes, scoring 13 goals, 5 assists and 5 yellow cards.
Big Mario brings new characteristics into the fray: as a sizeable player, his biggest threat comes from headers. Besides that, he works tirelessly, he can be found anywhere and everywhere on the pitch. He is muscular and thus a physical presence. Combined with an unrivalled poaching gift and good control over the ball, he was a welcome addition to the team.
What makes him stand out the most is his defensive contribution. He easily defends as much as he attacks. That is also what makes Mandzukic so likeable: he is always there for the team and sacrifices himself for the good of the team without second thought. Yet, it can also be seen as a weakness. As our prima punta, he has to be a reference point in attack. When our defenders send a long ball up the field, it is often supposed to land in the proximity of Mandzukic. Yet that cannot be the case if Mandzukic himself is in our own box!
This was shown most obviously in that tragic game against Bayern Munich, where he came on to replace Man of the Match Morata… It was not his fault and the substitution made sense in a tactical way. We were defending the score and the hulking presence of Mario is a powerful weapon in defence as well as in offence. Yet it was this substitution most of all that was our downfall in that game.
For Mandzukic is an ill fit to counter-attacking football. He has no pace and as he was defending with the team, there was no reference point in attack to play the ball out to, relieve the pressure, when we had it in our possession. He is too easily marked by elite defenders like Boateng, who can both outrun and outmuscle him if necessary. Bayern ran all over us in the final part of the game and with no way out, we lost the game.
Mandzukic has been a successful addition to the team. I have highlighted what bothers me personally the most about him, but it is not meant to tear him apart. He should work on his positioning in crucial games like these. Leave the defence as it is, BBC is solid enough on their own. You are the leader in attack Mario, you are the experience to we need to lead the lines. So be there.
A great player to have and likely to remain with the team. You know what you get with Mario, he is consistent and always delivers the same hard work. He has his weaknesses, but it is up to Allegri to decide when to play Mandzukic. All he can do is be available. Continue to give his best.
24 years old, Italy, 186 cm
Oh, Zaza. How do we evaluate you? We have enjoyed having you at Juventus and we can tell everything about you in just a few sentences or even loose words. A true warrior. A battering ram. A hulking menace with no mercy on his opponents.
When beating up defenders isn’t working, your plan B is to beat even harder. When you score, you don’t look like you want to put the ball in the net. No, you want to rip the net apart and blow a hole in the stadium with your shot. One-dimensional. As smooth as a square wheel. As disciplined as Rambo in a drunken rage.
And we love you for it, as much as we can get annoyed with you for the same reasons.
Zaza brings much of what our other strikers lack: pure, brute strength. He doesn’t care about dribbling, technique, finesse, he goes in and goes through whatever gets in his way. No trickery or mind games, no fancy flicks and moments of genius. You go from point A to point B in a straight line and there is no other way to reach it for you. If someone gets in the way, you charge through him. And as a result, you are often booked and sometimes very lucky not to get a red card straight away. Often within seconds of entering the fray.
He works like a machine and tries his best to draw defenders to him and still score a goal to prove his worth. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If he could refrain from his frantic tackles, he could be a fine player. He will always be one-dimensional, there is little to do about that. In modern football, that is a serious flaw. Gone are they days where you could get away with it. No more Luca Toni, no more Pipo Inzaghi, who thrived on godlike scoring skills and excellent positioning. The true killers are the complete players: look at Messi, Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Tevez, Suarez… They are (near) complete players. Zaza is not one of these.
Aged 24, he has time left to develop. Will he do so however? We can’t expect him to drastically change his personality, he is who he is. He might become more disciplined, he might be less uhh, enthusiastic with his tackles, but his personality is pretty much shaped. His nonstop working and fighting are what we appreciate most in him, combined with that raw power he brings to the fold. As a defender you would nearly wet yourself when he storms at you. For despite a burly nature, he doesn’t lack in speed. He might not be as fast as Cuadrado, but he also doesn’t display the sloth crawl one might expect from such a big player.
He has played 663 minutes of Serie A football, spread over 19 games, 15 of them as a substitute. He managed to score himself 5 goals, no assists and 6 yellow cards. Which is yet another show of his character. He played 30minutes of Champions League football in 2 substitute appearances and scored once. He started 3 Coppa Italia games and scored twice, with 3 yellow cards.
Combined, this makes 24 appearances, 8 goals, no assists and no less than 9 yellow cards and a red card.
Zaza is lacking in a lot of areas: discipline, technique, finesse, passing, ball control…
His strengths are, well, his strength. His bullish nature. He has recently admitted his frustration for getting so little game time. Which could signal a transfer, as it isn’t likely he will get much more next season, barring an injury crisis in our striker department.
I find myself in a cloud of doubt about Zaza. Sometimes he is exactly what we need to break up a game. It was him who scored that crucial 1-0 goal against Napoli, allowing us to become league leaders for the first time this season, a position thereafter never relinquished.
I don’t think he necessarily has to go. He is a fine squad player and at only 24 years old, there is no need to sell him. That being said, he has to find the right balance of fighting to play games and accepting the bench. If he wants to be a true starter however, he will have to find himself a new club.
28 years old, Colombia, 178cm
The arrival on loan from Chelsea for Cuadrado was an exciting thing: we remembered the Colombian’s lightning speed from his Viola days and we found ourselves hoping for a wing wizard. Cuadrado himself was also in dire need of a change of environment, for his adventure in London was going poorly at best. Not capable of impressing the Chelsea faithful, he took on the Juve jersey for a season, with a gentleman’s agreement to make the move permanent for a sum of 22 million euros if all parties were keen. At the time, it sounded like a pretty sweet deal, a steal even.
And the adventure started out well for Cuadrado. For though Juve as a team was struggling, Cuadrado was considered one of the few players playing at true Juve level and it looked like we had rekindled the old Fiorentina Cuadrado. He created some good chances, tore down defenses with his swashbuckling sprints into the heart of the defense and made room for our strikers by pulling defenders towards himself.
As the season wore on though, some things became more clear. It wasn’t so much Cuadrado playing excellently, it was his teammates underwhelming efforts that made him look so electric. As soon as Juve began to create some chemistry and they clicked together, Cuadrado seemed to fade away from the limelight. Suddenly 22 million seemed a bit too much for good old Juan. For as good as his speed and his forward runs are, the positives pretty much end there.
Too often the Colombian was unable to do something relevant with the ball in possession. He runs it straight into a defender and more often than not, loses the ball. He doesn’t beat opposing defenders in a duel of skill, only pace, and too often misplaces key passes to teammates, nullifying any offensive influence he created seconds before wasting the ball.
Besides all this, his defensive contribution to the team is close to none at all. He is very offensive minded, thus leaves the team needing a real RB behind him or a defensive minded L(W)B to balance things up.
Does this mean loaning Cuadrado was a bad idea? No, not at all. He had impressive as well as disappointing moments in his Juve stint. His speed and trickery is a fine weapon to have in the team. Against low or midtable teams in the league, he was a stinging thorn in the side. They could not deal with his enormous pace and endless forays into their defense, resulting in either brutally hacking him down or leaving glaring holes in their defense.
Cuadrado scored and assisted some nice (and important!) goals as well. For example a winning goal in the dying seconds against a well-organized Torino in the Derby della Mole or an important goal in the 4-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League (unfortunately combined with a glaring miss in the that could have sealed our place in the quarterfinals had it gone in).
In 1710 Serie A minutes(spread over 28 games) he scored 4 goals and created 5 assists. In the Champions League he scored once in 469 minutes, spread over 8 games. All stats put together, he played 43 games, scored 6 goals, 5 assists and got booked 4 times.
Will Cuadrado be bought outright from Chelsea for 22million? I don’t expect it. Cuadrado is on his way out of Turin and his departure makes room for new blood to arrive. Grazie Cuadrado for your efforts and never-say-never attitude on the field. Good luck with relaunching your Chelsea adventure!
Final Summary: The stats
Dybala: 46 appearances, 2885 minutes, 23 goals, 9 assists, 3 yellows, 3 shots/game, 85.3% passing, goal/assist every 90.1 minutes.
Morata: 51 appearances, 2052 minutes, 12 goals, 9 assists, 9 yellows, 1.8 shots/game, 78.6% passing, goal/assist every 97.7 minutes.
Mandzukic: 41 appearances, 2571 minutes, 13 goals, 5 assists, 5 yellows, 1.5 shots/game, 70.2% passing, goal/assist every 142.8 minutes.
Zaza: 29 appearances, 721 minutes, 8 goals, 1 assist, 9 yellows, 1 red, 1.5 shots/game, 76.4% passing, goal/assist every 80.1 minutes.
Cuadrado: 45 appearances, 2205 minutes, 6 goals, 5 assists, 4 yellows, 1.3 shots/game, 86.4% passing, goal/assist every 200.4 minutes.
(Stats courtesy of whoscored.com)
There are some interesting and also quite surprising stats to be found here. Despite a slow start, Dybala played the most of our strikers. Our best passer is Cuadrado. Morata and Zaza both have 9 yellow cards. Zaza is the only player who was shown a red card. Morata appeared in the most games. Zaza has the best goal/game ratio with almost a goal per game(counting only minutes played)
Feel free to discuss and share your opinion below or on the forum!