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Will Sarriball fit the Juventus squad?

June 30, 2019

After the lengthy process of finally announcing Sarri as the new boss, we have now moved onto the usual mercato meanderings though to be fair the club do appear to have very clear goals and are working swiftly to get the squad together sooner rather than later.

There is a major gap here however, something which few seem to be discussing but which is of vital importance. For its not the character of Sarri, his brusque nature and outspoken tendencies alongside his smoking and preference for a tracksuit on matchdays. No. We are missing the discussion of what has made Sarri such a household name around Europe in recent years, namely his football philosophy. Which some call Sarriball.

I have studied his time at Empoli, more obviously at Napoli given they were our major rivals for a few years and finally at Chelsea. And whilst it is clear that as the man says himself – the higher quality a squad, you need more to adjust the system to their characteristics, not the other way around – it is equally apparent that he brings with him very firmly established ideas of how the game will be played, come hell or high water.

 

Key features:

– Retention of possession

– Quick interchanges in the final third

– Constant movement of players to create passing triangles.

– High line and press.

– GK and CBs need to be quality on the ball. The CBs able to carry the ball up the field to break the press.

– The DM is the pivot, fulcrum around which everyone moves.

– Quick vertical transitions.

– Low crosses to feet with preference to play the ball through quick passing into the box and for wide men to cut in to draw defenders with them and create space for others.

– Forwards make space and are in constant movement, individual skill is demanded to create chances and goals.

 

One of the major reasons as to why Sarri likes to use a settled first XI is that the system relies heavily on chemistry and cohesion. Through playing always with the same team-mates in the same roles the players learn each other’s movements and begin to play as one. They begin to know where others will be without needing to telegraph the intended pass and move.

If someone comes in from the bench they invariably replace like with like, as the system never changes. Some say this makes the system easier to defend against and frustrate, and there may be some truth to the lightning start made by Chelsea last season then the abrupt drop-off, which many put down to opponents focusing on the pivot; Jorginho. Stopping him by man marking and denying space. And yet at Napoli, its probably fair to say that Allan was as if not more important in the shuttling CM role, as his constant movement and completing of triangles up the pitch hugely helped get the ball moving and create space.

If the system was as easy to frustrate as some say, Chelsea would have not returned to finish 3rd in the table, reach two cup finals and win the Europa cup.

Possession football requires players capable on the ball in all areas of the field. The quick one touch passing of the front third attacking phase requires players swift of thought, movement and execution.

Of our current squad Sarri’s style of football probably suits :

 

Attack

Ronaldo, Dybala, Costa – all very quick, love playing one touch football and constantly moving.

Kean has great movement and the fact that he can operate out wide suggests if he stays, he could prosper under Sarri.

Bernardeschi has never quite managed to show sustained form for the club as of yet, partly down to injuries, also not having a set position, and subject to a constantly changing side which played more a slow build up, always down the flanks then crossing into the box or waiting for a moment of magic from Ronaldo. He could benefit hugely from been tasked with using his superb stamina to create space down the right and through the middle.

Mandzukic is an intelligent footballer, who can play one touch, and can certainly lead the line, yet his lack of pace and probable lack of first XI opportunities may see him leave.

Juan Cuadrado is too haphazard on the ball, he lacks intelligence, and has just the pace as a powerful asset. The thought of him playing as a RB is horrifying, for he cannot defend and is prone to mistakes anywhere he is positioned.

 

Midfield

Pjanic is perfect for Sarri’s system. And though I do not enjoy his lack of physicality for the DM pivot role, were he positioned higher, his extremely high passing accuracy and steady creativity would be superbly employed in a possession based, quick passing tactical outlay. Too good to sell, but where he will play is an interesting question for Sarri to answer.

Ramsey is also perfectly suited to this system for he is a very adept box to box player, technically gifted, brimming with flair, who chips in with a fair few goals and plenty of assists. If he can stay fit, he could be vital for this new endeavour to succeed.

Bentancur was a beautiful carrier of the ball at Boca. Different league, different culture yes, but he showed there that he could perform the very role that Sarri’s system requires. Having just signed a new contract and currently starring for his country at the Copa America, the 21 year old already has a wealth of experience and plenty of time to further blossom.

Matuidi may well be a world cup winner, and he has a superb engine, but his lack of technical quality on the ball is often obvious and cringeworthy and he seems an ill fit for the quick passing and shuttling with the ball duties required of the new manager.

Khedira…Technically decent and of amazing experience but too sloth, especially when it comes to moving with the ball, pressing and returning to midfield after heading to the box. He simply must be moved on. Which I would have stated regardless of a change in manager. A thorn in our side, not the opponents, for too many moons now.

Emre Can often played as the pivot for Liverpool. And he was damn good there. For he is physical, mobile, fine on the ball and strong when dropping into defence. If we can get him fit, he could well be the answer to our DM issue. Far more capable of shielding the ball than Pjanic, though less creative, at least what we have seen so far in his fits and spurts. Though in his defence, injury issues aside, he has often been tasked with impersonating Vidal, which is not his forte. I have high hopes that he will enjoy a solid season.

Rabiot is a technically gifted lad who has often wanted to play higher up the field though spent a large amount of time in front of the defence, where he is competent, though perhaps not what we need there. He could be a brilliant replacement for Matuidi, and if we can get the DM role right, a midfield of Rabiot – Can/Other – Ramsey has the makings to be everything Sarri needs for his system to prosper.

 

Defence

Chiellini remains a titan, a world class stopper at the back and is capable of both bringing the ball out and creating play. Nowhere near Bonucci’s level but better than many think. He is however very slow, increasingly prone to fouling to mitigate his loss of pace as his legs are ageing and for the same reason is probably reliable to be fit for only 20-25 games of the season. Which matters when the system demands cohesion and fluidity born of the same players involved in the same roles week in, week out. Still, he is too powerful and cunning, when fit, to drop due to this.

Bonucci is the perfect fit. He is renowned for his ball playing ability and if the DM role is strong enough to cover, he is superb at bringing the ball up the field. I know a lot of people assume that if we sign De Ligt then Leo is out, but I think differently. For having a playmaker in central defence is a hallmark of all Sarri sides. It would be different if De Ligt was a ball playing CB, but this is not his major strength. Or at least it doesn’t seem so to me…or Marcotti.

(quickly on Bonucci…The reference point I use, when it comes to this awful hate he receives, which has included death threats against his family…is the club itself. I have seen Chiellini and I believe Barzagli on holiday with Leo, I have seen the love that Max still has, Chiellini still has, Barzagli still has…and they know him better than any of us…I defer to them on the matter. And bear the player no ill will of any kind, nor do I consider him a racist or a traitor. There is probably a little more to his final season with the club than we are aware of, by which I do not give credence to the rumours of a CL final fracas, I mean more his state of mental and emotional well being. He could have gone to much stronger clubs than AC Milan, direct rivals for titles we sought, earned a lot more money…but he did not. His move was evidently not based in a financial or sporting consideration, more so a step away from the elite level, perhaps to give him chance to regain his love for the game and for himself. I’ve plenty of time for a player who has given 7 years of his life to our cause, always given his everything and played a pivotal role in a legendary defensive unit which was arguably one of the strongest of all time.)

De Ligt…if we get him of course! The kid is astonishing. I’ve not seen a defender of his talent at his age since Fabio Cannavaro (who was just as good if not better, extreme natural zeal). His reading of the game, positioning, attitude, leadership, tackling, stamina, threat at set pieces…all smack of incredible potency for a 19 year old or 29 year old! Yet he is not the finished article. I agree with Marcotti, he is not an ideal partner for Bonucci nor an obvious replacement (especially in a Sarri system relying on at least one natural ball playing CB). I am not saying that De Ligt cannot become that player, but that he is not that player now.

I do hope we get him, though assume he will be Chiellini’s understudy, earn his stripes when the centurion is taking break or injured and hopefully learn from all three of the BBC. What better education could he have, and add in Buffon to the mix on the training field. Could be our next Chiellini, for a few years. For with Raiola his agent, and ambition in the kids heart and head, his reputation already established as a world class talent in the making, and our current stature as a club; it seems likely he will move on after a few seasons in black and white.

Rugani was led to the best form of his career under Sarri at Empoli. Powerful and capable enough to encourage us to sign him. However, he has not prospered at Juve since. Whether its a mentality issue, the lack of consistent games or simply that he has been found out at the elite level, we may never know…unless he is retained, which I assume he will be. Yet how often he plays is another story entirely. I would like to believe Sarri can reinvigorate the lad, who still has plenty of time to progress.

Demiral is quite unknown, though seems solid and brutish, more a Chiellini type. He was in fine form to help his national side defeat the French recently. I am extremely impressed with what I have seen, for his tackling is beastly, well timed, and he is very capable with the ball at his feet. A very interesting purchase. Potentially a superb piece of work by Paratici…

 

The fullback positions are important. As they play a major role in creating the space and passing triangles up top and in midfield and defence. Sandro looks like having a massive opportunity to revive, and I am glad that he appears to be staying put. Spinazzola to leave, and I understand why many like him, for his love of the club and history in the ranks, but we cannot be sentimental.

Prior to rejoining he was a good wide man at Atalanta, who play very attacking football and he got plenty of the ball and a lot of support. Less tested as a LB. And in our colours, once recovered from his ACL horror show, he did show promise as a LM, in that area, though still did not convince me he was anywhere near Sandro’s level defensively. He will not get many chances in a LM or LW role… I feel we have done a good piece of business getting in Pellegrini, who has also suffered an ACL injury and his revival has been strong. Recently representing Italy at U20 level in the world cup where we reached the semis…He can also tuck in and play a combative, dynamic CML role and loves to get forward…Make no mistake, he is a very promising talent.

 

With the LB role fine and dandy it is just the RB berth which brings quite serious concern. For if Cancelo does leave – which I am fine with for the money as he was great going forward for some of the season, but rarely valuable in the back line – we are left with De Sciglio. The italian has been very average since we signed him. Showing very little promise in the final third, not comfortable on the ball, but dependable as a defensive minded fullback. I highly doubt Sarri will see him as first choice, which leaves us with these rumours of Trippier, who is decent enough but I would sincerely prefer Darmian. Then there is the story of Cuadrado taking the role, which is horrid to ponder seriously as he is extremely lightweight, prone to falling over when touched and makes too many mistakes with poor positional sense. Finally we have the Ricardo Pereira links, loose as they are…He seems an interesting choice, though with few serious commentators adding weight to the conjecture, it seems more paper talk for now.

I will hope that the club have a serious option lined up, and if its Darmian, fine. For he is only 29, hugely experienced, has shown his best form in Turin and is a lively customer defensively and offensively.

GK

Szczęsny is comfortable with his feet, not amazing but not poor, and will be fine to play the ball out from defence short more than lump it up the field.

It appears that Perin is on the move, and I dont blame him, for when he has been fit and a starter he has looked often phenomenal, always elsewhere. Unfortunately for him, his competition for first XI action last season was lost because Szczęsny was superb, in fact he was my player of the season. I cannot recall a single serious mistake he made.

Impeccably consistent, often making superb saves, his work never an issue. In fact, we all quickly forgot that Buffon had left. If Perin does go, as seems likely, we look to be close to securing Santo Buffon! Nobody can complain about that. I will be beaming with joy to see the old dog back in the fold, with a role at the club in management or as a director certain to come after he hangs up his boots. I love the man, for he has struggled, he has given his all, and he has been one of greatest players of all time, in our colours. His presence in the dressing room and and on the training pitch will be far more beneficial to the squad than Perin offered.

I feel we are well equipped, possibly better equiped than Chelsea, to meet Sarri’s style. There will be more rotation than we have seen of the manager previously, mainly in Naples, yet I suspect and hope he will find a settled first XI, for I have wanted this for so long, have hated to see us finally show hint of form, of cohesion, and then see mass changes, to keep everyone fresh, but those who come in are not in tune with the others, so we play disjointed, horrible to endure football.

We have the players technique wise. We are making some impressive signings, with some sure to leave in turn.

Maybe we will struggle initially as the players adjust to a very different training and tactical routine. Maybe we won’t win the league ( I doubt this, though the competition may be the most frenzied since…Sarri was at Napoli). Yet if we are playing towards a clear identity, and players are blossoming with entertaining football on show, I will be happier than I have been when glued to the screen for at least two seasons now. Still, given we have plenty of players already seemingly a great fit for Sarri’s philosophy, many may be surprised and won over more quickly than expected. I hope so.

Fundamental change often brings about a lot of agony, birthing pains of a new life, but its where we are headed thats important and for me and many others, this is a very exciting time to be a juventino…

“Sarri will inevitably run into problems, because he is proposing new ideas and novelty is not always accepted by players…In any case, I believe President Andrea Agnelli has made a wonderful move by hiring Sarri. He has sparked a genuine revolution that can work to the advantage of all Italian football. It’s a cultural step up and not a small one, either.”

“If you hire Sarri, it means you want to win, but you also want to do it via beautiful football, spectacle and emotions.”

“If Agnelli and everyone in the club are fully convinced, Juve could entertain everyone for a long time to come.”Arrigo Sacchi

Forza Juve.

TGP

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