Arrival of Carlos Tevez Makes Perfect Sense for Juventus
Having comfortably retained their Serie A title by a nine-point margin in 2012-13, Juventus manager Antonio Conte has set about ensuring that the Bianconeri remain on top of the Italian championship for a third successive campaign.
Yet, there is more than merely one goal to Juventus' plans this summer. Unquestionably they are the best side in Serie A—the last two campaigns have proved as much.
But despite proving dominant in Italy, Conte's side barely registered as an attacking force in their Champions League quarter-final defeat against eventual winners Bayern Munich. The final aggregate scoreline was 4-0, but it could easily have been more.
The difference in each side's respective central attacking options proved palpable, and the first-leg double substitution which saw Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella simultaneously replaced by Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco was somewhat telling—good enough to do the business at home, found wanting at the very highest level by authoritative opponents on the continent.
Goals weren't hard to come by for the Old Lady over the course of their last 38 league matches (71 in total, with only Napoli and Fiorentina scoring more). However, Mirko Vucinic and all-action Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal were top scorers with a mere 10 apiece. The year previous, Alessandro Matri was the leading marksman with a similar figure.
To put that into further context, no Juventus player has been in the top-15 of Serie A top scorers in the past two years; last season Edinson Cavani netted 29 goals for Napoli himself. Mario Balotelli scored 12 goals during his four months at AC Milan.
As such, Antonio Conte has set about enhancing and improving his forward line this summer, as he looks to guarantee Juve's place atop Serie A, as well as closing the gap at the highest echelons of the European game.
Fernando Llorente, the Spanish international target man, has already agreed on a free transfer from the Basque club Athletic, putting pen-to-paper on a four-year deal. Coming in at 6'5", the World Cup winner will add far greater aerial threat than has been prevalent at any point since Conte's return to the club two summers back.
The 29-year-old Argentine international is a player of fine calibre, having proven himself a winner at the top levels of the club game: A European Cup with Manchester United, Copa Libertadores success with Boca Juniors and a three-time English Premier League winner (twice with United, once with Manchester City). Those titles aside, as a footballer, he is an ideal fit for Conte's Juventus blueprint.
A player with proven goalscoring pedigree, physically powerful with a never-say-die attitude, Tevez as a player would appear born to play for Conte, a manager whose hard-running philosophy has been instilled in this Juve side. Such determination has long been a staple part of Tevez's on-field persona, and has helped him become adored by supporters of each of his former clubs—at least when he played for them.
That three of his four Premier League campaigns with Manchester City have seen him score 23, 20 and 11 goals respectively (not counting his 2011-12 campaign which saw that six-month golfing sabbatical in his native Argentina) is an added bonus. When fit and motivated, he has proven to be one of the Premier League's most devastating forwards. In that respect, €9 million looks a bargain.
Carlos Tevez: Of all FWs to play in the PL in the past 4 seasons only Rooney & van Persie have picked up more assists than Tevez (24)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 26, 2013
Now Conte must decide upon exactly how to use him, having entrusted him with the hallowed No.10 shirt previously worn by club icon Alessandro Del Piero. In essence, it shouldn't be that difficult, for Tevez is a rare breed of striker whose adaptability makes him somewhat universal.
His vision, intelligent movement and creativity marks him as a supremely capable support striker, a role which he has often occupied at national level, most notably with Gonzalo Higuain at the 2010 World Cup or at club level with Sergio Aguero/Edin Dzeko. Those same qualities make him a more than capable "False Nine" also.
On the other hand, his physical strength, ability to hold up play and pace in behind opposing defences mark him down as a threat when playing as an out-and-out No. 9 himself.
Additionally his most decorated season at Old Trafford—2007-08—saw he, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo work in tandem as a three-pronged attack where each would perform with flexibility right the way across the front, be it starting centrally or from wide positions.
All told, there are very few with as many strings to their bow as Carlitos, and his versatility will allow him to fit seamlessly into any formation/partnership that Conte chooses.
Should he persist with the 3-5-2 formation which has proven so successful, then Tevez can be both the creator behind Llorente, or act in partnership with Mirko Vucinic, another flexible attacker.
If Claudio Marchisio continues in an advanced midfield role with a midfield trio of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal further back—something akin to a 3-5-1-1—then expect to see Tevez at the point of the attack. Given Conte's penchant for changing shape as and when he sees fit, don't be surprised to see the utilisation of 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-1-2 formations either.
Much of the question marks about Carlos Tevez during his time in England have been because of off-field problems. There have never been any question marks about his undoubted talent.
At the age of 29, this may well be Carlos Tevez final turn at a major European club. For Antonio Conte it may prove the biggest test of his man-management skills to date. If both quickly get on the same page, expect Juventus to further prosper.
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