Juventus Scudetto Defense May Require De Bruyne, Griezmann Additions
Such small margins are hardly grounds for panic, especially as the Bianconeri have dropped just two points from seven rounds, but assuming the starts made by Roma and Napoli are more than blips on the screen, they may need to consider some squad additions in January in order to secure a third successive Scudetto.
Not that manager Antonio Conte doesn’t already have options.
Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Angelo Ogbonna were added to a title-winning squad during the summer, but while Tevez has already become an important member of the first team, the other two have barely featured, and there have been rumblings the discontented Llorente could be off again in January.
Conte’s squad may be standard size, but he operates within a very small circle of trust. His teamsheets change little from match to match—not for lack of choice, but because he trusts so few of his players with playing time.
Even so, it is thought Juventus will make as many as two acquisitions when the transfer window reopens in January. Real Sociedad attacker Antoine Griezmann is one possibility; Chelsea playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is another, via Football-Italia.
The Griezmann link is fascinating in that the 22-year-old would perhaps allow Conte the occasional shift to a 4-3-3 formation from his favoured 3-5-2, although the Frenchman could also be used on the extreme left of the current setup in place of, or as cover for, Kwadwo Asamoah.
De Bruyne, meanwhile, is thought to be unsettled at Chelsea and last month was forced to train with the Under-21s following his removal from the first team, via Independent.
Following a season on loan at Werder Bremen in which he featured in 33 matches and scored 10 Bundesliga goals, the 22-year-old has played only 131 minutes of competitive football at Chelsea and has fallen below the likes of Oscar, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Willian, Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel in manager Jose Mourinho’s pecking order.
But he is still very much in Belgium manager Marc Wilmots' plans (he started against Croatia on Friday) and would no doubt like as much first-team football as possible in order to stay there.
At Juventus, De Bruyne would still have to contend with the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba for playing time, but with Pirlo likely to leave the club in the summer, it would hardly be a stretch to think he’d get frequent minutes in a four-player rotation.
That is, of course, assuming Conte would rotate his squad more often than he currently does.
But holding off the likes of Roma and Napoli could require a more robust squad—and bigger circle of trust—than the Juventus manager counted on, and accommodating Griezmann and De Bruyne (Griezmann is already cup-tied in the Champions League; De Bruyne so far isn’t) could keep players fresh for other competitions as well.
For Chelsea, a De Bruyne exit would be the first sign that Mourinho will struggle to keep all of his playmakers happy at Stamford Bridge; for Sociedad, losing Griezmann would all but ensure a non-European finish to the season.
But Juventus could use both, and both could be required if the Bianconeri are serious about contending on multiple fronts over the next few months.
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