Juventus: Transfer Moves the Bianconeri Should Make This Summer
Juventus are the best team in Italy. If there was any possible doubt at the start of the season that this was the case, it has surely been expunged.
Antonio Conte's men are 14 points ahead of their nearest competition, Roma. Even if the Giallorossi were to win the game they have in hand there would be little hope. Nothing short of a titanic collapse will make it possible for anyone else to take the Scudetto this year.
But still this season feels incomplete. The 1-0 loss to Galatasaray in Istanbul that dumped Juve from the Champions League into the Europa League still stings even as Juve go about making their mark in Europe's secondary competition. Juve were dark horses to win the entire tournament; instead, they failed to even make the knockout stages.
It's clear that the 3-5-2 formation that Conte has had so much success with in Serie A is vulnerable in Europe. Last year's elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich is still the best example: Juve's wing-backs were overrun by the likes of Arjen Robben, and the team simply couldn't get the ball in dangerous areas.
Conte experimented fairly successfully with a 4-3-3 in the Champions League against Real Madrid. Unfortunately he had to keep leaning on the 3-5-2 in European play because he doesn't have the players to play a 4-3-3 on a consistent basis. Eventually it came back to bite him.
For Juve to be competitive in next year's Champions League, they need to address the holes of a potential 4-3-3 in the summer transfer window. With that in mind, this article will focus not on individual players whom Juve need to target but needs at specific positions.
With that in mind, let's take a look ahead at what Conte and director Giuseppe Marotta must do this offseason.
Conte could fashion a front line with the players he has on hand, but it would be slipshod.
Fernando Llorente and Dani Osvaldo—as well as Fabio Quagliarella—could serve as target men in the center. The left wing could be manned by Mirko Vucinic or Sebastian Giovinco. The right is more of a problem—it would likely have to be occupied by an out-of-position Carlos Tevez.
The wings of the 4-3-3 are where the improvement needs to be made. There are several options Marotta and Conte can choose from to improve these areas, from within the club and without.
Internally, the Bianconeri can bring home two of the many young forwards under their control: Domenico Berardi and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Berardi, on loan at Sassuolo, has been fantastic this season. He has scored 12 times, a tally that includes a hat-trick at Sampdoria and a virtuoso four-goal performance at home against AC Milan. He can play anywhere along the forward line but seems best on the left wing, where he can cut inside with authority and lay the ball off. An added bonus is his contribution tracking back and defending—although he needs to learn to keep his temper on the field and avoid both yellow and red cards.
Gabbiadini was seen as a pure striker until Sinisa Mihajlovic took over at Sampdoria and installed him on the right side in his 4-2-3-1 system. Gifted with excellent pace and a cannon for a left foot, Gabbiadini has scored five of his eight goals from that position this season. He also has a pair of assists and is third in the league in shots per game, according to WhoScored.com.
Both players could be brought in next season easily by resolving co-ownership deals. Berardi's half may be a bit more expensive than what Juve paid last summer, but it wouldn't break the bank.
However, the external options just may. Top on the list is Antoine Griezmann. The left-winger from France has broken into the open in the last two seasons. WhoScored.com credits him with 15 goals and three assists in all competitions this season for La Liga side Real Sociedad.
To bring him in would likely require at least €30 million and beating out several major European players. Nick Lustig of the Daily Star reported earlier this month that Arsenal, PSG and Real Madrid are all vying for his signature.
Another option would be Alessio Cerci of crosstown rivals Torino and Juan Cuadrado of Fiorentina, both of whom Romeo Agresti of Goal.com reported to be at the top of Conte's list in February.
This is the biggest hole in Juve's plans for a transition to a 4-3-3.
Juve have a pair of excellent right-backs in Stephan Lichtsteiner and Martin Caceres, but things are bare on the other side. Angelo Ogbonna and Giorgio Chiellini can play the position in a pinch, but neither one is a long-term solution at the position. Paolo De Ceglie, currently on loan at Genoa, had his promising career stalled by injuries and isn't going to be the type of player that a team like Juve puts in their starting XI.
This is a spot Juve will have to go outside the farm to fill. Last summer they were heavily linked to Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov. Six days ago, Marco Giordano of Goal.com reported that the Bianconeri were still interested in such a move but faced competition from Napoli and Galatasaray. The prospect of the Serb signing an extension with City isn't out of the cards either.
Relations between Napoli and City soured this past summer when City failed to sign Edinson Cavani, so the Stadio San Paolo side may not be in pole position.
Transfermarkt.com lists Kolarov's value at €12 million—well within Juve's price range.
No other names on the left flank have been put forward with any seriousness, so Kolarov might be Marotta's guy—unless Marotta has something else up his sleeve.
Emanuele Giaccherini is not pictured here specifically to advocate for reacquiring him (although that would certainly not be a bad thing). Rather, he is pictured here to show the kind of player Juve needs on the roster.
Giaccherini provided quality depth behind the likes of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo. Even with Paul Pogba taking his place in the team the lack of such a player showed on Sunday against Fiorentina. With Andrea Pirlo suspended, Conte was forced to use the likes of Simone Padoin in midfield when he wanted to put on fresh legs.
In a 4-3-3 Kwadwo Asamoah may be able to fill this role; he plays through the middle in international competition with Ghana. But assuming the 3-5-2 continues to be part of Juve's arsenal either against smaller European teams or in the league, having that fifth central midfielder would be a huge difference.
It would be even more critical to pick up this kind of player if one of Juve's four top-of-the-line midfielders—Paul Pogba in particular—ends up leaving Turin this summer.
In October, Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia) claimed that Paris Saint-Germain was willing to include Marco Verratti in a deal for the Frenchman.
Quality depth indeed—not to mention a natural successor to Pirlo.
Even if they keep all four of their big mids, Juve could still do with a fifth man in case of suspension or a bevy of injuries. A player of the same type as Giaccherini (or, to throw out a name with no real link to any moves, Atalanta's Maximiliano Moralez), who can jump into a game and make a spark while serving a strictly limited role, would be ideal.