Juventus: Full Report Card for Every Position Entering Serie A Season
It has been a tumultuous summer for Italian champions Juventus, with the Turin club rocked by the resignation of Antonio Conte just two days into their pre-season training schedule. The subsequent appointment of Massimiliano Allegri as coach led to a somewhat pessimistic air surrounding the club, although that seems to have since cleared.
The Bianconeri have been—despite Arturo Vidal being constantly linked with a move away—relatively quiet on the transfer front, although there is still time left in the window for some late additions. Those who have already arrived at the club have reinforced the level of depth available to the new boss, while those departing have largely only been fringe players.
What follows over the following pages is a breakdown of the current Juventus squad by position, looking at the strengths and the weaknesses of each department.
Captain Gianluigi Buffon returns for his 14th season representing the club, and he is only 12 appearances short of a landmark 500th match for the grand Old Lady of Italian football. The 36-year-old remains, despite his advancing years, among the world’s best at his position and can be relied upon to once again deliver consistently excellent performances.
According to statistics available from Fox Soccer, only Morgan De Sanctis (21) managed more clean sheets than Buffon (18) last term, with the Roma ‘keeper playing almost 400 minutes more than his Juve counterpart.
The same source shows he also made 89 saves, conceding a league-low 0.61 goals per game during 2013-14. Currently, Marco Storari occupies the position of deputy, although the former Milan man has been linked with a move to Sassuolo in recent weeks, per Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia).
Stephan Lichtsteiner remains the undisputed first choice on the right flank, with the Swiss international leading the club with eight assists. As discussed here previously, his link-up play with Fernando Llorente proved to be a valuable weapon last term, with the duo combining for six of the striker’s 16 league goals in 2013-14.
While Mauricio Isla has left for Queens Park Rangers, the Bianconeri moved quickly to bring in Romulo as a replacement. Like the Chilean, the former Hellas Verona man is able to play in a variety of positions, but he is largely expected to act as back-up to Lichtsteiner on the right.
The versatile Brazilian also notched eight assists while averaging 2.5 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game for the Gialloblu. Weighing in with six goals of his own, the 27-year-old looks set to be an interesting addition for the reigning champions.
Perhaps the weakest position in the squad, the decision over who patrols the left flank is likely to depend on the formation chosen by coach Allegri. Should he opt to retain Conte’s 3-5-2 framework, the likely candidate is Kwadwo Asamoah, a standout performer for Juventus since arriving from Udinese.
The Ghanaian has excelled as a left wing-back, improving his attacking forays while showing a sound ability to cover defensively when the need arises. Federico Peluso was previously second choice in that role, but the 30-year-old was sold on to Sassuolo earlier this summer.
In his place comes Patrice Evra, a man who needs no introduction following eight successful seasons with Premier League giants Manchester United. Arriving in Turin for a low fee, the Frenchman provides a viable solution on the left should Allegri decide upon a more traditional back four.
The positives of signing the 33-year-old defender were discussed in detail here, and his veteran experience should prove to be a viable asset, particularly in the Champions League.
The regular trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini remains intact, and they have proven beyond doubt their ability to perform domestically. Their displays as a three-man back line were largely responsible for the Bianconeri conceding a league-low 23 goals last term.
Forming the backbone of the club’s three consecutive titles, the problem comes when switching to a back four. Chiellini is a top-quality player in any setup, but with Barzagli struggling with injuries, Bonucci is unsuited to the alternative formation.
Angelo Ogbonna has yet to fully settle into life at a truly big club, which leaves Martin Caceres as the only viable alternative. The Uruguayan was excellent last term, averaging 2.2 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game while completing 90.5 per cent of his passes.
Allegri will need him to continue that rich vein of form if he is to be able to constantly chop and change the team's playing style, particularly when the Champions League gets underway. There have also been major indications that Luca Marrone will provide cover in this area as the need to rotate arises.
Undoubtedly, the team’s biggest strength lies in the quality, chemistry and variety of its four leading midfielders, each offering the side a vastly differing skill set and combining to become one of Europe’s very best units.
Andrea Pirlo is usually the headline act, with the veteran genius providing four goals and six assists last term. He led the team with 69 completed passes per game. Beside him, both Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio added defensive awareness with attacking intent, their strength and stamina the perfect foil for Pirlo’s guile and cunning.
However, it is Vidal that provides this Juventus with its beating heart, the Chilean proving to be the club’s most valuable player once again. As if 11 goals and five assists didn’t already mark out his vital contribution, only Udinese’s Allan (136) bettered his 2013-14 tally of 130 tackles, highlighting the impact of his contribution at both ends of the pitch.
Roberto Pereyra may not have been the midfield signing Juventus supporters were hoping for, but the 23-year-old should add to the depth here as well as providing another option further forward.
With the arrivals of both Carlos Tevez and Llorente last summer, Juventus took a giant leap forward in terms of attacking quality, with the duo combining for 35 league goals in their debut campaigns.
Each played a vital role, with the impact of Tevez having adding a huge impetus to the side’s cutting edge upfront. Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic both left the club this summer, and that should see an increase in playing time for the much-maligned Sebastian Giovinco.
Beyond that trio, the squad remains limited, although Alvaro Morata is the biggest name to arrive in Turin this summer. Able to play in a variety of attacking roles, the former Real Madrid star should provide Allegri with greater tactical flexibility, a matter dissected in greater detail here.
Perhaps the side remains one player short in this department, but the level of quality is already high enough to challenge for the biggest honours in 2014-15.
Stats via WhoScored unless otherwise noted.