With Juventus on the verge of signing Felipe Melo from Fiorentina, Juventus find themselves with a surplus of central/defensive midfielders. Logically, it makes sense for the Old Lady to off-load one or two, but who should go?
The general sentiment from the media and Juventinos is that Christian Poulsen should be the one to go. After a less than impressive first season, "the great Dane" has been linked with numerous clubs, including Fenerbahçe, Schalke, Hamburg, Villarreal, Liverpool, and Barcelona.
However, Poulsen has repeatedly stated that he is happy at Juve and is eager to honor his contract and prove himself.
It is no secret that Poulsen's first season with Juventus was not spectacular. He found himself in a back-up role behind Mohamed Sissoko, and competing for playing time with Tiago, Cristiano Zanetti, and Claudio Marchisio. It was only when Sissoko was injured in the later part of the season that Poulsen saw any real playing time.
Now, I will not disagree that Poulsen didn't live up to expectations in 2008-09, but we have to keep in mind his role. One of the most difficult roles to play is a back-up, as you are expected to come off the bench and play at the highest level, regardless if you have seen less than 15-30 minutes playing time over the past month. It is even more difficult to be forced into a starting role when seeing little playing time.
This is where chemistry comes becomes so important, as it takes time on the pitch to develop. Poulsen was on a new team, in a new league, playing a different style of football.
Back to the topic at hand though, should Poulsen be the midfielder to go? In the center of the pitch Juventus currently have Melo, Sissoko, Tiago, Zanetti, Marchisio, Poulsen, and Sergio Almiron. It is obvious that the two starting spots will go to Melo and Sissoko, with Marchisio (who is developing into one of the better midfielders in Italy) filling the first back-up role.
That leaves Poulsen to fight for a second back-up spot with Tiago, Zanetti, and Almiron. Tiago, who joined in 2007, is coming into form, showing significant improvement in 2008-09 from the dismal performances of his first season at Juve.
Zanetti has been injured, almost constantly over the past few seasons but, when he does get time on the pitch, shows potential. Almiron, since joining in 2007, has played in only 10 games for Juventus, and spent the past two seasons on loan.
I think my point is, of the three guaranteed back-ups, who is most likely to provide the right contribution to help Juventus in winning the Scudetto and the Champions League?
Who is the lesser of the three evils?
In my opinion, Poulsen. As a back-up, he provides the most complete game of the three, and only improved over time. It is important to remember that his performances were not horrible. He never gets completely worked over, he is willing to take the backseat to the other midfielders on attack, and plays his role intelligently.
Most importantly though, he is showing signs of leadership and commitment. He recently ran the fastest 3000 and 1200 in practice, and he is obviously not a runner.
I believe Pouslen is hitting the ground running this year, and alongside Tiago provides as solid set of reserves. After just one season it does not make sense to let him go, and Juve's management should look to off-load Zanetti (before his value drops further than it already has) and Almiron (who does not have the quality to make a contribution).
Still, I would not be surprised if Poulsen were to be shipped away, giving Juventus the much need cash to purchase a right or left fullback. It would be disappointing though, as Poulsen is committed to Juve, and has the potential to make a strong contribution of the bench this coming season.
If Poulsen stays it is up to the fans of the Old-Lady to support him, and provide the kind of encouragement that builds a player's confidence.
However, if he flops again this year, I reserve the right to string him up by his ankles and ship him away to whoever will take him.