Squad Depth at Juventus, Finally

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Squad Depth at Juventus, Finally
(Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

The extensive transfer market conducted by the Juventus board has left many reeling this summer.

Four players have arrived on permanent deals, namely Diego, Felipe Melo, Fabio Cannavaro, and Fabio Grosso. Martin Caceres also arrives on loan, further strengthening a side that can now truly challenge for top honors.

This amounts to a near-complete overhaul of the squad, as each of the four permanent arrivals will undoubtedly take up a first-team spot. If the prayers of Juventus fans are answered, and Caceres wrestles away the right-back position from Grygera and Zebina, nearly half the starting team will have changed.

Coach Ciro Ferrara’s 4-3-1-2 formation leaves no doubt as to how the midfield will be deployed, with the first two matches of the season showing that this new brand of attacking football might very well prove to be the difference all Juventini were looking for.

At the back, of course, will be Gianluigi Buffon, the best goalkeeper in the world, now returning to the top of his game.

The defensive line ahead of him now boasts three of the starting defenders for the Italian national team.

At the right of defense will be one of Jonathan Zebina, Zdenek Grygera and Martin Caceres. While none of these names inspire great trust, Caceres is still an unknown quantity in Italy, and might very well find his feet in Italian football.

In the center of defense are three of Italy’s best—Giorgio Chiellini, Azzuri captain Cannavaro, and Nicola Legrottaglie—the latter being possibly the back-with-a-bang story of the decade.

No matter who starts in these positions, Juventus fans can rest assured that they will have the best defenders in Italy ahead of the best goalkeeper in the world.

Left back will now see Fabio Grosso make his debut after being signed by Juventus in the closing seconds of the transfer window. While some Juventini might miss Paolo de Ceglie, Ferrara’s trust in the youth system at Juventus indicates that he fully intends on giving the young lad his chance at glory.

Christian Molinaro, much to the relief of some fans, will now be hugging the bench, and will likely be sold in the near future.

In midfield, Claudio Marchisio is quickly making himself a name as the classiest young midfielder in Italy, and is already drawing comparisons with the likes of Marco Tardelli. Tiago seems to have revived his career as well, and has put in two comfortable, positive showings, though marred by a few fits of ‘Tiago-ness’ that fans have almost come to expect.

Completing the trio is Melo, on the back of an excellent season with rivals Fiorentina. Ahead of these players is Diego, the classy Brazilian trequartista, with the young, talented Sebastian Giovinco waiting in the wings.

The forward line is the only one to have stayed unchanged, and this comes as no surprise, given the quality of the four forwards that Juventus possess.

Names like Del Piero and Trezeguet are already etched into the annals of Calcio history, and the likes of Iaquinta and Amauri are doing everything they can to similarly achieve the status of legends in the Italian game.

An interesting point to ponder is what will become of the rest of the squad, to examine what is likely to be the coach’s vision for the Juventus squad over the following five years.

With some extremely talented players, some up-and-coming youngsters, and some who are unfortunately destined to leave Juventus without much fanfare, it will be interesting to see how Ciro Ferrara plans to prepare for the tough season ahead with the team competing in Serie A, the Champions League and the Coppa Italia.

While a bold statement to make, perhaps the most important of all the ‘backups’ is goalkeeper Alexander Manninger.

Deputizing for Buffon for large parts of last season, as well as the preseason, his performances were admirable to say the least. While he conceded a fair number of goals, he was not at fault for the majority, and made several world-class saves, proving that aside from the highly unlikely prospect of Iker Casillas, Manninger is the best backup that Juventini could hope for.

Ferrara’s defensive reinforcements include the aforementioned De Ceglie, Molinaro, Zebina and Grygera, as well as youngster Lorenzo Ariaudo, who put in a handful of promising performances last season.

With some of these players being quite versatile in terms of the roles they can play (some fans have even pondered the idea of turning Molinaro into a reverse-Zambrotta by turning him into a left-sided midfielder), Ferrara has the added advantage of being able to call up players from one of the best youth academies in the world, not just Italy.

Given that Ferrara once occupied the position of Youth System Chief at Juventus, he is intimately acquainted with the budding talent in that sector of the club.

Having stated from the very beginning that his priorities, in order, are the Champions League, then the Scudetto, Ferrara is therefore likely to use the Coppa Italia as a testing ground for future Juventus heroes.

Abdoulaye Bamba, native to the Ivory Coast and a part of the Juventus family since 2001, has put in stellar performances at right-back for the Primavera (youth) side, and will likely receive the chance this season to taste Serie A action.

Salvatore D’Elia is another name that will possibly be seen along the left flank of defense this year, though sparingly at best.

Among these defenders, it would be a fair bet to see either or both of a left back and a right back may leave during either the winter or summer transfer windows.

Given that Hasan Salihamidzic, a utility player capable of playing all positions, sometimes deputizes at right or left-back to some success, it would become evident that Juventus —far from last season’s dearth of such players—has an excess number of defensive wingers.

Ferrara’s formation certainly counts on these players to charge forward and provide crosses, but seven senior teamers and two youth players is too many.

Of these, it is likely that—providing a decent offer is found—it will be Molinaro and Zebina who depart the Stadio Olimpico permanently.

On the other hand, as there are only four center-backs available for what will be a grueling fixture list, the signing of a central defender seems likely, as none of the Primavera players are quite ready to step into the shoes of giants like Chiellini, Cannavaro and Legrottaglie.

As Juventus is wont to do, this central defender will likely be an Italian, with names both outlandish and unknown coming to mind. Alessio Secco, the Juventus transfer director, has come off a brilliant pre-season market, but with his previous ‘achievements’, it is a gamble as to whether his solution to this problem will be a piece of genius or a failure.

In midfield, Juventus are similarly overflowing with players, both talented and suspect. Tiago, while playing soundly in recent games, has been a hit-or-miss showman since he arrived at Juventus two seasons ago.

The ‘backups’ here include Christian Poulsen, Mauro Camoranesi, Momo Sissoko, Sebastian Giovinco and again, the versatile Salihamidzic.

While nominating Poulsen as the one to go is probably the logical choice, the Danish midfielder has made no secret of his desire to stay at Juventus and prove his worth.

Capable of sound displays from time to time, such as his performance in the first half of the season opener against Chievo Verona, Poulsen has been just as hit-or-miss as Tiago, though the Dane arguably had a better first season than the former Chelsea and Lyon midfielder.

With his dedication in training impressing Ferrara to the point of removing his name from the transfer list, Poulsen is unlikely to leave. A spirited player unwilling to compromise his career for a higher salary—and much loved by the fans due to his rift with Francesco Totti, Roma’s captain—Poulsen is determined to fight for his place.

His two appearances this season have shown signs that he can provide a positive impact on the team, and that Ferrara is willing to give him a chance.

So beloved is Giovinco to the Juventus faithful that even the mere idea of selling him would cause rioting in Turin. He is sure to be given many chances by Ferrara, who, unlike Ranieri before him, wants to play attacking football.

Juventus fans are drooling at the very idea of seeing the ‘Atomic Ant’ play alongside Diego: In fact, this is a very possible scenario.

A formation like a 4-2-3-1 in the latter stages of a match could see Melo and Sissoko playing in more defensive positions, with Giovinco, Diego and Camoranesi providing an absolutely lethal forward-midfield with Barcelona-like creativity, and the dominant force of one of Amauri, Iaquinta and Trezeguet leading the charge.

While questions still rise over whether Alessandro Del Piero and Diego are compatible on the pitch, it might be worthwhile to note that when the Captain and Giovinco shared the pitch a handful of times last season, there were only positives to be seen.

As Diego occupies a similar role to Giovinco’s, there might be no reason to worry, thus leaving the midfield in a very strong position.

The loss of Cristiano Zanetti was a big blow to the quality of the squad, leaving many fans still baffled as to the reason behind the transfer. With both the player and the club pointing fingers of blame at each other, it nevertheless remains that Juventus lost an extremely talented midfielder, one who would have fit into Ferrara’s formation in literally any midfield spot.

However, while a sense of gloom and despair set in following the transfer of Zanetti to fierce rivals Fiorentina, match-day 2’s performance against Roma reminded every Juventino that even though he was expensive, Felipe Melo is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Spirits are high again, and though most Juventini wish Zanetti the best of luck (as opposed to his Inter Milan namesake), they nonetheless hope he fails to perform in any game against their beloved Juventus.

The attacking force at Juventus is the only department apart from the goalkeepers who remained unchanged after the hectic summer transfers. Arguably the best set of forwards in Italy, and possibly even in Europe, the quartet of Del Piero, Trezeguet, Amauri and Iaquinta need no introduction.

While Trezeguet is only just returning to the first team after a whole season of being forced to the sidelines first by choosing to undergo surgery to both his knees, then being frozen out of the squad due to a ludicrously immature argument with Claudio Ranieri (now officially separated from his Juventus contract, and taking over from Luciano Spaletti at AS Roma), fans of Calcio know to be wary of Trezeguet.

After all, with the exception of last season, ‘Trez’ has terrorized defenses in Serie A for the last decade.

However, with rumors of Trezeguet having recently announced that he will leave Juventus at the end of the season, the team will likely look towards new opportunities to fill his space. Heading the list, after a summer of rumor after rumor, is Giuseppe Rossi of Villareal, a fantastic striker, and an Italian.

Other names include Goran Pandev, Luis Fabiano, Sergio Aguero, and a host of names each less likely than the other. In replacing Trezeguet, Juventus will have to search far and wide, for players in his mold are hard to come by.

An interesting option to consider is Porto’s star striker, Hulk. Despite the hilarity of his name, there is nothing amusing about his style of play, which melds strength, speed and an accurate rocket of a shot.

However, as Hulk recently signed a contract extension with a reputed 100 million Euro buy-out clause that extends until 2014, bringing the player to Turin will be difficult at best.

The player’s former club, Tokyo Verdy, owns half of his contract, and this might provide an inroad for Alessio Secco to avoid spending the ‘silly money’ that has been so rampant this past transfer window.

Regardless of the future wheeling and dealing on the transfer market, Juventus now possesses one of the most complete squads in club football. With every position from the goalkeeper to the forwards having plenty of reliable backups, Juve have assembled a team capable of seriously competing for every honor in the game.

Michel Platini, UEFA President and former Juventus legend, might have his dream of handing the ‘big-eared’ trophy to his old club. The club also stands to add not only another Coppa Italia to its collection, but also the long-awaited third star on their jerseys.

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