As always, the last 24 hours of the summer transfer window delivered drama, intensity and some unexpected twists.
Deadline day for Juventus was spent chasing Axel Witsel, but they were unable to complete a deal, losing out on the Belgium international in the minutes before the 11 p.m. cut-off point, per GazzettaWorld.
Bianconeri supporters were understandably disappointed by that failure, seeing the Zenit Saint Petersburg man as perhaps the final piece of a squad that could enjoy huge success in 2016/17.
As can be seen below, 59 per cent of the 832 fans who voted in a Twitter poll believe the Turin giants needed one final player to make the club’s summer business perfect:
Yet while Witsel could have made them even better overall, he remains in Russia, so coach Massimiliano Allegri must now work with the players at his disposal and guide his team toward achieving their lofty objectives.
To grade Juventus on their summer business, we must go all the way back to June, before the transfer window officially opened in Italy. It was then when the Old Lady took Miralem Pjanic from AS Roma, robbing their rivals of arguably their best player and adding perhaps the exact midfielder they themselves needed.
Injecting his range of passing, creativity and dead-ball prowess into Juve’s existing combination of talent has given Allegri a huge array of tactical options. As noted by OptaPaolo, Pjanic was the only midfielder in Serie A to reach double figures in both goals and assists last term:
However, the Bianconeri were far from done in the centre of the pitch, going on to secure Mario Lemina on a permanent deal from Olympique de Marseille after being impressed by the Gabon international last term.
But that paled in comparison to the club’s biggest move, with director general Beppe Marotta handing Napoli €90 million (£75.3 million) to trigger Gonzalo Higuain’s release clause. It was a deal that stunned football fans on the peninsula, and one that again robbed one of Juve’s rivals of their most important player.
The Argentina international set a new league record last season, with his 36 goals in 35 appearances not only breaking the previous high—which had stood since 1950—but also pushing the Partenopei to the brink of a Scudetto triumph.
He will now wear the black and white stripes—it's a move that unquestionably strengthens Juve’s domestic dominance, widening the gap between themselves and their Serie A opponents by quite some distance.
Yet the Old Lady is no longer measuring her quality against those teams, clearly operating with higher goals in mind, and her dream of glory in the UEFA Champions League was unquestionably behind some of the other summer arrivals.
Joining Higuain in attack is Marko Pjaca, the 21-year-old Croatia international winger having impressed at UEFA Euro 2016 and at club level for Dinamo Zagreb, prompting Juventus to invest €23 million (£19.3 million) to secure his signature.
In addition, the club’s one deadline-day move was to secure the return of Juan Cuadrado, giving Allegri a pair of wingers for the first time since he was appointed in 2014. That could see a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation become an option, allowing Juve to attack with a new weapon: pace on the flanks.
That could prove invaluable in Europe, where elite teams often rely on similar options in order to dispose of resolute opponents in the group stage. Having seen Pjaca impress on his debut against Lazio, the idea of him and Cuadrado working in tandem should be a frightening prospect for teams across the continent.
Perhaps the biggest weakness in this team over recent seasons has been a lack of creativity, a problem discussed in a previous post. That duo, along with the arrival of Pjanic, will surely see that issue come to an end, giving way to a much less predictable side and a far more dangerous attack.
While scoring goals should be much easier, Juventus have a reputation as one of the most impressive defensive units in Europe. The continued presence of Gigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini will see that maintained, but the club has also worked to improve at the back, too.
Medhi Benatia brings experience from Bayern Munich and is fully capable of impressing in Serie A, as his time at Roma saw him become a well-respected player. But now the window has closed and the squad is complete, it is time to reflect on the importance of signing Dani Alves.
Stephan Lichtsteiner is a superb full-back, one capable of holding his own against the best attacks Juve will face. His performances over the past five seasons stand as a shining example of what is demanded of every player in Turin.
Yet Alves has experience of winning the Champions League on multiple occasions, with his ability to attack and defend making him perhaps the only player to surpass Lichtsteiner in the role over that same period.
But more than that, his presence at Juve means Cuadrado will almost certainly not need to play at wing-back, as he did last term, which again hints at a much more attack-minded approach from Allegri in 2016/17.
Juve did, of course, sacrifice Paul Pogba as a result of their spending, selling him back to Manchester United for a world-record, €105 million (£89.3 million) fee—a move that undoubtedly weakens the side but one that must also be looked at as part of the overall plan.
The sale of Pogba funded much of the club’s summer business, and he was followed out of Juventus Stadium by Simone Zaza (loan), Simone Padoin, Martin Caceres and Alvaro Morata, the latter returning to hometown club Real Madrid.
He and Pogba are the only real losses among that group, and when stacked up against the arrivals of Pjanic, Higuain, Pjaca, Benatia, Alves and Cuadrado, there is no question it was a fantastic summer for Juventus.
If Claudio Marchisio were fit, then there would be far less concern about the failure to snag Witsel, but that must remain as a blot on Marotta’s otherwise flawless transfer window. Looking at the squad laid out as two separate teams in the above tweet highlights the director's impressive business.
As a result, we can only applaud Juventus for their work during the transfer window. Another high-quality midfielder would have made it a perfect transfer window, but that also means an A grade is out of the question.
Therefore, there is no alternative but to rate Juve’s summer as a hugely admirable B+, which is testament to their planning, effort and foresight.