Positives and Negatives: A Look at the 2008/09 Juventus Season
The expectations going into this season were sky-high with experts predicting Juventus could return to the heights they achieved before their demotion to Serie B.
While the hopes were high and people expected this Juve squad to return to its former glory, the season has certainly been a roller coaster of a ride.
Now a third of the way into the season, Juve are tied for second in Serie A with 27 points, six behind arch-rivals Inter Milan. Claudio Ranieri's men have another huge game just 12 days from now, facing the team they currently share second place with, AC Milan.
The Bianconeri are also at the top of Group H in the Champions League, having clinched a spot in the knockout round with their 2-1 win against Real Madrid back at the beginning of November.
Considering we are about to enter the 15th week of the Serie A season, we have a pretty good idea what this team looks like.
Amauri - Many people wondered why Juve needed to sign the former Palermo striker this summer when they already had the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Vincenzo Iaquinta, and Raffaele Palladino forming one of the most lethal strike forces in Europe.
Palladino has since joined Genoa in a co-ownership deal and Trezeguet still on the mend and out until January, the Brazlian striker, has recorded nine goals in all competitions, five of which have been game-winners. He has added some extra muscle and has been a threat in the air, something that Juve's attack was lacking, and is certainly living up to his €22.6 million price tag.
Alessandro Del Piero - As he did last year, the Juventus captain got off to a pretty slow start. However, the slow start is now forgotten and he is one of the main reasons why Juve are moving on to the knockout round in the Champions League, scoring four of the Old Lady's seven European goals.
The 34-year-old Juve icon just scored his 250th goal with the club last weekend against Reggina and by the look of things, there is no way he's going to be slowing down any time soon.
Momo Sissoko - Like Del Piero, Juve's lone signing last January didn't have the greatest starts to the 2008/09 season. However, the 23-year-old Mali international has turned things on since Ramadan and his subsequent fasting ended, which he admitted was why he was not on form.
Over the past six weeks, Sissoko has been one of Juve's most consistent performers. His hard-nosed tackles and control of the center of the park is one of the main reasons why the Old Lady has gotten back into the Scudetto race. If he only improves his passing, he will be one of the best midfielders in Serie A.
Alexander Manninger - Nobody knew before the season started that Manninger might be one of the cheapest and most important signings in Europe when he was brought in to provide cover in case Gianluigi Buffon got injured.
Since Buffon went down in the middle of October for the second time because of a recurrence of a thigh and was declared out until January, the Austrian international has done a fantastic job, allowing just six goals in ten games.
Giorgio Chiellini - Short and sweet: he is becoming one of the best central defenders in the world, which is shocking considering he has only been in the center of Juve's defense for just over a year.
Teaming with Nicola Legrottaglie, who has had his own sort of career renaissance, Chiellini has been the rock of Juve's Buffon-less defense. He is by far one of the most consistent players in manager Claudio Ranieri's starting squad.
All those injuries - No matter what the result is, it always seems as though one player goes done with an injury during a Juve game. At one point, Juve had Gianluigi Buffon, David Trezeguet, Mauro Camoranesi, Christian Poulsen, Cristiano Zanetti, Nicola Legrottaglie, and Vincenzo Iaquinta all out injured.
Mainly because of a thin squad, Juve were sent into an early season crisis. Results were bad and regulars were not getting any kind of rest, sometimes playing three games in a weeks time between Serie A and Champions League.
However, the injured players are slowly recovering. Despite that, there seems to be a new injury every time one gets better, with Camoranesi going down with a collarbone injury last weekend against Reggina.
Lack of impact from the summer signings - Other than Amauri and Manninger, the players that Juve signed this summer really haven't done that much of anything. Christian Poulsen has failed to make a legitimate impact on things and is currently on the mend with an injury.
Sporting Director Alessio Secco is not a favorite of Juve supporters and considering how the majority of his signings since their return to Serie A have turned out, there are plenty of reasons why they feel that way.
No regular playing time for Sebastian Giovinco - Called the heir apparent to Del Piero's No. 10 jersey in Turin, the tiny playmaker hasn't seen much of the field this season at all, much to the dismay of the Juve faithful.
However, when he has seen the field, he has been effective, registering several assists and drew the penalty that led to Del Piero's 250th goal with Juventus last weekend.
Because of the lack of action on the field, the always interesting Italian media has done nothing but link Giovinco with a move away from his hometown club in recent weeks. Despite the rumors, both the club and Giovinco's agent has said has is going nowhere, but you tend to wonder what has to be going through his head as he sits on the bench every week.
Claudio Ranieri's reluctance to play the youngsters - Obviously Giovinco is the most publicized one, but Juve have some of the most talented youngsters in all of Italy. Midfielder Claudio Marchisio is the only one of the big three (Giovinco, Marchisio, and defender Paolo De Ceglie) homegrown talents on this year's squad to get considerable playing time.
In what is the busiest season Juve have had in three years and with a lot of the regulars getting up there in age, a lot of fans, including this one, want to ask Ranieri the same question: Why not play the kids and rest the old guard against the lower level Serie A teams?
While a year training with some of the best players in the world is fantastic, you have to wonder what a year of minimal playing time will do to three future Italian internationals.
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