Ranking and Grading Juventus' Defenders on Form in 2015/16

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistMarch 9, 2016

Ranking and Grading Juventus' Defenders on Form in 2015/16

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    OLIVIER MORIN/Getty Images

    As Juventus rediscovered their best form this season and slowly climbed the Serie A table, there is little doubt their success was built upon their defensive solidity. As they have in each of the past four campaigns—all of which saw them crowned champions—the Bianconeri have protected Gigi Buffon's goal impeccably well.

    According to figures provided by Fox Soccer, the Italy captain has kept more clean sheets than any goalkeeper in the league (16), three more than second-placed Samir Handanovic of Inter. Yet in doing so, the Juve man has made just 47 saves while his Slovenian rival has made a staggering 92 thus far.

    What follows is a closer look at the players who have ensured Buffon enjoys a relatively quiet time between the posts, ranking and grading the Juventus defenders on their performances in 2015/16.

8. Martin Caceres

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    Per game averages in Serie A: 0.8 tackles, 1.2 interceptions, 2.3 clearances

    When Giorgio Chiellini and Stephan Lichtsteiner struggled with injuries at the start of the campaign, the stage was set for Martin Caceres to shine.

    Instead, he was involved in a drink-driving incident, with the club suspending him for a “gross violation of his responsibilities as a Juventus player,” per a statement on their official website.

    Since then, he has returned to action only to suffer a torn Achilles that has ruled him out for the rest of 2015/16.

    Grade: F

7. Daniele Rugani

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    Per game averages in Serie A: 0.5 tackles, 0.4 interceptions, 1.6 clearances

    Despite being a clearly talented prospect, Juve’s early season struggles meant Daniele Rugani found his opportunities limited, and he has made just nine appearances to date in all competitions. Six of those have been as a substitute, and as a result, he has looked nervous in his more recent outings, particularly in the Coppa Italia clash with Inter.

    Coach Massimiliano Allegri has urged caution, praising the 21-year-old at a recent press conference and calling Rugani “the future of Juventus and Italian football” before expressing a desire to see the former Empoli man rise to the challenge.

    “He developed a lot in the last two months and his increased playing time is evidence of that, but this is not a reason to heighten the pressure on him,” the Juve boss continued. “He's young and he must do what he can right now.”

    Grade: D

6. Giorgio Chiellini

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    Per game averages in Serie A: 1.6 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, 3.7 clearances

    Perhaps for the first time since he joined Juventus, Chiellini has struggled to perform at his best, with the team arguably looking better when he is absent from the starting XI.

    It would be no surprise to see him recover and once again become a key figure, but so far in 2015/16, he has been disappointing.

    Grade: D

5. Stephan Lichtsteiner

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    Per game averages in Serie A: 1.2 tackles, 0.5 interceptions, 1.3 clearances

    Lichtsteiner has been as dependable as ever at right-back without the ball, diligently sticking to his defensive assignments and rarely being beaten by his opposite number.

    However, in attack, he has contributed just one goal and one assist in all competitions, often struggling to match his input from previous seasons.

    Grade: C

4. Patrice Evra

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    Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

    Per game averages in Serie A: 2.2 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, 2.3 clearances

    No Juventus defender has averaged more tackles per game than Patrice Evra, and the Frenchman has continued to provide a reliable option on the left flank. Alex Sandro may soon surpass him as the club's first choice for the role, but that is in no way a criticism of the former Manchester United man.

    Also weighing in with one goal and three assists over his 26 appearances in all competitions, the wealth of experience and leadership Evra adds to the squad cannot be underestimated.

    Grade: B

3. Andrea Barzagli

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    Per game averages in Serie A: 1.0 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, 2.9 clearances

    That Andrea Barzagli finds himself only third on this list is no slight on the 2006 World Cup winner, instead, it highlights just how well those ranked above him have performed. "The Rock" has lived up to his nickname, turning in consistently flawless displays whenever he has been called upon.

    He's yet to receive a single yellow card, and it is staggering to note Barzagli has committed a total of just five fouls in his 22 Serie A appearances to date.

    Grade: A

2. Alex Sandro

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Per game averages in Serie A: 1.6 tackles, 1.8 interceptions, 1.4 clearances

    Alex Sandro quickly settled into life in Turin and has proved to be a fine acquisition for the Bianconeri. Recognised as a potent attacking force before his arrival, he has delivered on that reputation by adding two goals and three assists while creating 33 scoring opportunities for his team-mates in Serie A.

    That tally is bettered only by Paulo Dybala's 59 and Paul Pogba's 34, but Sandro has also proved to be a sound defender with good tactical discipline and excellent concentration, which ensures he is rarely beaten by an opponent.

    Grade: A

1. Leonardo Bonucci

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    Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

    Per game averages in Serie A: 0.9 tackles, 2.6 interceptions, 4.3 clearances

    No defender has given more to Juventus this season than Leonardo Bonucci, and the Italy international has blossomed into a fine leader at the heart of the back line. Whether deployed in a three- or four-man setup, his communication skills are essential to the cohesion of the unit, and he has recently earned praise and recognition from some unexpected quarters.

    After seeing Bonucci in action against his Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League, Pep Guardiola called the 28-year-old “one of my favourite players ever” at his post-match press conference. Since then, he has scored a vital goal and a winning shootout penalty in consecutive games against former club Inter in the Coppa Italia while maintaining his excellent defensive standards.

    Grade: A

    All statistics are provided by WhoScored.com unless otherwise stated

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