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Friday August 18 2017
Juventus short in the middle

A new season starting on Saturday, the champions are uncharacteristically light in two fundamental areas of the pitch, writes Nick Valerio

The Serie A landscape is changing. Though Juventus remain Scudetto favourites, there is a genuine threat to the Old Lady’s uninterrupted six-year reign at the top, and the ambitious challengers who ran them close last year, notably Napoli, will firmly believe they can end the dominance of Italy’s most successful side.

The gap between Juventus and the chasing pack is undoubtedly shrinking, and the champions have played their part in reducing their own advantage. This time last year, there was collective shock as general manager Beppe Marotta sensationally activated the release clause of Gonzalo Higuain, a move which left the Partenopei helpless, and Roma felt equally aggrieved when the Bianconeri successfully came knocking for midfielder Miralem Pjanic.

Fast forward a summer and Max Allegri’s side have experienced a taste of their own medicine. With the rumour mill in full flow, even the most optimistic Milan supporter would not have believed Juventus would strengthen a rival, while weakening themselves in the process. In Leonardo Bonucci, Vincenzo Montella has acquired arguably the best defender in Europe. The Italian also proved an asset at the other end of the field, chipping in with some invaluable goals and assists, and was the brains to Giorgio Chiellini’s brawn. The pair complemented each other wonderfully and his loss cannot be ignored.

The glaring hole left by the technically gifted defender must be occupied. Despite the fact Juve respectfully allowed Bonucci to depart, the club should be adding, not replacing a player of such calibre.

Chiellini is a warrior, but his performance level noticeably dropped in the previous term. Along with veteran Andrea Barzagli, he is the wrong side of 30 and Medhi Benatia has also recently reached that milestone. In the meantime, Daniele Rugani will hope to take advantage of the opening and stake a claim in World Cup year.

Juventus need an experienced, but not aging, figure who can slot in seamlessly and has ideally featured regularly in Europe’s elite competition. Now it’s over to Marotta to work his magic again.

Further forward, the impending capture of Blaise Matuidi will offer something different to the midfield. The Frenchman has boundless energy and is a sound investment to a squad challenging on three fronts, but won’t solve a problem area which was dramatically exposed in Cardiff against Real Madrid. Sami Khedira and Pjanic were comprehensively out-run and should never have been in a position of facing three men in Los Blancos’ midfield.

As things stand, the Bianconeri don’t just need a recognised centre-half, but also an orthodox holding midfielder. It’s a role that can be covered temporarily, but not permanently. Look at the impact Casemiro has had on Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Particularly the German, who played within himself during the beginning of his Madrid career, as the anchor in front of the back four. Now Kroos has the licence to showcase his phenomenal passing range and play his natural game.

While Juventus may not appear their usual imperious self, they still have time to make an assault on the market. If they can secure two top level reinforcements, this will give everyone at the club a lift and should ensure they are equipped for the long season ahead.  

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
does anyone know anything about the spinazzola situation is atalanta letting him return early or not? also is asamoah staying or going?
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 2:57am
@Beppe Rossi

That's your list of promising juve talent? That's not a very impressive list to be honest..
on the 19th August, 2017 at 1:23pm
Matuidi is a quality box to box player and will give Juve some much needed dynamism and physicality in central midfield. I wonder if Allegri will now switch to having three central midfielders, because I don't think that you'll see the best of Blaise if he is an anchor in a 4231. It's also a good move in that it could entice Verratti to team up with Matuidi once again in the future as they had a great understanding at PSG and really complimented one another.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 8:08pm
Juve have so much young talent that I am not concerned at all. Kean, Bentancur, Orsolini, Clemenza, Pjaca,Matheus Pereira,Zeqiri, Kastanos the list goes on and on.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 5:19pm
Tho I find it funny that Juve fans want Keita. For what? It's Barcelona who should want Keita. He is the replacement. Where is he gonna play? He'd be just a ton of depth, but the team would still be lacking in the driving force department.

A DM or a true playmaker. There can be rotation. But as is, Marchisio and Pjanic have to be the starting duo when it all comes down to it. And if Pjanic isn't enough (never cared for the move), then you gotta get someone.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 5:10pm
LOL @ Benatia not having any defensive skills. I guess those 4 seasons in Italy where he was world-class equate to not having any skills. Had he gotten the chance earlier in his career, he'd be starting for France. His injury midway thru his first Bayern season, along with the intense tactics, messed him up.

But I don't know why he was brought in. They have 4 starting CB's, so they're not thin in the back. How many do you need? If they play with 3, De Sciglio can play on the outside.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 5:08pm
If you're willing to move for Matuidi, then instead do a Juventus thing and go for Lassana Diarra, who has a great and yet super disappointing career. In his physical prime still, and the best in the game when he plays for something important. Why not Lucas Leiva, who ended up at Lazio? Or the more revered Luiz Gustavo? Why not the absurd talent that is Yann M'Vila?

Matuidi is obviously not a playmaker, and not even a true DM. I don't quite get it.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 5:00pm
Matuidi is a good move in that he's a great player in his prime, 4 times better than Khedira, and all that. He's a DM in the sense that he wins balls and is defensive-minded (technically limited) but his positioning isn't quite that...and he's not Gattuso either. Marchisio is the best of them all, and if healthy he's genuinely world-class and can start anywhere. Pjanic can be, but not to the same extent. But he's a playmaker.

So, rotation is good, but how do you get the best out all them?
on the 18th August, 2017 at 4:53pm
I'm sure they will have plenty of cheques ready to ensure the "gap" stays.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 3:04pm
it is absurd especially when juve have caldara on loan that they are a little bit short at the back. I would like to know why juve aren't able to recall him he seems the obvious solution for the defence there isn't even the excuse now that he won't get enough game time.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 2:58pm
@juveman

Not too mention Bonucci.. lol
on the 18th August, 2017 at 1:58pm
What have Napoli done in the transfer market? How about retaining all of their key players? They have also made a few very good signings and will probably add more if they qualify for the CL. They have continuity on their side. In addition to that, their young players and last seasons signings will know exactly what Sarri wants and will be more assimilated into his system. If they can reduce their profligacy and lapses at the back (at times) I think that they will be right up there.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 11:05am
@Roma Fan, Romagnoli is currently injured & has missed most of pre-season. As for Juve, I see several problems. Without Bonucci, the defense is no longer what it was, certainly when it comes to a back 4. reverting back to a 352 could make them more solid again. 4231 leaves them too open. Whilst Pjanic & Khedira are decent players, neither are good enough at shielding the back 4. Fielding Marchisio in behind them (where he has been outstanding since Pirlo's departure)would make them more compact
on the 18th August, 2017 at 10:55am
Yet again penny pinching is a problem, going to let Keita languish at Lazio or go else where, he is the pace and youth and talent they need, as for matudi, another player too old for an already ageing squad, yet they are going to fork out the 30 million for him and not keita. I do not feel this will be a good year for Juve, they were destroyed by Lazio, a team that was no where on the scene last year, a disaster awaits, and then it will be a firesale next summer.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 8:42am
It's shocking that players like Rugani, Romagnoli are still benched
on the 18th August, 2017 at 8:34am
There is an increasing assertation that Juventus did not well in this market and gap between Juventus and other teams are already closed.How people even don't understand that Juventus' defense regardless of who plays.It is kind of understanding lying Juventus's DNA. Losing Bonucci of course important thing just like pogba, vidal. Costa, Matuidi are world class transfers. Juventus has deepest squad in italy.
Stop saying gap is closed! Where is Salah replacement? What Napoli did in transfermarkt
on the 18th August, 2017 at 8:29am
Let's not forget what was said when we lost Vidal and tevez, then pirlo, then pogba and we just kept rolling.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 7:29am
Given the purchases made this year it seems we'll stick with the 2 man mid. And in that case matuidi does give us some good defensive cover, also keep in mind that marchisio might be back to 100% again or at least close and you can't really make all your off season decisions based off of 1 game. Really and truly what happened is they starved dybala who was our only driving force and now we have 3 of that type of player.
on the 18th August, 2017 at 7:27am
Juve are atill the team to beat, but losing Tolisso was typical of them, scrounging around for a cheaper alternative like Matuidi, who'll need to be replaced in a few years anyway. Tolisso could have been the solution for many years.

Rugani will really need to step up, because Barzagli is aging and Benatia is average. Why they spent 17m on him I don't know.

A RB is needed too, but Cancelo looks set for Inter.

Matuidi should let Juve play their 4 forwards, though, so goals should be easy
on the 18th August, 2017 at 1:39am
Totally agree with everything in this article....took the words right from my mouth, lol. I'm not holding my breath for Marotta to spring any big signings, he already let Tolisso and Cancelo get away, and stupidly signed De Sciglio. Also, buying Benatia was about the dumbest move he's made, the guy has no defensive skills or talent. Not buying a decent CB in this window is gonna be his next biggest mistake....
on the 18th August, 2017 at 1:00am

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