“I don’t think there is a problem in attack,” stated match-day boss Angelo Alessio after Juventus’ 1-1 draw with Nordsjaelland in the Champions League. “We have five forwards in our squad and we firmly believe in their qualities. Sooner or later, these qualities will shine through.”
Not everyone is as convinced as the stand-in tactician. No matter what they say in Turin, there are those who are adamant that the Old Lady are missing an attacker who can net them 15-20 goals a season, a player who can resolve those complicated encounters with a single shot.
Indeed, the club’s much-publicised attempts to sign a big-name centre-forward which they constantly spoke about in the summer does little to strengthen Alessio’s claims. Especially when their search ultimately resulted in a desperate transfer deadline day loan swoop for Nicklas Bendtner.
Perceptions, however, do sometimes cloud reality. Look at the goals for column in the Serie A League table and Juventus have 22 in 10 games. Only Roma can match those strikes – and three of theirs were imaginary after being awarded victory for the postponed Cagliari encounter in Week 4.
Of course, only nine of Juventus’ aforementioned 22 have come from forward players, while midfielders Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo have netted just as many as Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella. Yet, when you deconstruct the statistics a little bit further you have to wonder how much of a problem there really is ‘up top’ in Turin.
If anything, boss Antonio Conte’s rotation policy when it comes to his attackers is giving the wrong impression. He’s over-rotating them, thus depriving any of his men in that department a consistently long enough run in the first team to find the kind of form that could deliver as many goals as the illusive ‘top player’ they didn’t sign would have.
In their 14 official games this season – including the Italian Super Cup Final – Conte has fielded the same striking combination in successive ties on only two occasions. Break that down further and Giovinco has been named in the starting XI in five straight matches, Mirko Vucinic three, while Alessandro Matri, Bendtner and Quagliarella have done the same on just two occasions each. That lack of consistent playing time is undoubtedly a factor in performances and a lack of individual goals.
“Saturday’s Inter clash will be a great match, but I don’t know whether I will play as the Coach rotates all of the strikers he has available,” Quagliarella admitted after scoring the opener in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Bologna.
The individual case of Quagliarella is one of the most interesting. He is, by some distance, Juventus’ most potent attacking threat in Serie A this season seeing as his three goals have come in only 307 minutes of action. That’s an average of a goal every 102 minutes and is comfortably superior to Bendtner who has no goals in 202 minutes, Giovinco’s three in 604, Matri’s one in 200 and the rarely prolific Vucinic’s two in 620.
Quagliarella’s numbers don’t just look good inside Vinovo either. Open it out to the events of this Serie A campaign and he compares favourably to Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy who is getting a top-flight goal every 119 minutes, Napoli’s Edinson Cavani on 124, Miroslav Klose of Lazio on 140 and Diego Milito’s Inter average of 176.
That’s not to say that Quagliarella is necessarily the answer to Juventus’ so-called problems in attack, but he remains more than a decent striker, one who would be on the fringes of the Italian national squad again if he was at a smaller club who could guarantee him the playing time he needs. And that’s because when talent alone isn’t enough, form is the next best thing.