Friday February 22 2013
Salt and Pepe…

Have Italian champions and current League leaders Juventus missed the injured Simone Pepe this season? Antonio Labbate writes.

Top of the table and with one foot already in the last eight of the Champions League. Four more points in Serie A than at the same stage last season. And 12 more top-flight goals to boot too.

It’s that statistical backdrop which raises doubts over the question of whether Juventus have really missed Simone Pepe this season. Limited to just 26 minutes of action against Lazio, it was suggested this week that the injury-plagued player will probably not be seen again this campaign.

Those 2012-13 numbers certainly make impressive reading even though the Old Lady, unbeaten in Serie A last term, have lost four in 25 games this time around. But take the stats out of the equation and consider what Pepe offers and it is clear that boss Antonio Conte has been handicapped.

Pepe, admittedly, is not a world-class player – he’s nowhere near that. Conte has played alongside enough of those in the past to know that Simone doesn’t fit into that category. But even the Roman himself is well aware that he isn’t in the squad to provide flair or to even make the difference. He’s there to do what the Coach wants and offer tactical elasticity.

“I may not have the class of others, but I think I can always make a contribution with hard work and effort,” the 29-year-old said last term. “The objective for me is to do what the Coach asks and then it is my turn to give my all. I’ve always said that unless a player is a world-beater, he needs to work for the good of the team.”

Pepe was one of numerous Beppe Marotta signings who came good in his second season with the Old Lady. A victim of the lack of results under previous boss Gigi Del Neri, he became an important pawn for Conte as his six goals in 31 League games clearly illustrated.

Pepe, as well as embodying the kind of spirit that Conte looks for in all of his players, allowed the former Siena tactician to use a variety of systems following his arrival at Vinovo. After quickly shelving the 4-4-2, or 4-2-4 if you like, the Bianconeri mainly employed two formations last term – the 3-5-2 and the 4-3-3.

The former Udinese man was instrumental in the latter. A wide player who mixes offensive forays with defensive cover is a rare commodity in the present Italian game – and Conte wasn’t afraid to take advantage of it.

While the club’s market moves in the summer of 2012 underlined that the 3-5-2 was the way that the Coach primarily wanted to go, the absence of Pepe means that Conte hasn’t really had the option to go back to 4-3-3 if needed. One can argue that Mauricio Isla could do a Pepe job, but the problem is that the Udinese version of the Chilean hasn’t shown up in Turin after some serious injury issues of his own.

“I’ve grown as a player thanks to Conte,” Pepe stated. “Last season was where I, let’s say, graduated. I even learned how to score goals… Having started life as an attacker I had those characteristics to do that, but the Coach really helped me to improve. After all, it has always been said that a player gives his best between the ages of 27 and 30.”

The club joker was one of the revelations of 2011-12. After a mediocre first season in Turin and the club’s decision to then sign a host of new wide players, there were some who thought that Simone would struggle for a game.

“It’s true, the club did bring in a lot of competition and they were all good players, but then everyone saw what happened on the pitch,” Pepe commented. “The thing is, you don’t play almost 150 games in Serie A by chance. And there must be a reason if I have been called up to the national squad by Marcello Lippi and Cesare Prandelli.”

After proving his worth last term, Pepe was set to be an important figure again – especially given the new demands of Champions League football. But it has proved to be a season to forget after picking up an injury in the Trofeo TIM summer triangular tournament, on a terrible Bari surface which also saw Martin Caceres limp back to Turin.

It was a left thigh issue which sidelined the Italian international, one that will now require surgery after four separate relapses. “We have decided that I will undergo a little operation in order to get back to playing as soon as possible,” he stated this week.

“I thank my teammates, my family and the club who have supported me and allowed me to keep a smile of my face – even though it’s not always been easy. Now there will be an operation and, after that, we can begin to discuss a recovery period.”

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...
Juve has missed a FIT Pepe.

If he can come back and play like he did before the injury he will be quite valuable, esp. in the 4-3-3 as others have noted. Juve have missed that tactical flexibility and is one reason they have struggled to score in some games this season despite dominating possession.

Hopefully he gets back for next season fit and ready to work.
on the 27th February, 2013 at 8:13pm
CS, you say he is useless? He definitley would
be better than fake italian motta who was scared to finish the final at euros
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 10:47pm
In truth we've been helped by the signings of Asamoah and Isla in the summer, Peluso in January and the adaptability of Lichtsteiner. We would have felt the loss of Pepe much more.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 9:34pm
Pepe may not be the most skillful or extrodinary player in Serie A let alone in the world, but his determination, hard work & versatality makes him a fantastic player for coaches.

Last season he played a pivotal role for Juve, scoring 6 important goals. No doubt his absence from this season has hampered Juve, Isla is yet to convice us what he can do when filling in for either of the wingers.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 6:57pm
I would love if Juventus just bought Gareth Bale, Jovetic or Cavani. One superstar per year and then count ón youth.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 6:50pm
I think he is over rated he holds on to the ball to long does not bring others into the game as much as he should. He is not that good in front of goal considering he was a striker and looses the ball far to much. So no he has not been a miss Pogba is a far better all round player and he is just learning his trade in a few years he will be world class.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 6:21pm
He may not have skill as good as his teammates, but Simone Pepe has much more determination and versatility than others.
I remember in one of the game last season (unfortunately I forgot against which team) when he kept running all the time during the match. That's the best Simone Pepe that I've ever seen.
Definitely Juventus miss him.

Get well soon, Simone!!!
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 5:45pm
I am a big fan of Simone Pepe and I believe that he has been missed this season. Last season he embodied Conte's philosophy, working so hard in every game and scoring some vital goals. Are you seriously telling me Padoin is a better option than Pepe. Padoin is a complete waste of space and I always have a sense of dread when I see him in the starting 11 or getting ready to come off the bench. If Pepe is fit for next season and Padoin is sold, then we instantly become a stronger squad.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 5:09pm
I have been saying all year Juve have missed Pepe. He is the one sub who can change the formation to the 4-3-3. He never stops running on both sides of the field, and is that spark plug needed coming off the bench.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 2:46pm
Ive always said this that the 352 gets predictable! last season we could switch mid game! and no team could cope with it. Its what set us apart from most this year we have done well but need to utilise the 433 too! as it did work wonders for us last year. what u dont want is to become predictable! like BARCA! if our wing backs push up too much all the time our defence is caught out often enough can cope but even so we shall see Pepes a good grafter no frills kinda player! better then PADOUIN
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 2:23pm
This guy is useless. Im happy he's out this way Prandelli wont pick him for the Azzurri. He's just an average player
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 2:15pm
Pepe is an important play for Juve. We have certainly had cover for his absence with Lichtsteiner and Asamoah, but we miss Pepe's versatility and his industry. He can run until his legs fall off and still put in an inch-perfect cross. This will be demonstrated as Conte will block any inquiries for Pepe this Summer.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 1:11pm
Pepe is a very poor player he shouldnt be at Juve, Juve dont miss Pepe but they certainly miss the 4-3-3 system. The 3-5-2 formation is a more defensive formation, playing with two wingbacks instead of two wingers limits the team in attack. Juve should look to bring in one or two wingers or fowards who can play out wide.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 12:59pm
I'm not sure if Juve Pepe as such, they might. But they definitely miss the 4-3-3
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 11:57am
Get well soon, Pepe. Actually, all his goals last season have shown up his good ability to finish. But, he isn't a crucial player in formation of 3-5-2.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 10:39am
He's a much-maligned figure in calcio. He has been known as a workhorse but his ball skills have improved since arriving in Turin.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 9:57am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.