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Sunday July 14 2013
Ogbonna - From Bull to Bianconero

Angelo Ogbonna has still to prove himself at the very top, but Dave Taylor believes Juventus’ new defender could make history.

Once upon a time, Italy’s football conveyor belt regularly churned out top class defenders and consequently saw them become the foundations of many successes. Antonio Cabrini, Claudio Gentile, Gaetano Scirea, Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini are just a few of many.

Sadly today some feel il Bel Paese no longer produces worthy graduates able to change a game from the back, including one of Italy’s greatest ever defenders. “Learning to run after the opponents is much harder and less rewarding than to attack,” explains Maldini. “I see a lot of teams that attack but lack a defence. Today, the most difficult thing is defence. Now the full-backs are no longer defenders while central midfielders don’t have a defensive outlook.”

Hopefully for Italy’s sake this rationalisation could soon become outdated following Angelo Ogbonna’s move to Juventus. Certainly the Azzurri international seems to have all the components to become one of the game’s greats and playing in Europe this season he could change history sooner rather than later.

Yet, at one point, his transfer from Torino nearly fell through. The move started to take on aspects of one of those yawn-inducing Brazilian soap operas on Italian television. It was a series of stop-start negotiations, discontinued talks, bigger bids from other clubs and achingly convoluted player exchanges involving half-ownerships. All it needed was the introduction of Globo’s Walter Avancini to direct it, chop it up and put it into daily 30-minute segments. At one point the whole deal was put on hold, even getting to the stage where many were becoming indifferent to the entire saga.

Eventually last week saw him sign and Juve acquireed a potentially superb player, whose imposing physique and pace matches his ability to read a game. Factor in his precise tackling, lack of red cards and he becomes a daunting defensive presence. 

It’s doubtful he will be first on the team sheet but with Champions League, Serie A, Coppa Italia games and of course injuries, there’s no doubt he will play his part. His ability to play at left-back means Coach Antonio Conte can also use him in any number of systems. So there are many plusses to this deal not least that Juve have prevented him falling into the hands of interested rivals like Milan, Napoli and Inter. On the surface €15m over three years is comparative peanuts for a prospective top class defender.

Yes there are a few minuses but nothing of real import and any Bulls-baiters out there, it’s not as if Juve haven’t imported top class defenders from Torino before - remember Gianluca Pessotto and Federico Balzaretti

But there are several questions still circulating about him. The first being does he engage his brain before his mouth? An obvious reference to the time he promised he would never play for Juve, which was said on radio and apparently as a joke. What would anyone expect him to say seeing that the Bianconeri and Torino are not exactly good neighbours? It could even be an urban myth, as his agent insists he never even said it.

Another possible minus is that although he is a tremendous left-footer he is perhaps a bit too obviously so at times. Furthermore last season, several critics raised the ante over his general fitness and form. Plus one of the biggest question marks is where does he fit in Conte’s defensive jigsaw? Who knows but he certainly won't be usurping the Andrea Barzagli-Leonardo Bonucci-Giorgio Chiellini backline too soon.

With Torino he also played a different style, a game based on the counter-attack. At Juve, Conte prefers his teams to have the ball in the first place and not give the opposition anything, if it can be helped. All very laudable but can Ogbonna adapt? He will also have to adjust to having more space and using the ball more succinctly, which in all fairness shouldn’t be too hard for him. Juve defenders also play higher up the field than Torino’s, which sees more pressure on individual defenders. At Torino he was asked to man-mark and could be caught out, if not exactly off the pace physically, certainly mentally, whilst with Juve there will no margin for error.

Yet, simply put, if he wasn’t good enough why would Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Arsenal Manchester United and several of Serie A top sides reportedly be interested?  In conclusion, he is fine addition and with Conte to guide him Ogbonna could soon be ready to step into the pages of history. 

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Have your say...
Does anyone else believe that ogbonna should be on Italy's starting 11.
on the 2nd September, 2013 at 3:37pm
If Juve can add a quality Right Back and a Wide Forward/Winger that would add real diversity to this squad and provide a number of tactical options and formations. Santon would be a great buy in his natural position at RB and it would also keep in line with Juve's traditions. I would also love to see Nani as a Bianconero also.

One example (4-3-3)

Buffon

Santon/Lichsteiner
Barzagli
Chiellini
Assamoah/Ogbonna

Vidal/Marrone
Pirlo
Pogba/Marchisio

Nani/Giovinco/Pepe
Llorente/Matri
Tevez/Vucinic
on the 16th July, 2013 at 12:43pm
I think he was a great signing, best of luck on his journey. Again, job well done Juve, to add such a gem to an already top-notch defense.

Let's remember one thing in the midst of the "lost world class Italian defender" nostalgia ... Italy produced the finest but meantime was criticized for defensive play all over the place remember? A bit oxymoron-ish in my opinion.

Yes, this is a different Azzurri, but one that gave Spain a bitter run for their money.
Give 'em a brake :)
on the 16th July, 2013 at 2:30am
This kid should replace Chiellini at LCB and move Chiellini to CB.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 8:33pm
Im happy we got Ogbonna, he was a player we were missing in our defense. I think with him in the line up, Chiellini will finally be able to play in the center rather than the left side. Also Ogbonna's versatility will help both the defense and the wingers in the way we approach our game. I also feel Milan missed out on a great defender but wouldn't be surprised to see them bring in at least 4 new players two of which will be defensive minded.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 4:55pm
I think some people are being overalls critical about the signing of Ogbonna to juventus as if barzagli has another 4 season in him? Perhaps 2 good ones with the correct rest, the whole sweeper thing ... Just get out with that rubbish, and Luca marrone is likely to get more games alongside Pogba hopefully and develop greatly, but a major factor is conte wants to have 2 back up formations!! Hence why he prefers more versatile players too
on the 15th July, 2013 at 4:34pm
@me

The best center back in the world is thiago silva. Without a doubt. Not someone in spurs( really??)
on the 15th July, 2013 at 4:33pm
3-3-1-3

Buffon
(Leali)

Bonucci-Ogbonna-Chiellini
(Caceres-Barzagli-Peluso)

Vidal-Pirlo-Pogba
(Lichtsteiner-Marrone-Asamoah)

Marchisio
(Pepe)

Tevez-Llorente-Zuniga
(Vucinic-Matri-Giovinco)

Looking forward to see whether Juve will have another "perfect" season without defeats this year, but obviously with much less drwan result compared to 2011-2012.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 2:53pm
Also, this is not the move for Juventus to make. The left-footer they should have gone after is Jan Vertonghen. You play 3 CB's but you don't have a sweeper. So buy one of the few. He'd leave Tottenham and he'd be worth it. Ogbonna is left-footed but is not the guy you want in the middle...at least not yet. You should have gotten yourselves a real sweeper. Instead, potentially the best CB in the world is playing for Tottenham.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 2:45pm
Two things...

The first is in regards to what Maldini said. It's not about attacking. Teams attack a lot less than they used to. But all defenses are schemes and systems. The art of defending is not important to coaches who overcoach.

The second is that this is disappointing...I'm more of a Milan fan but not a Milanista. It is disappointing that they don't sign a guy who wants to play there. But it's really disappointing to see a guy who never wanted to play for Juve move so easily.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 2:42pm
Do Juve need another defender? Why buy Peluso? Already have the versatile and effective Caceres on the bench. Marrone will now have even less opportunities. Will Ogbonna play or will Bonucci be on the bench now? The defence was not an issue for Juventus.

Juventus should have bought some reinforcements in central midfield alongside Pogba. Juventus now have 6 strikers and must get rid of two. I do hope they do not buy Diamanti and should keep versatile Isla. Boakye looks good for the future.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 2:24pm
I have to say that I am disappointed that Milan did not pursue Ogbonna. He is a great defender, with two great feet, and can play from the back with great passing. For Torino he showed that he can be a leader, something that Milan are lacking right now - Montolivo - someone who has been there for two years already captain?! At Juventus, Ogbonna will just be another "foot-soldier" - just like what Cassano said.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 1:27pm
Ogbonna is a shrewd addition for JUVE, he will shore up the defence when one of the starters is missing, he is young enough to bide some time as a reserve but he will also learn exponentially from the experience & talent of the current Italian defensive line that includes Buffon, Chiellini, Barzagli & Bonucci & one of the best inspirational coaches goin around! Ogbonna play enough in first year @ Juve to turn potential into more consistency for the World Cup in Brazil & Serie A CL next year.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 1:03pm
@Dink
Caceres and Peluso got plenty of playing time in the back even with the regular trio playing plenty of football. Chilo gets injured quite a bit and Barzagli might not have the legs anymore. I can see Ogbonna becoming Barzagli's replacement. A player with this much quality will not be frozen out. It's not like he's a 30+ Lucio or Grosso...
on the 15th July, 2013 at 12:47pm
@Maldini'a Heir

Have faith yet though cause di Scigilio and abate on the wings are brilliant, and I would love to see (rivals regardless) Milan sign astori or Bochetti which would make a big difference in the cb department for you + plus robinho must leave !

Anyone wondering why the support, I am juventus fan but for the the sake of series a I want Juve Milan Napoli and Fiorentina to start dominating Europe! Plus Im love a good challenge for us! ;)
on the 15th July, 2013 at 12:02pm
@Santarossa

1. Intermilan don't like to have to many Italians in there team ;)
2. You can't say it's favouritism because all the best Italian defenders are at juve and A.C Milan, excluding Crisitio and Astori,
3. And we have the strongest defence past 2 seasons so I don't know where this "weakness" you talk about comes from
on the 15th July, 2013 at 11:56am
@ Jeff the defenders you listed were in a completely different league to the current crop. Even the best Italian defender at the moment (Chiellini) is not in their league. The game has changed but is still involves a defence and Italian defenders are not good enough anymore. Cannavaro had one bad season with Inter (who didn't prior to Calciopoli). I'm not sure he had any bad seasons with Juve. He won the league and the World Cup while at Juve.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 11:09am
@Maldini's Heir...Respect to you bro,I really think there should be more unbiased fans like you who admit their team has weaknesses and that their opponent is a step ahead.I wish Milan all the best(just as long as they don't topple my Juve).
@C.santarossa...No respect to you and your biased comments.Hating on Bonucci and Barzagli clearly shows your lack of objectivity.When Juve bought Barzagli from Wolfsburg I was so mad.He changed the way I felt in a blink of an eye.I never thought that I'd say this but I actually miss him more than Chiellini in our defence.For a 30yr old plus defender who makes Ranocchia look like a 50yr old,that says a lot about his quality.I'd pick any other defender over your sluggish Ranocchia any day.Good luck with those below average,slow and confused defender you have
on the 15th July, 2013 at 10:47am
Yes 31 titles not 29 titles. Over the years, particularly since Berlosconi/Galliani have graced Milan with their presence Juve have generally done better on the transfer market. Galliani has found some gems (e.g. the 3 Dutchmen, George Weah, Shevchenko, Kaka) but generally speaking Juve have consistently made better signings and had a better planned transfer policy. This is another shrewd signing by Juve.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 10:32am
Great article.Ogbonna is a welcome addition to an already stable defence.He's versatile,strong and reads the game well.Despite those weakness mentioned(although I doubt they are of any significance),Ogbonna will thrive.After all no player is perfect and that is what this article is saying.He's young and will surely get his chance.I'd also like to point out to those who think that Ogbonna may replace Barzagli in the trident that they're getting it all wrong.He's obviously left-footed which means he could only play in the centre or left side of the defence.I wish him all the best as a juventino.Juve need to forget about another left sided defender now.It's time to get a versatile winger like Nani,Robben,Shaqiri,Di Maria etc..Forget about Kolarov and Zuniga
on the 15th July, 2013 at 10:29am
As a Milan fan this transfer is so depressing. Juve already had a better defence than everyone else in the league and now its better. Meanwhile Milan seemingly believe they have a chance of challenging for the title with a central defensive pairing of Mexes and Zapata. While Zapata was not bad last season and could become a decent (not world class) defender, Mexes is a total liability. This is the difference between Juve and Milan (and the rest of the teams) and the reason Juve have 31 titles...
on the 15th July, 2013 at 10:24am
This lamentation of not producing great defenders is rubbish. The game has changed. Gentile wouldn't be allowed to get away with what he did. And the 'great defenders' that Italy produced were actually great players who could probably play anywhere - Baresi, Maldini, Facchetti, Scirea and Nesta. Cannavaro had plenty of poor Serie A campaigns by the way - see spells with Inter & Juve. The virtual elimination of offside from the game hasn't helped defenders either - more frequent exposure now.
on the 15th July, 2013 at 10:15am
Hopefully this move can see him move into the national starting 11
on the 14th July, 2013 at 10:36pm
The next Thuram in the making :-)
on the 14th July, 2013 at 9:17pm
I just can't help feeling this move is a mistake for him, when will he get game time? One area of the team which normally stays constant (barring injury and suspension) is at the back, will he oust any of the current back three?
Surely a move to a top team in which he would be a starter would have been better at his age, at this rate he will be 30 by the time he gets the top level experience he needs
on the 14th July, 2013 at 8:37pm
Great signing!! Im sure he will get plenty of chances this season and he should be on the plane to Brazil next summer.
on the 14th July, 2013 at 8:33pm
I bet you Prandelli wont cut him now because he is a Juventino now. I really hope Barzagli and Bonucci dont play for Juve cuz as long as theyre starters for Juve Prandelli will pick them for the national team. But since i hate Juve maybe they should start so Juve is weak in the the back. I hate how Prandelli favors them
on the 14th July, 2013 at 7:59pm
Inter should've signed him
on the 14th July, 2013 at 7:55pm
I've always been impressed by his brute presence but se him better as a center back than full back, so hopefully he'll get playing time in that position. But with Barzagli in his thirties, it could also be an investment with that in mind.
on the 14th July, 2013 at 6:40pm
he is awesome and should be a hit, and you forgot to mention that itlay still produces great defenders ie barzagli,bonucci and chiellini who are all beasts.
on the 14th July, 2013 at 6:34pm

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