Is this Juventus squad one central midfielder short? It’s not an often heard question when you consider the Old Lady have Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba in their ranks. Especially when you ponder that, in the opinion of some, such a quartet make up the best midfield in the world game.
Whether that statement is accurate or hyperbole matters not, what is unquestionable is that boss Antonio Conte has four quality players for three roles who he can interchange during a season that could potentially still be in full swing by the first signs of spring. But lose one of those for a period of time – longer than Marchisio’s recent spell on the sidelines – in a particularly congested part of the campaign and Conte may well have to start getting inventive.
As it stands, the only other recognised central midfielder in the squad is Simone Padoin. And with all due respect to the former Atalanta player, he’s not Scudetto or Champions League material. The 29-year-old, who is also used on the flank, was catapulted up the reserve list during the summer after the decision to release Emanuele Giaccherini and Luca Marrone.
That is not a criticism of Juventus. Letting go of Giaccherini on a permanent basis and Marrone on a co-ownership was the right thing to do. Failing to bring in cover for one of those perhaps wasn’t.
The €7.5m offer Sunderland made for the Italian international had to be snapped up when you remember he was used in just 17 Serie A games and four Champions League ties last term. In the present economical climate, it would have been brave to reject such a sum for a player whose technical qualities remain questionable.
As for Marrone, who was basically used as a reserve for camouflaged sweeper Leonardo Bonucci last season, he was desperate for more regular action. At his age and with his potential, he and Juventus couldn’t afford to see him sit on a bench in anticipation of an injury crisis which may or may not arrive.
After flirting with the idea of a deadline day approach for Cagliari midfielder Radja Nainggolan, which was always likely to prove unsuccessful, the transfer window shut without any notable midfield reinforcement. As a consequence, don’t be surprised if Kwadwo Asamoah is let loose in his previous central midfield creation at some stage over the next eight months.
Having arrived in the summer of 2012 from Udinese, Asamoah was transformed into the left wing-back at the Juventus Stadium. Impressed by his power, discipline and technique, Conte unleashed the Ghanaian international with immediate results. The former Bari tactician needed a player who could succeed in one-on-one situations and Asamoah has proved over the last year that he can do just that.
“Conte has spent a lot of time explaining things to me since I arrived,” Asamoah stated last autumn. “He’s encouraged me to try and go past my man more in training and he wants me to do the same in matches.”
Asamoah’s first five months in Turin were immense, a revelation given his positional switch. His performances did start to tail off due to the fatigue caused by the mid-season Africa Cup of Nations, but the former Torino man remains a guarantee on the left for the Bianconeri. And there lies the biggest issue in potentially having to field Asamoah in middle – replacing him on the flank. That task would be handed to Paolo De Ceglie or Federico Peluso and Juventus would be weaker for it.
“I’m here, it all depends on the Coach,” Asamoah said in July when asked about the possibility of a return to his natural role. “I’m ready to play in whatever position. The Coach uses me where he wants and I do what I know. I have no preference. At this moment in time there are two roles which I can play in and I’ll do whatever is necessary.”
That’s an offer that Conte will be hoping he doesn’t have to take up.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.