Juventus fans were conscious of the Bianconeri’s midfield problems going into the 2018-19 campaign, but little did they know that their side’s defence would be so disjointed throughout the season. The Italian giant, priding itself on impeccable defending, has never looked so wounded in the backline, especially in the centre-back positions.
With a significant player overhaul expected for the Old Lady this summer, swooping in on Roma’s star centre-back Kostas Manolas could prove to be an intelligent reinforcement for Juve’s defensive crisis.
Manolas, 27, boasts the physicality and defensive attentiveness of a traditional Italian centre-back – qualities that fit the Juventus DNA. Greece’s talismanic defender, who in football betting terms has also been linked with Arsenal, demonstrated leadership qualities for the Giallorossi in situations without Daniele De Rossi on the pitch.
Possessing an ageing backline, particularly in the centre-back positions, is starting to take a toll on Juventus. With a 34-year-old Giorgio Chiellini – nearly 35 – not guaranteed to play every game for the Bianconeri and take regular rest intervals from now on, Manolas could fill the veteran’s shoes.
Despite the 35-time Scudetto winners bringing back Leonardo Bonucci, the former Milan captain has failed to take control of the Juve backline during Chiellini’s absences this campaign. The 32-year-old has at times been a liability in defence for the Turin side ever since his return from San Siro – making simple mistakes without Chiellini by his side.
It’s bizarre how Bonucci suddenly transforms into a mediocre centre-back without Chiellini playing alongside him, hence reflecting the performance of a fearful and vulnerable 24-year-old Daniele Rugani. Juventus could do with a centre-back like Manolas, a defender who can assert their dominance, conduct the backline and add tighter defensive security, especially in set-piece situations.
Juve’s lack of depth in the centre-back roles have also come from the Piedmont club’s mistakes in recent transfer windows. Selling Medhi Benatia to Qatari club Al-Duhail halfway through this season backfired. The Bianconeri let go of an organised and physical defender, someone who always gave maximum effort when playing in Chiellini’s position.
Martin Caceres’ third return to Turin hasn’t even temporarily fixed the Old Lady’s defensive woes. The 32-year-old Uruguayan, on loan from Lazio, is not the tenacious and strong tackling central defender he used to be.
It was Antonio Conte’s creation of the BBC (Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini) defence that revolutionised Italian defending, facilitating the birth of the Bianconeri’s domestic dominance. Massimiliano Allegri managed to build on this success – creating a consistent four-man defence in his first couple of seasons.
However, it has been evident that the Juve defence has regressed since the embarrassing Champions League Final night in Cardiff against Real Madrid. It’s time for Juventus to restructure their central defensive area, especially if they are targeting to win the Champions League and stay on top domestically.
Manolas is still young, especially in comparison to the likes of Chiellini and Bonucci. But the former Olympiacos defender boasts a vast amount of Champions League and international football experience – something Juventus should be looking for in a centre-back.
Manolas’ well-executed tackles and gladiatorial physicality are not the only elements that would bolster this vulnerable Juve defence. His offensive qualities and pace could also assist the Italian Champions in building up the attack – making the Bianconeri a more dynamic side overall.
La Vecchia Signora would be wise to monitor Manolas’ current situation at Roma. The Lupi currently risk missing out on Champions League football for the 2019-2020 campaign, which might tempt the Greek international to leave the Italian capital.
A move to Juventus would suit both parties. Juve are in desperate need of a talented centre-back, while Manolas might want to take his football to the next level at a bigger club challenging in Europe.
As one of Serie A’s most-skilled defenders, it wouldn’t take Manolas much time to adapt at Juve in respect of other footballers coming from abroad.