After the disastrous previous season under coaches Ciro Ferrara and Alberto Zaccheroni, Juventus have been moving in the right direction since Delneri took over. Even though the pre-Calciopoli Juventus was on a different level altogether, this team has finally found the direction towards getting back to that quality. Luigi Delneri is finally managing a big club with title ambitions, and he has been slowly but steadily moving forward.
This season, until now, has shown where the Bianconeri stand – what they have and what they further need. In the coming winter and summer transfer seasons, Juventus sporting director Giuseppe Marotta has some extremely crucial decisions to make. Marotta was quite efficient as the transfer director in Sampdoria. In his regime, Sampdoria was strengthened by the inclusions of Cassano from Madrid and Gianpaolo Pazzini. Juventus were really in need of an efficient transfer director. First thing Marotta had done was to ‘clean up’ the left overs of the Secco era. Mainly two things were expected from him in the very first transfer season last summer – reduce the overall club wages and add some quality players at each position to the squad, without spending much for any particular position. He brought down the overall club wages significantly by offloading high salaried wastes such as Poulsen and Tiago, and he bought in some skillful players like Krasic, Bonucci without spending much. One can easily understand the difference after seeing that Marotta spent just 15m Euros for Krasic, while Secco was spending almost 20m Euros for Amauri!
Here comes another important transfer season for Marotta. Next summer transfer campaign will be the biggest one he would ever have, assuming Juventus will have champions League qualification and real title ambitions, and the squad should be really ready for it. Summer is still a few months away, and the club’s immediate attention should be on the month of January. The importance of the winter transfer window is evident from the fact that Juventus are facing tough competition from a lot of clubs in Serie A, even for a UCL spot. Some areas of weaknesses were exposed in the first part of this season in Serie A. The Juventus fans will be quite satisfied with the players at their disposal, expect those playing as strikers and fullbacks. These positions are the key areas for which Juventus needs reinforcements in winter.
Defence : Solid centre-backs but weakness in flanks
At the back, there is no need to say much about the goalkeepers Juventus have within their ranks. Even though Buffon had been injured this season, Storari was well upto the mark and is a quality deputy to Buffon. Third choice keeper Manninger is also of enough quality. There is no need of any additions in this department.
The center-back pair of Chiellini and Bonucci has grown to become arguably the best in Serie A. As a backup to this pair, there are Legrottaglie and Sorensen; the latter has also been earning a starting place at right-back. Concerns exist at both the sides, though. At right back, Motta was loaned-in. However, he had problems in his defense department even though he was really good going forward. Another option at the moment at right-back is Grygera who seems to have problems in both the departments. He is a bit better than Motta defensively but he doesn’t provide much in attack. Similar problems exist at left back, as well. De Ceglie is pretty good in making runs forward but leaves the left flank a weak spot for other teams to take advantage of. He had shown glimpses of real improvement recently but got injured soon and is out for a few months. Summer loan entry Armand Traore started in the match against Roma and was quite good, defensively, but he displayed some wayward passing and lost ball the too often. Marotta might spend in either or both of these positions in January.
Ziegler, a possible answer to full back problems
At right-back, names discussed are Fiorentina’s Italy international Di Silvestri, Palermo’s Mattia Cassani and Van Der Wiel. Even though Sorensen has been quite good in keeping things tight at right-back, some money could be spent in this position. Cassani has been good for Palermo with his forward runs and his willingness to track back when needed. Recently, Lazio’s Lichstenier has also caught attention of Marotta as a potential force at right-back. While most of these players are great going forward, what Juve would need is someone who can help Krasic going forward and more importantly, keep the left wingers of the opposition under check. Chelsea’s Ivanovic was also linked with Juve as he is a utility player. Certain sources have linked Bayer Leverkusen wing-back Gonzalo Castro to Juve.
At the left-back position, names linked are of Reto Ziegler of Sampdoria, Fabio Coentrao of Benfica, Benoit Tremoulinas of Lyon and even Capdevilla from Villareal. Marotta has been giving indications of new arrivals in January but nothing is sure at which of these positions it would be. As things stand at the moment, Sorensen has been doing good enough job in keeping the area safe even though he doesn’t contribute much in attack. Actually, Krasic has been so brilliant that this could be continued for this season, at least. Also, Motta could still improve his defensive ability and Grygera has also shown some improvement from last season. This means Marotta might give priority to an addition at left-back in January, mainly because of De Ceglie’s injury. After he returns as well, he may need some time to get settled. Grosso has been far away from his best. Traore may be used but he too seems to have not settled into the formation, yet. A new face could well be expected at left-back in January.
Midfield – Lacks bench strength
In the Midfield, new additions are less likely in January. Aquilani-Melo combination is working out so well and has been one main reason for Juve’s recent good run. Marchisio is also doing fine at LW even though it’s not his natural position. There is Sissoko as backup in midfield, and also the utility player Pepe who could play at RM or LM. But there are talks of Sissoko and Salihamidzic moving out. If that happens, there are no strong enough replacements if an injury crisis occurs in midfield.
Youngsters Giandonato, Boniperti etc still have not proven themselves at the senior level. Pepe could be a backup to Krasic, or if he plays at LM, then Marchisio could replace someone who needs rest, in central midfiled. Martinez would also return in January. Juve’s starting midfield is one of the strongest in Serie A. Thus, until next summer, the look of the midfield will remain the same. Someone could come in to strengthen the bench, though. And in the summer, Aquilani is likely to be retained along with Pepe and perhaps, a left winger would be added in the summer. It could be someone like Vargas of Fiorentina who can create a similar threat at left what Krasic does at right.
Andrea Poli (right) can be a valuable back-up
Youngsters Andrea Poli and Luca Cigrarini have been linked as a possible back-up should Sissoko depart in winter. Cesena wingman Ezequiel Schelotto was first linked with Juventus last summer. Castagnini, the chief scout at that time, was reportedly a fan of him. The “new Camoranesi” has performed well in Serie A and has been linked to Juve again.
Wanted, strikers who can score regularly
In the striking position, Juventus have Amauri and Iaquinta in their ranks. Amauri had promised 20 goals this season. From all the games till now, it seems he may struggle to score even 10. Iaquinta is a player who is always offside and if onside, misses the target more often than not. Even though he plays with heart and desire, he doesn’t possess the quality and consistency that a team like Juventus needs at the moment. Even though some fans may feel they could be enough for this season for a UCL qualification, Marotta might well go for a striker in winter, at least on for a temporary basis. As many believe, a big signing is awaited in the summer in the form of the likes of Dzeko. Winter transfer season could witness Marotta going for cheaper options. The Juventus rumor mill says that Juve were pressing for Benzema from Madrid. However, it’s more likely that the club will not spend big in January. Cassano has also been linked as a second striker, but it seems he is moving to Milan in January.
Is he good enough for Juventus?
Other targets talked about are Gillardino, Catania’s Maxi Lopez, and Cagliari’s Matri etc. There were talks of a Gillardino – Amauri swap. Quagliarella and Delpiero have been doing the job of a second striker quite well. Giannetti scored in his debut game against Man City. But he too doesn’t look to be the quality scorer needed by Juve at the moment. What Juve needs is a Poacher who has sufficient aerial ability to convert dangerous crosses from the likes of Krasic.
In the winter and summer transfer seasons combined, Marotta will spend on these positions and on those decisions will depend the pace at which Juventus are going to be the strong Juventus of old – the Old Lady of the late 90’s and the early years of the new Millenium. Next year and next season is an important one; one which the Bianconeri fans are looking forward to as the club will be having much higher ambitions and will be playing in the brand new stadium in Turin….
~ Mukesh Ajayan