The end of 2012 saw Juventus carry on where they left off last season. Atop the Serie A standings. While the unbeaten Serie A run ended at 49 games through the new campaign, they did however accumulate 4 points more than at the same stage last season on account of fewer draws.
Additionally, Juventus also successfully qualified from a tricky Champions League group which included holders Chelsea & a well drilled Shakhtar side. Juventus ended up winning the group on the final match day.
It’s safe to say, 2012 was easily Juventus’ best year since re-emerging from the ashes of the infamous Calciopoli scandal back in 2006.
Since then, Juventus qualified for the semifinal of the Coppa Italia beating AC Milan in the process.
After week 21′s round of fixtures, Juventus now have a 5 point advantage at the top over Lazio and Napoli who are tied for 2nd spot. In terms of sheer numbers, Juventus lead the way in terms of both the goals scored & least goals conceded columns domestically. 45 goals scored & just 14 conceded so far.
While all seems well on planet Juve, there are a couple of aspects which need to be addressed if the Bianconeri are to contend both domestically and in Europe simultaneously. This mainly includes the long standing need for a quality finisher. Although Juve have created the most chances per game in the Serie A, they have also missed the most. This has been the one glaring hole in Juve’s otherwise solid arsenal for over three seasons now.
There was also the smaller matter of finding adequate cover in the left side in defense as Asamoah is away on his AFCON duties with Ghana & Giorgio Chiellini is recovering from a long term injury. Juventus addressed this quickly by snapping up Federico Peluso from Atalanta where he’s had a decent season so far.
Marotta & co. have also reportedly struck a deal with Botafogo for 18 year old Brazilian defender Doria who should arrive in the summer.
But the quest for the elusive top forward is where the club’s focus should be this January.
Here’s an evaluation of forwards currently on the market & linked to Juventus during the January transfer window.
Llorente to Juventus is nearly a done deal and the Bilbao star would have arrived at the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign had it not been for the Basque side’s obstinacy in seeking out his complete buyout clause despite being on the last year of his contract. Juventus were close to a deal in the summer & have now reportedly sealed a 4 year contract starting in July this year. There is still hope that he might arrive in January for a small fee although unlikely. Athletic prefer to stay true to their word and not let him leave until his contract expires.
Pros: Possesses the characteristics of the quintessential Serie A forward who reminds one of Christian Vieri. Athletic, physically imposing, tall. The perfect target man for the likes of Pirlo to seek out with one of his laser guided passes. Surprisingly quick footed for a player of his size.
Cons: Not available now unless Juventus up their bid substantially which would be ludicrous since he’ll be free come June. Despite being lethal most of the time, he does miss his fair few. He also needs a regular run with continuity being a big part of his game. If Conte continues to rotate his strikers around, we could see Llorente suffer the same fate as Matri.
Verdict: Yay. Great acquisition especially on a free transfer but better left at Athletic club Bilbao until June unless the fee required to release him is small.
Drogba needs no introduction of course. The recent Champions League winner with Chelsea is seemingly bored in China & would like a move back to Europe. His terms, wages, coupled with those of his club Shanghai Shenhua make his acquisition a complicated and expensive procedure.
Pros: He’s Didier Drogba! He’d take no time settling in at Juventus. He’s a match winner who can carry a team all by himself. This is something the present Juventus side sorely misses.
Cons: Unfortunately, there are more cons than pros. He’s nearly 35. Bringing in a older player does not send out the right message to the rest of the squad who have only just witnessed club icon Del Piero’s departure who in turn was just a couple of years older. His wages are huge. He’d automatically become the highest earner at the club even after a pay cut. This again is bad for dressing room morale as club captain Buffon is just about to take a pay cut to stay with Juventus for 2 more seasons. Besides, this upsets the overall balance in Juve’s hierarchical pay-scale. He is injury prone. A January acquisition needs to be reliable in terms of match fitness. Drogba has had more than his fair share of injuries. With Vucinic & Quagliarella in and out of Vinovo’s medical facilities and Bendtner out for the rest of the season, seeing Drogba added to the causality list would be suicidal for Juve. Then there’s also the fact that Drogba is looking for a 2 year deal and not a shorter contract which Juventus prefer. In 2 years, Drogba will be a 37 year old earning massive wages.
Verdict: Nay. Tempting, given his European pedigree but too much of a risk.
Juve’s links with Lisandro came out of the blue. The 29 year old is a Champions League veteran having fought & survived many a battle in Europe. At his age, he’s still in his prime but time is running out for Lisandro if he wants to fight for top honors once more before his career comes to an end.
Pros: Proven. Lethal in front of goal. Versatile as he is more than just a finisher. He is also good with set pieces & can aid with overall play. At his age, he is looking for a new challenge having spent the last 3 seasons at Lyon. He has already expressed his desire to leave Lyon. A move for him would see him arrive motivated & determined.
Cons: Despite impressive numbers in Ligue 1 & Porto before that, there has always been the question as to whether he is truly world class. Lyon do not want to loan him out. They prefer an outright sale. At €10-15m, his price might be out of Juve’s January budget.
Verdict: Yay. Big names are hard to sign in January. Lisandro’s experiece, skill level will be a massive boost & the fact that he also has the right characteristics to fit into Conte’s tactics make him the ideal January signing.
The name which would make most Juventini groan in dismay may also be the most realistic. Having played under Conte before, he knows what’s expected of him. Physically, he’s exactly the kind of target man Juventus need but the evident lack of quality makes him nothing more than a stop-gap measure.
Pros: Understands Conte’s system. He’s well liked by the coach and this could be the deciding factor. Borriello is also vastly experienced at the highest level despite never being a world-beater.
Cons: He won’t help Juventus make the much needed jump in quality up front. Even on his best day he’d be no better than Matri on one of his better days.
Verdict: Meh. Unfortunately, you could see Juventus taking this direction. His ready availability & understanding of Conte’s system make him appealing. Since Juventus have already tied down Llorente for June, they are reluctant to make any big move. All deals they’re looking at are loans and neither Lisandro nor Drogba seem ready to arrive on a 6 month loan.
Ciro Immobile or Manolo Gabbiadini:
The two youngsters are always in the frame as they’re owned by Juventus. Both are at similar stages in their development and are being looked at by Juventus as potential recalls in the future.
Pros: Both are in relatively good form with Genoa & Bologna respectively and offer a fresh new dimension to Juventus’ often sedate attack. They’re lively and will be eager to please on arrival. Watching the likes of Pogba make massive inroads, we know Conte isn’t afraid to give the young guns a shot.
Cons: Unproven. Their inexperience makes their purchase almost meaningless given that the reason Juventus are in the market for a striker in January is mainly for the Champions League. Juve’s current crop are more than satisfactory to continue their Serie A dominance. But neither Immobile nor Gabbiadini are ready to take Europe by storm just yet. Signing either would not just prove useless to Juve’s cause, but it could also hamper the development process of both Immobile and Gabbiadini. Being benched at the Juventus Stadium is not how either should be spending their next few months.
Verdict: Nay. Let the kids be.
January transfer windows are usually never the right time to make drastic changes. Also, the fact that most top quality strikers are cup-tied having played in Europe at some point during the season. Since a striker is mainly being targeted for the Champions League, options are few, if any. So far, Juventus have gone about their business in a clinical manner. There is no cause for alarm although the arrival of a top quality finisher would help the team immensely during the latter half of the season. If Marotta cannot persuade Athletic Bilbao to release Llorente this January, the only name on the list which makes sense would be Lisandro Lopez. If not, Juventus are better off unchanged until June.
This article was written by guest author Juventus_FC_Fan. Follow him on twitter here.