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Juve Youth – Our future is more rosy than our present.

Whilst the Max Allegri second coming continues to break records for TRUE HORROR. Not just the fanbase local and beyond aghast, but now the authorities move to seek charges against the Agnelli assembled cabal, and our performances on field…have proven beyond a few games recently quite disgusting…other than the brief, welcome liveliness of the kids sent into battle when all is lost or forced into the starting line-up due to no more bodies available.

It seems the Right time to delve into our youth sector.

Samuel Iling-Junior LW/LM/LWF – 19 – ENG

 

After almost a decade at Chelsea, his promise mirrored in the consistent selection at youth levels for his (and my)  country at U15 through current U20, Juve picked up the fleet footed flair merchant in 2020. Interest was apparently high, with PSG, Bayern and Dortmund among the other clubs eager to offer a new home to the rising talent.

His progression has been swift. Helping the England U19 squad to qualify for, then win the U19 European Championships earlier this year. This coming after two seasons in the Primavera – 66 appearances, 15 goals, 17 assists. Immensely encouraging.

Clearly time to move up to senior football, Samuel was promoted to the Juve U23 side in August, recently rebranded Juventus Next Gen. Also featuring of late regularly for the national U20 side.

Due to his time with the England side during the Summer his rest time was shortened. The player embraced double sessions at Vinovo in a bid to get up to speed for the thankfully delayed start to Serie C, quickly impressing his new boss, Massimo Brambilla (who joined Juve in the close season after 7 successful seasons coaching the successful Atalanta U17 and U19 sides).

Iling-junior has continued his trajectory leading the charge in the Next Gen side with 4 goals, 1 assist from 7 games so far.

His two recent 20 minute outings from the bench for the senior side have seen him notch 2 assists, and it could have been more. Able also to play on the right flank, I will very much hope that he continues to find these opportunities leading to earning more playing time with the seniors deeper into the season, or sooner if injuries allow. For his technical ability, power, dribbling, eye for goal and speed are beyond the functional one dimensional output of Kostic, and hugely more energetic than the close to finished Juan Cuadrado.

Also of note is that his contract is set to expire next Summer. With an increasing number of top level clubs interested in his signature, it is clear that the lad must be given more playing time and assurance that the management not only believe in him, but are seeking to build a new cycle of success with his talents very much playing a prominent role.

To balance out the attacking flanks, many already have been introduced to Matias Soule. To have broken into the first team squad at 19 is a superb achievement for the Argentine right winger. And with Juan fast fading, Di Maria suffering successive injuries and surely leaving next Summer, we could have a ready made replacement already gaining momentum and matching his long term promise with solid development.

Extensive report on Soule can be found here.

Others to keep an eye upon…

The stories of Mati Soulé and Enzo Barrenechea inaugurate "Bianconeri Next Gen", the first Juventus Original Series - Juventus

Enzo Barrenechea – DM – 21 – ARG

I have followed young Enzo for many moons now. Was first alerted to his promise in mid 2019, when Paratici  persuaded Beppe Marotta, that South American was something of potential value. He was signed in August 2019 for our feeder club in Switzerland, FC Sion, for EU3.1m. Which through whatever accounting methods are used since the demise of the co-ownership routine, appeared at the time, not a mega purchase, yet a serious one, for an 18 year old…

In 2020 we paid FC Sion, EU4.87m for his registration, again, far from a paltry figure. The Argie DM moved into our U19 side. Progressing well enough to earn his senior debut and beyond in our U23 side the same season. Disaster then struck! An ACL injury in May 2021 curtailed his steady development. And yet…he has returned strong, worked his way back into the starting XI of the U23 side last season.

Reminds me a little of the Uruguyan Torrieira. As in combative, diminutive, determined and yet…with far more expansive passing range from deep.

He is also a heartfelt chum of fellow Argentine Juve lad, Matais Soule>>> (click CC for English)

DM is a position we are lacking, Locatelli has been shoe-horned there. To little happy fit (on the whole) Paredes has proven a complete waste of time. Now we find Fagioli tested or earmarked there, finally given more than a few minutes…And whilst he mentioned after the Lecce game

“The coach told me to stay in front of the defence and not wander around the pitch.” 

I am glad his natural game refused this demand of Max. For his gorgeous winning goal against Lecce would not have come had he stuck to the Max’s instruction. Almost come to suspect, the kid was trying to say the same, diplomatically.

Nicolo Fagioli – 21 – CM/AM – ITA

Fagioli is a player long earmarked as of serious potential. And whilst Max had told him back in 2019, maybe 2018 –  that he had talent and should learn to play as regista – this made little sense, given the player’s ever bountiful output in the final third.

When sent out on loan to promotion winning Cremonese last term, he played more at CM and AM than as a DM, and prospered. It seemed that Max had been set on waving his magic wand, as every other he has tried in the DM role has failed to impress, so let’s retrain a budding young talent to play there instead of his more natural game?

As can be seen by his career stats to date, DM is certainly not his most common position.

His game is classy. Comfortable on the ball, superb passing awareness and execution over short or long range. Can hustle, no stranger to nicking the ball in central areas. Solid from set pieces, with an eye for goal. Plenty of flair in those boots, with neat flicks, back heels, no-look passes a speciality.

What a fellow Juve fan noted recently, and it dawned upon me that I had thought similar previously, is that the youngster does have a tendency to seek to provide shooting opportunities for team-mates, when sometimes he should be taking on the shot himself. Hardly a major criticism, yet something to work on as he develops. My own inklng has been that he was lacking confidence in taking the shot on goal when senior players around him were in any way available. We have been crying out for midfielders to contribute goals, and this part of his game must be nurtured, not shackled.

His technical level is high. Which has long been sorely lacking in our midfield. Was hoped, forlornly, that Pogba would improve us in this area, but no dice…Locatelli is a better player than we have seen on the whole since his move to Juve, yet no others in the squad possess Fagioli’s natural gifts on the ball.

It came as little surprise to find the former Sassuolo star producing one of his strongest performances in the recent 1-2 defeat to PSG. He is an intelligent footballer, who produces his best when surrounded by other intelligent footballers. In absence of which I suspect his mind is seeing too much that needs to be done, and is often stretching himself too thin across too much. When positioned alongside Fagioli, who surprised a few with his defensive zeal aligned to his probably more well known offensive focus, Locatelli was able to concentrate on his game, and looked a fine player.

Thankfully, in these last two games where Nicolo has started due to injuries, he has been given a role closer to mezzala with Locatelli playing the regista position. An opportunity the long term prospect has grasped with both feet. The hope now is that Max realises that whilst a very small sample size, Fagioli has looked comfortable and more potent, notably in both attacking and defensive phases, than his senior colleagues in the role. His performance against Inter was especially impressive, not just due to his well taken goal but his all round game. He is ready.

Nicolo has been a regular in the Italy youth national sides since joining the ranks at U15 level and remains a regular for the U21s. Often appearing alongside fellow Juve youngster, the other Nicolo; Rovella. Who is enjoying a decent season as a regular for newly promoted Monza and is far more adept in the DM role.

Add in Fabio Miretti, who at 19 has already worked his way into the senior squad, and the future looks bright for the Juve midfield. Miretti-Rovella-Fagioli…perhaps we will see this mirrored between Juve and La Nazionale in years to come?

Briefly on Miretti…I have seen a few moans and groans of his output of late, which seems overly harsh. For he has been forced into a SS position which is not where he operates at his best; mezzala or AM, with more players in front of him to work with. Also the expected superficial ‘analysis’ has sounded in some quarters of Fagioli proving the better player. We have to understand that Fagioli has a lot more experience in senior football than Fabio. Both deserve credit for providing clear avenues of promise for a true new Juve to be forged.

I am not alone in the absence of enthusiasm for the news that McKennie and Paredes (amongst others) are ready to return. The concern is that this stumbled upon solidity in midfield will be wiped from the tactics board giving way to swift first XI starting action for both of those players. Dislodging Fagioli and moving Locatelli to mezzala or the bench.

The situation reminds me of how Pogba got his chance. Very different characters involved but similar circumstances as the Frenchman found his major opening to break into the side and bed down a starting berth due to the injury to Marchisio. Sometimes the whole future career of one player is leveraged upon the fitness of another. Imagine had Pogba not became mangled, alongside the rest of the senior players maintaining fair physical health. Would Miretti and Fagioli have had such a look in? Would we have seen the brief brilliance of Iling- Junior? Misery for one can prove joy for another.

The matches remaining before the break are against Verona and Lazio. The 3-5-2 system may not be ideally suited to Chiesa or Di Maria, but it certainly looked suited to the midfield trio of Rabiot-Loca-Fagioli, also Kostic is a machine in that setup. Max has the problem now of senior players returning who have not looked as useful as those who have come in to replace them. Does he go with reputation and high earners or with what has been working?

Deep tactical analysis of the muddled nature of our squad is for another occasion. The reality is that Max has played a prominent role, we are led to believe, in assembling this squad, and whatever ideas he had have not worked.

My point here to make is that Max must aim to pick up where we left of, as that second half in the derby d’italia, was probably our best of the season. Fagioli must surely keep his spot. As should Loca and even Rabiot – whose form has finally, after 3 years of poor to bang average, looks improved. Nothing amazing. The frenchman is not setting the league on fire, but better, much better. With the midfield looking so abject, unbalanced, no matter who we signed, for severak years, when we finally start to see some progress…why change it?

Maybe Rabiot is more comfortable with a true winger hugging the left flank? Maybe Fagioli can blossom as a mezalla? Maybe Loca can prove a strong DM? Add to this the more comfortable fit for by far our best CB this season in Bremer, in a back 3, and plenty of reasons emerge to maintain the 3-5-2 system and selection. With the only concerns there…Chiesa is not a player I want to see converted to become a wingback, his final third explosiveness is far too valuable. Di Maria is not a wingback, though on big wages and his reputation seems to demand he will play whenever fit. Juan can still offer something of value now and then as a RWB, but his engine is close to kaput, and I am unsure if Soule is able to deputise like for like when his game is much more focused on the attacking phase. Plenty of dilemmas for Max to ponder and solve, but at least he has found, albeit by lacking any other choice, something that seems to bring out the best of a spine of the side. And he is the one earning EU9m per season for solving these riddles…

Some questions will be answered in the next two games, not fully, but partly. All I can hope for is that Max leans more towards a meritocracy. Rather than selection on ideas and reputation and already long established as failed ideas.

RB/LB

We needed two fullbacks of a decent established level last Summer, quite desperately. Sandro looked finished two years ago, has faded further since to such a degree that he looks often more prepared for a game of beach football in Rio than a competitive professional match. Juan’s demise began a little later but was far more swift, with the Colombian now looking barely a shadow of the player he once was. Though can still roll back not years, but a few months now and then to prove sporadic useful.

Both play regularly for Max. Yet should be nowhere near our first XI. Integral positions on the field for any modern side, our options are poor. I am not sure how poor, but often measure their opposite numbers in low level Serie A sides as superior in energy, physicality, determination. Without those three core requirements, experience and talent generally has little chance to shine.

The failure to improve these areas in the Summer was at best short-sighted, more likely the result of a muddled working relationship between the novice SD team of Arrivabene/Cherubini and Max.

Riccardo Turicchia, 19, ITA, LB is performing well enough for the Next Gen side in his debut season with the seniors. A former regular for the Italy U19s, the Italian made his debut for the national U20 a month back.

Also in the Italy U20 side is RB, Tomasso Barbieri, picked up from Novara for EU1.6m in 2020. Both are regular starters for Brambilla’s currently mid table Serie C outfit. And with our senior options proving consistently so abject, I hope that both the kids are given chance to impress this season.

Praise is due for the management on so very few points over recent years. However, the U23 aka Next Gen project is already proving a blossoming, important bridge between the youth sector and senior squad. When before far too many were simply cast free, with zero opening to train with, let alone break into the main side, the situation is now markedly different.

Of the U23 players with the most minutes so far this campaign, the first 11 on the list are all aged between 19-21. A handful are training regularly or when injuries demand their presence with the seniors. Several have broken through.

Regardless of my view of Allegri’s disastrous return to the club, ongoing criticism of the decision to promote a complete novice to the pivotal SD role in Cherubini, there is serious progress on the aspiration to create a pipeline of potential assets to not just sell on as makeweights as has traditionally proven the case, but to become part of the future of the club for years to come. Cherubini has played a prominent role in this.

At CB, we find these towering stoppers…

Felix Nzouango – 19 – CB – FRA

The French Cameroon was picked up from Amiens in 2019 for EU2.95m. Solid season in the U19s led to promotion to the Next Gen, where he has quickly established himself as a comfortable in possession, also capable defender alongside fellow 19 year old>>>

Tarik Muharemovic – BOS – CB

Tarik was brought into the fold on a free from Wolfsburg in 2021. Whilst establishing himself as a mainstay in the Bosnian U21 side, he has formed a sturdy partnership with Nzouango, the pair moving up together to senior football and quickly earning the trust of the manager.

It is not just the progression improvements that is pleasing, it is the familiarity the players are now finding as they move through the ranks accustomed to playing with comrades moving in similar trajectory. I doubt it will soon prove anywhere near as incredible for Juve, though it is worth mentioning that two of the greatest sides I have seen in the last few decades, Barca and United, are prime examples of how multiple youth talents developing side by side through the youth levels to the senior side can lead to a wonderful cycle of success at the top level.

Players who have long held relationships through training, through living side by side, through moving to the next level at the same or similar times, are always more likely to continue that synergy established than players brought together who lack that experience, need to learn and adjust to their team-mates.

I am for far too long so incredibly despondent of the way our club has been run. This haphazard insight delving into the vastly improved conveyer belt of fast progressing prospects is rejuvenating…to regain my focus on this aspect and sincerely feel hopeful, that no matter what happens with our hotchpotch, generally failing senior side and crumbling finances, we have close to a full first XI of very promising talents already breaking through or threatening to do so. Finally a reason to be cheerful and praise the management for doing something very positive indeed.

It is only at CF where we seem to have failed to unearth or develop anyone of clear promise. At least until Nicolo Turco forces his way into the reckoning!

Although Emanuele Pecorino, 21,  is faring fine, with 2 goals and 2 assists from his 8 appearances so far.  The Sicilian signed from Catania in 2021. A classic prima punta who enjoyed an impressive debut season in the third tier with his former side, notching 5 goals in 14 games.

Between the sticks, probably the most interesting is Hungary U21 international Zsombor Senko, 19, who stands a goliath at 1.96m and has proven fairly dependable since stepping in to replace the injured italian Garofani.

Senko doesn’t ‘make himself seem big’, he is simply enormous. Also appears to possess that trademark wild berserker nature found in many of the very best shot stoppers (or at least, those I have become quickly amazed by) In fact, the more I see of him, the more he probably deserves a more detailed mention as his position is one of few where whilst size is important, moreso is positioning, reflexes, bravery, command of his box. The 19 year old certainly has potential.

The spirit he shows after saving the penalty, Nzouango grasping his shirt, the Hungarian behemoth fist raised!!! That is everything the senior side has long lacked…Every time he has to make a save, his instant reaction after beating the ball away is to look for a scrap! Like a front line soldier who has broken through the lines and roars to his troop ONWARDS, EVER ONWARDS!

I have skipped over Mattia Compagnan. 19 year old right winger we had on loan from Udinese for a year before signing him in 2021 for close to EU4m. Has found chance to train with the seniors of late due to our injury crisis, and is well worth considering as a future understudy/challenger to Soule for that RWF berth.

Also a few others…yet will briefly cast my glare on the primavera, where our old friend Paolo Montero has emerged as a surprisingly useful guide to the little ones.

Top of the league. Quite a gung-ho team, yet who would expect anything less with Montero at the helm??? (edit, down to 2nd since, after the 1-1 draw with Inter yesterday).

Sitting pretty in 2nd spot of the UEFA Youth League, hard earned progression to the knock-out stages.

Suspect less than most readers will have experienced the Uruguayan during his Juve days as a player. So a little personal focused history is worth sharing.

I have followed the club since the late 80s, mainly from Italia 90′ onwards. Plenty of incredible centrebacks have worn the black and white stripes since then. Ferrara ever looms large as an understated, unheralded yet immensely calm and capable force at the back. His finest period was and remains largely overlooked as during the 90s, the limelight was rightfully more often shining upon Baresi, and Costacurta, and Nesta, then Cannavaro. I also recall the brief stint of Vierchowod, regardless of his Juve career spanning just one season; he was a natural born General.

Montero was a different kettle of fish entirely. Possessing less pace than I could find presently, at 43 and in fairly decent nick. He wasn’t what anyone could call a ‘clean’ player hohoho! Hardly a big chap, Montero was simply a nutjob. He looked ever ready to kill, not just defend. At all times.

Whilst I can find my old goblin heart warmed by Martin Keown talking of how he liked to let the opposition now they were in for a battle,with his first tackle, assuming the ref wouldn’t want to be brandishing cards early doors, he would offer ‘a reducer’ aka a brutal assault of his enemies on the field. Our dear Paolo, went a few steps deeper into savage…

Montero had no strategy of considering the referee may be reluctant to begin the game sending players off, he simply went into every tackle with the idea and intention of ‘a reducer’.

He may well have lost this record, but it is worth sharing for the younger juve fans>>>

A beautiful trip down memory lane>>>

He remains, without anby doubt, the most brutal, true beast of a CB I have ever seen play in our colours…I miss him on the field!

Centering back on the Now…yes, Montero has proven somehow the perfect guide to the U19s. To such a degree, that I would be happy to see him also move up to become coach of the Next Gen next season, to take the bulk of his ultra promising primavera side into senior football. A mark of how well he is faring.

Of that crowd, many are already aware of the Turkish German 17 year old prodigy, Kenan Yildiz…

Standing tall at 1.75m, at just 17, it was a major coup for Juve to pluck the attacking midfielder from the Bayern academy on a free transfer in the Summer. A big lad for his age, yet many of his goals and creative endeavour suggest a keen sense for the game. His debut season under the brutal tutelage of Montero, so far offers 7 goals, 5 assists, from 14 outings. Superb!

Whilst some suggest this form, let alone if continued, already merits a first team appearance, I suspect at best, he will find some training and game time with the Next Gen this season.

Yet also worth following is his team mate, Nicolo Turco. The 18 year old striker signed in 2018. Moving up swiftly, and this campaign, has plundered 8 goals and 5 assists, from 14 appearances.

One final delving…I cannot resist!

It is ever a joy to find a CB who can play with his feet, not just crunch opponents with the same. To add to this welcome technique from deep in the backline a potency in the opposing 18 yard box, is often stardust!

Introducing Dean ‘Donnie ‘ Huijsen.

So far this campaign, Dean has scored 6 times from 13 games, as CB. Admittedly, he does take penalties (3 this season), which bumps up the numbers, but he also gets a fair few from open play as is great with his head.

Often compared to fellow dutchman and former juve player De Ligt, the 17 year old was coveted by many top clubs before we signed him for 200k from Malaga in 2021. He has trained with the first team squad under Allegri and proven a superb presence in Montero’s exciting primavera side. Comfortable in possession and standing huge at 6ft 4′, Dean was remarkably the top scorer at Malaga U17 level before moving to Juve…

Dean is a very versatile player,” the coach of the Netherlands U17s, Mischa Visser, told TuttoJuve, “and despite being a centre-back, he is very effective in the attacking phase.

“In defence, he is able to take up the right position with the right timing, and thanks to his physical size is good at winning duels.

“His calmness impresses me, he doesn’t seem to be stressed at all. He is good at concentrating on what he has to do on the pitch, he is not affected by the pace of the game or by the pressure in the stands.”

Huijsen played a prominent role in the Netherlands run to the final of the recent U17 European championships, where they lost 2-1 to France.

Plenty more in Montero’s mob who deserve further focus. For now, it is enough for me to have offered trademark rambling overview of the serious potential of ONE thing the club has invested in, and is slowly, surely, coming good…

The present has been long quite appalling, granted. And yet, this project put in place by Cherubini, Paratici, Agnelli, is paying dividends. We have a new squad in the making, many of which players look very strong, and ready.

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