With the worst kept secrets now coming to fruition, as Di Maria is pictured with Max and Pogba is welcomed to Turin exiting private jet, it is fair to say the mercato has more officially begun for Juve.
The fanfare is not quite muted, yet neither an explosion across all media channels. And yet this has more to do with the protracted journey from rumour to likely to finally happening, than any despair or lack of enthusiasm for the incoming players.
I have my reservations about Pogba, as his time at United has been closer to disappointing than the expected progression of a player who I felt, during his earlier stint at Juve, could go on to become a generational talent. Perhaps he still can, and we must all hope so. Or in the least that he can roll back the years and regain some of the incredible form he showed during his last adventure in black and white.
To explain why the Frenchman failed to scale the hoped for heights at United would take a novella to begin to explain. Suffice to say, The Red Devils were and remain undergoing a systemic mismanagement at all levels of the club. Add to this the trappings of stardom for the prime of his youth as a hip celebrity in the UK where the culture is very different for football players than in Italy, alongside injury niggles, a chopping and changing tactical system. None of this matters now. It is merely a reference point to peek at and muse over briefly. For the nut of the matter is that we have added to the ranks a player, who on his day is world class. Capable of doing things very few on the planet would even ponder let alone execute with a rare, even unique elegance.
However, I must point to the major negative, namely his fitness. Throughout the course of his six years back in Manchester, he missed 90 games. Averaging 15 games out injured per season. The recent campaign found him play for 45% of available minutes. Which makes for worrying reading, especially when this seems part of a pattern, not a one-off.
With great hope that our medical staff can find a way to manage the fitness of our new star signing, his arrival confirms the technical level of our midfield has greatly increased for the coming season.
Where and how Max deploys Monsieur Pogba, I will not get into presently…I welcome him home, and can feel that boyish excitement bubbling away once again, for a world class addition to the ranks must be lauded and bring fantasy to all juventini hearts, even those most haggard such as my own!
Di Maria is another top level addition to the squad, albeit on a very short deal. I already wish he was staying longer, yet understand his focus is on the world cup then to head home to Argentina. And with Chiesa unlikely to regain his sharpness until the tail end of this year, the incredibly experienced Argentine should prove a major upgrade to our creativity and offensive threat. No matter his time in what some consider a lower ranked league, the little Angel, who has long reminded me of Rizzo from the muppets, is an incredibly talented chap.
Top drawer awareness, glorious technique, positional intelligence, sublime flair…Even at 34, he remains a superb acquisition. Nicknamed el Fideo (spanish for the noodle) due to his wiry, long frame, Di Maria comes with an italian passport so no concerns on any non-EU spots.
Naturally at his best cutting in from the RWF position, the (arch?)Angel can apply himself on the left, but why would we bring in a proven elite performer and then shoe-horn him into a weaker role??
Bearing in mind how successful other ageing superstars have proven in Serie A in recent years – Ibra, Giroud, Ribery – Di Maria appears a certain bet to raise our game tremendously, if only for one season. There is also to consider how valuable his experience may be on the training ground to Chiesa and even his compatriot, Soule…Worth a youtube offering for an idea of his promise>>>
Which leads us onto our other priorities…
Still we require a natural LWF. All talk of Kostic has vanished. Although there are some rumours of Gnabry to be included in the latest offer from Bayern for De Ligt. The former Arsenal wide attacker can operate down the left. I believe his wages and aspirations of glory may thwart such a move. The Serb seems a more sure bet and fit at the right price. Though perhaps El Fideo will play on the left with Juan on the right?
With De Ligt likely to depart, the main replacement options appear to be Koulibally, Bremer or Milenkovic. I would like to assume the club have other ideas to consider also. What is assured is that if De Ligt leaves, we will need to make a quality signing to replace him. The Dutchman is the only high level defender of the whole back-line.
It is both FB positions which I still believe must be a priority. With Pellegrini apparently to be sold, that leaves Sandro on the left. A player who many times last season I had no idea he was even involved from the start until he was yanked off the field to be subbed, such was his incredible ghosting through games. I have long concluded he basically retired 2 years ago and when he is selected, we are playing with 10 from the off. It is imperative the club sign a major upgrade.
Cambiaso is interesting, young and seems set to perhaps move on loan after we finalise his purchase. We desperately need some quality there. Else it will prove a constant weakness to rely on Sandro and De Sciglio.
Also on the opposite flank, we must dispense with this transitional routine. Juan is OK at RWB/RB, but solely adequate defensively. Danilo is solid in the rear third but not even adequate offensively. Yes, to some he seems to loves the shirt and club and so what eh? What matters to me more is how valuable he is on the field. Certainly a reliable squad player best used in rotation for a RCB role or as back-up for RB, but there are obvious reasons why he failed to prove a success at Real or City. He has major limitations going forward.
Ongoing whispers in the shadows of Molina at 30m suggest the management are well aware not just the left but the right flank demands an injection of youthful exuberance and exciting potential.
FBs are incredibly important in the modern game, and our options in these key roles are currently poor to average.
Next on the list I hope would be an experienced CM. Ideally an all rounder. Zakaria has yet to prove his worth. Mckennie lacks the discipline to play in the middle, seems at best a bench player for the final third given his useful knack of getting on the end of things in and around the box. Which leaves still Rabiot and Ramsey, both of whom I hope get moved on. Probably wishful thinking but a man must always dream…
Maybe some will say TOO MUCH CHANGE!!!! Yet we are not tinkering with a well running, let alone winning machine. Last season was woeful. No growth. No clear identity. Very few players anywhere near their expected levels. Dire football throughout.
I consider the squad at zero. No amount of change can derail anything for there is no train on the tracks, no forward motion; we clawed and scraped our way to 4th more through attrition and deflating ultra defensive football than any hint of cohesion let alone dominance. There was no progress. Solely stagnation.
Returning briefly to the need for an experienced CM….I would hope it could be a player able to meet the long term Max devotion to a regista. Locatelli can do a job there, but having that responsibility alone is not his forte. For he is naturally prone and often potent getting forward…To find his best???…As part of a double pivot perhaps, yet not with Pogba whose game is mega offensive focused. Which leads me to the conclusion – despite aiming to avoid any tactical conclusions – we may need to move to a 4-2-3-1. If not bring in a seasoned DM and play Pogba as a more attacking mezalla, and Loca on the other side as a more balanced/defensive mezzala in a 433. Either way, we need a quality CM who can show his best as a regista of sorts.
Only Paredes seems seriously rumoured for this role. A move which could possibly link into the failure of Kean (alongside our failure to get anywhere near the best out of him). A return to PSG where he prospered previously, in exchange for the Argie, could suit all parties.
I like Paredes. He has matured and become a player who goes often unnoticed yet performs a vital, intelligent gritty role, for club and country. We could do worse business.
There is one other name doing the rounds of late, in regards to our long troubled midfield. Lucas Torreira, who enters the final year of his Arsenal contract with apparently the firm intention of leaving with the parent club more than open to such plans. A price as low as EU10-15m could be enough.
I am a fan of the bullish scrapper. Who is tidy on the ball, has a great engine, dogged in the hustle and able to play quick, intelligent passes up the field. His first season in the PL continued his impressive development curb at Sampdoria, before Emery moved him too high up the pitch and the Uruguayan suffered a drop in output. Successful subsequent loans at Atletico and Fiorentina have followed. I imagine if he were to sign that he would surprise a few people quite quickly, for his reputation appears out of sync with his performances the last two seasons (and before).
So much more to present and discuss, yet I am neck deep in the smirnoff, and solely wish to make cynical quip of the rumours of our backup CF looming, lumbering as the monstrous Arnautovic. Who at 33, may be a strong option. Yet why sell Vrioni, who is 23 years old, fresh from a superb season in Austria, in a cut price deal to the MLS …to then plunder more gold on an old chap? Seems such odd business and muddled sporting sense.
Still…for now, so far, so good. Plenty more sharp turns and surprises in store as we continue our journey towards what we all hope will finally be a brave new dawn.
Kindly share your thoughts and criticisms and grand plans for our path back to glory.
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