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Steps in the Right direction…


MERCATO mumblings – Late January

I must say that I am a little surprised. Pleasantly so. As I have become accustomed to abject failure both on and off the field for many moons now, I was not expecting the welcome flurry of mercato activity of the last few days.

Signing the strongest number 9 in the league for a gargantuan sum seemed beyond us, yet it was achieved. Added to this, which I believe could prove pivotal, was the purchase of Zakaria. With the icing on the cake a quite serious investment in a swiftly rising CB star in Mr Cats aka Freddy Gatti.

Outgoing, to help make space and to fund these moves, we have seen Bentancur, Kulu and (finally) Ramsey depart. Hard to call Rodrigo a fringe player, and given Chiesa’s injury Kulu had moved up the pecking order. Gatti is clearly a longer term investment.

Even with the rumoured to be lingering 30% to Boca, the two players heading to Spurs can be vaguely ear-marked as around 55m. Which certainly helps offset the close to 100m digging deep into the coffers to bring in Dusan, Denis and Mr Cats.

Rodrigo I will miss, though do not believe he suits Max particularly well and has lost his way the last year or so. Nowhere near to the degree that many ‘fans’ regard him as awful. To my mind, he is our most reliable defensive element in CM, second only to Loca in overall form in the middle of the park, and his bite and intelligent screening will be sorely missed…IF Zakaria fails to live up to hopes and expectations.

Kulu seems more an acceptable sale. Who looked incredibly promising as a RWF in a 433 at Parma. Yet was then muddled around many roles in Pirlo’s tactical soup, fared okay-ish. With Max needing or wanting more this season, than the young Swede could show as he was again moved around in the non existent ‘system’ game to game.

Five weeks later…

The first two games with our new signings were very encouraging. After which, as injuries struck, the side reverted, by instinct or by coaching, to an ultra defensive counter attacking side rather topsy turvy in defence and not that suited to counter attacking football. Still, we remain just about extending a fairly lengthy unbeaten run, which should be lauded, albeit halfheartedly. Gaining more points on the leading pack, the CL tie finely balanced with the home leg to come and one boot in the final of the coppa italia. Surely it would be harsh to criticize Max too brutally???

On one hand yes, it seems at odds with slow, hard to watch yet steady-ish progress. Especally when adding in the horrific injury issues…which in itself I hope is receiving serious analysis within the club management.

It seems those fellow commentators I tend to read and respect regardless of whether we find common ground, are divided between two camps.

  1. The squad is horribly unbalanced, hugely overpaid, we are stuck with average players, who dont fit together, and were in disarray the last year or two, so Max is actually doing a decent job. He has made us more solid, results have been fair to good and we can accept, even expect the less than exciting performances as we are moving in the right directon. Which for many of us even at the start of the season was to aim for 4th spot, CL KO phase, a good coppa run, some return to any form. The first three on the list we are achieving. Add in the staggering injury issues and this leans further towards praise for the management and confidence that we are headed more often in the right direction than towards anything warranting woe and pessimism.

2. The squad has enough quality for any decent manager to find more attractive football than we have endured season long. Max is too pragmatic, has not changed in the slightest, and is shackling the talent we have and should be using to dominate opponents. We are not progressing. There is no recognisable identity. We dominate no opponents whether of high or low level, and are never the best team on the field on the balance of chances created and fluidity. Max was an understandable choice, and at best he has weathered one storm (though many remain unresolved at higher levels of the club), but he has had enough time now to find something that works anywhere near to combining cohesively the best sum of our parts, and he continues to play ultra defensive, depressing to watch football. He needs to go, if we are to progress.

I am probably somewhere in between those two not quite opposites, but certainly differing appraisals of our current circumstances and trajectory.

My prediction somewhat aligned with a reasonable aspiration for the season back in late July was 4th spot, a good run in the CL and coppa, and a sense of identity appearing. Yet the latter was somewhat mitigated by my own conclusions of the Paratici legacy providing a terribly unbalanced squad, with few world class talents (if any), a group of players flung together more as the offcuts to make do from the RONALDO focus, constant chopping of managers and trauma off the field in upper management. A shambles, essentially.

No point banging on of how IF we had not suffered those calamitous individual errors early doors, we would now be very much, somehow, in the title race. That only serves to suggest that the league is weak, as we have been weak, fumbling and defended our way to a closer to sure 4th position in the table.

Moving back to the mercato…

Vlahovic was a superb move. Something of a statement signing, as he could – I believe – have earned more money in the PL and gone to team also fighting for 4th spot, put himself in a much brighter spotlight, yet he chose Juve. Credit where due to Cherubini, and Arrivabene for making the move seemingly swift and decisive. The unfortunate cost of this was the ‘sale’ of Bentancur and Kulu. Many will have said good riddance…

Kulu was signed on the back of rightfully earning the award for the best youngster in Serie A. His singular talents anointed by none other than Zlatan! Who is seldom found offering praise for anyone but…Zlatan. His first season in black and white offered as much as I could have hoped, when played more often than not out of position, in fits and starts. Under Max, same bother…which I understand, as we we have Dybala/Chiesa/Juan(albeit more a winger than a wide forward) who are all ahead of him in the pecking order. Such is the mega zeal of Chiesa that he can play anywhere and still produce. Yet Dybala? Juan? Played out of position? They will look half to none of their best form at RWF or RW.

I am happy and unsurprised to find Kulu prospering under a quality man manager playing him in his natural RWF role and with regular starts. It can lead towards a PL v Serie A discussion, yet there are far more factors involved than a comparison of leagues.

As for Rodrigo…I suspect he will also prove a better – or perhaps more fittingly put – more valued player for Spurs. He was our best midfielder under Sarri, and was far from our worst midfielder under Max, both times around.

I guess my concern here is that we have sold two of our assets capable of commanding a meaningful transfer fee. To fund moves I feel are intelligent yet we are left with few more assets to cash in upon.

Ramsey has proven as fragile in Scotland he was in Italy, so will return to Juve with his contract expiriing 2023. A hefty weight on the wage bill, the club will need to work hard to find him a club to mitigate our losses.\

I had hoped McKennie would prosper, in the least stay fit, as he has, seemingly, some suitors, in the PL…Yet the poor lad has since been crunched. So no go on monetising, making even a small profit on that deal. Some say HOW DARE YOU FOR MCKENNIE IS VIDAL!!! Yet they are mainy american…And maybe I would be the same if he were the first englishman ever to don the shirt! Still…He has given ideas of how an attacking midfielder or advanced RWF can work well in the final third. His ability to arrive in the box and hustle intelligently around the 18 yard area is promising, though of low net output. I think he looks a superb athlete, who with the right coaching could further improve.

Yet he has never shown the consistency to be considered a likely element of a top level first XI we MUST be aspiring to forge. The potential is probaby there. However, I prefer to sell such players to roll the dice to try bring in more solid first XI players. The aim must be to place top level talent in every position. We are not in a situation where we need squad players.

Who else is there to bring in the much needed filthy lucre to finance the overhaul of the muddled squad we desperately need?

Some point to Arthur. Who has appeared of value in 2 games in close to 2 years. Issue with trying to sell Arthur is that his book value started at EU82m. Amortization 16.4m per year (5y contract). This summer his book value will be 82-32.8= 49.2m. Nobody is paying that for Arthur. Mid 2023, if we can sell him for anything above 32.8m we make a profit.

Who is going to pay EU49.2m for Arthur? Nobody. Forget it. Though I may be atrociously wrong with my calculations???

Rabiot is a trundling warhorse. He offers so little beyond physicality. Maybe we can find a purchaser on the cheap? As in 15-20m. Yet his mother may say NON!

Ramsey will return a still broken asset on high wages who nobody wants.

Pellegrini could be sold for 10-15m at best. Sandro similar chicken feed.

Dybala…I assume he will stay, yet if he goes, even to Inter, I will be a little taken aback, yet not eternally condeming the man, and will hope he prospers, begrudingly…Would prefer he went to Spain. I have bigger concerns of our ongoing dearth of quality and form. And just find the Dybala saga very much linked to how the club directors have worked haphazardly.

We are close to always a more exciting side when La Joya is playing. His output is fairly decent in front of goal. Many talk of his fitness issues, which are clear, although the whole squad has fitness issues this campaign, which seems a hallmark of Max’s methods and MUST be assessed and improved upon. The idea of losing one of our few valuable players, our most potent player in the final third for ZERO is instructive of mismanagement of the squad.

Some say let him go! We can get Zaniolo! My enthusiasm for this move is at best dull and morose. Zaniolo has suffered ACL injuries in both knees, has not returned to become instantly amazing and plays in that same RWF role most naturally. He can play through the middle, but behind Dusan? Why pay 40/50m for a player less proven, with a far worse and more suspicious injury record than the player we are letting go for free?

So who does that leave in terms of potential sales, to heavily impact our hugely needed renovations? Only De Ligt.

If we could sell him for 125m. I would be excited…Get in Signore Gatti, take a risk. Bremer who looks formidable. Romagnoli on a free or Minkovic. Still leaving mega funds for a LB, LWF, experienced CF, maybe a marauding RB, at best also Audero brought in to replace Perrin (who is leaving for free) as understudy primed to take over…

Add to this…two players we already own, who can offer contrasting menace, snarl and guile at DM, the two Nicolos…Rovella and Fagioli.

It is hard to judge Mr Beans given he is playing in the second tier. Yet his form is so strong, he has been talked of as one of the best in the league all season. Some of the passes he makes, awareness he shows, moments of creative genius, oozes class. And after taking Allegri’s advice to bed into the DM role, he has made it his own, playing a pivotal role in Cremonese’s superb run maintaing mega assault on the top spot and promotion. Still only 21, it remains to be seen whether Max will stick to his long set ideas of sending out ALL players for a year on loan in Serie A before been considered for the Juve first team squad. I hope not, as Fagioli appears to offer much of the very talents our midfield has long been lacking. Namely guile, creativity, the ability to beat players, pick out a long pass and move the ball very quickly forward.

Rovella has proven solid for Cagliari, less technical prowess in the final third than his namesake, yet a strong defensive menace, highly capable of screening the rearguard and offering a platform to win the ball, move the play up the field and support in the attacking phase. With only the latter area of his game appearing weak.

It seems too cavalier to expect Max to go with two youngsters, but what if they are better than what we have? Their age should be no barrier. Other top teams regularly give youth a chance to prosper, such as Bayern, City, Liverpool…If it works for them, and we are to modernise the club ethos, why can it not work for us?

Still, on the slim chance we are to bring into the fold two very promising youngsters, who would cost us $0 and who offer skillsets in a position we have presently nobody proficient in the slightest, I imagine we will also need to bring in an experienced CM. A Witsel or the like. Someone bringing a wealth of experience and proven success. That balance is important to get right. SMS would be splendid!

Watching Juve and contrasting our games against our opponents and the large amount of Premier league I regularly devour like a good englishman, ever seeking MOTD, crinnging at the unwitting political gestures for neonazis in Ukraine and blowing wind into the hapless ironic, spastic sails of PUTIN IS HITLER…one of the most glaring issues we have is the close to complete lack of quality fullbacks. On the left especially, yet also on the right to some degree. For Danilo is more a CBR, he offers very little indeed going forward. Whereas Juan offers great attacking zeal though barely a vague echo of Danilo’s defensive nous. We desperately need modern, top drawer options on both sides of the field.

The other everpresent issue we have is finding too few players attacking the box. We are either a very slow build from the back, cautious with bodies making runs to break the lines OR we are a counter attacking side with players not ideally suited to counter attacking football. Is this more the lack of quality in key positions in the squad? Or Max proving rather one dimensional and ultra defensive?

Curiously, those few and far between times when the team have bombed forward in numbers, we look capable of swarming opponents and creating chance after chance. So why don’t we play like this more regularly?

I was wrong, as I am often am…when brimming with hope that Max would return with fresh ideas and regardless of the hotchpotch imbalanced squad, would find a way to make us enjoy watching Juve again.

Instead I have seen us struggle in every game we have played. With my only now rather frail and uncomfortable conclusion grasped at…Max has no idea how to make any system work with this squad, so is sticking to his pragmatism, aiming to grind out the results to secure the minimum expectations, trying something different sporadically, in the vague hope that it might just click, whilst refusing to play on the front foot. Every game a war of attrition whether facing Spezia or Villareal.

In other matters…

Fagioli and fellow Juve owned flyng winger Zanimacchia, are both contributing often and powerfully for Cremonese who remain close to the top of Serie B.

Juve U23s sit comfortably in the top ten in their regional Serie C league, in a solid run of form…Currently 7th, looking likely to earn a spot in the end of season play-offs. Marley Ake has been in fine form with 5 goals and 4 assists from his 23 appearances. 18 year old star in the making Fabio Miretti operating in a DM/CM role has 3 goals and 4 assists from his 25 games and continues to impress. And he is the player from that squad, I would suggest keeping an studious eye upon, as the youngster has seamlessly moved from looking very special indeed for our youth sector, to scrapping with players many years his senior in Serie C…

Fellow 18 year old, Matias Soule is playing regularly, and remains one of hope.

Another Argentine, Enzo Barrenechea, 20, has recently returned from an ACL injury, featuring sparingly in his favoured DM role.

I will get into a thorough overview of the youth sector in due course. To include the primavera (U19) who are faring well enough in their league campaign, sitting in 4th, with standout attacking focus narrowing in on 18 year old Benin striker Ange Chibozo, who has plundered 10 goals, 4 assists from 19 games….and british lad, Samuel Iling, 18, who has 7 goals, 4 assists from 18.

Ever seeking future potential to fill our needs in the senior side…Gabriele Mulazzi, 18, has 3 goals, 5 assists, from 18 games as a marauding RB.

Briefly…the UEFA Youth League, where our U19s mirror the group stage of the senior CL same tournament, has provided great joy>>>

Edging past dutch side AZ Alkmaar on penalties in the first round of the KO stage, we now face Liverpool.

With Zakaria and Dusan both nourishing hope of the Cherubini/Arrivabene axis working well enough, a lengthy unbeaten run for the senior side which keeps us in the running for our low expectations, key youth talents prospering in the senior game and those behind them also offering plenty of reasons to be hopeful of a better future for the club…I feel, that we are making tentative steps in the Right direction.

Forza Juve

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