All remains unfortunately muddled. With speculation abounding of not just Pirlo, not just Paratici, but even Andrea Agnelli perhaps to be replaced, I am thankful for the chance to focus on the actual football, rather than rumours.
Although…I do get carried away with the discussions and just remain a little disgruntled to find the most exciting element of this campaign the potential for mega change from top to the bottom of the club. Not what many of us expected, or hoped for. Still, we have games to play…
Udinese are in mangled form. They approach this tie missing several key players with Man City loanee Jayden Braaf ruled out, alongside starting keeper Musso suspended. Added to this misery are the long term absentees – Ilija Nestorovski, Gerard Deulofeu, Ignacio Pussetto and midfielder Mato Jajalo.
Missing 5-6 key players is far from ideal when facing any side, let alone a star studded, albeit struggling outfit like Juve.
We all welcome the return of Chiesa, who has proven by far our most consistent attacking threat in recent months. Other than which the squad seems healthier than at any time I can recall this campaign, with only Demiral absent. UPDATE>>>
Turns out Chiesa remains missing, and Morata is carrying a calf strain which leads to Dybala as the only option left to play at CF, as we are unable to ask Ronaldo to play in that role. This doesn’t change much in regards to the huge imbalance of strength between the two sides taking to the field. Though it may well alter the expected formation and I presume, shuffle Pirlo’s seemingly very narrow tactical mind back to his ‘system’. Which I hope is not the case. Even playing Danilo at RB and Juan at RM with Dybala and Ronaldo up top makes us predictable but solid in that repeated path of travel. The aim was to try mirror that on the opposite flank with Sandro and Chiesa.
Now not possible and I have 0.1% confidence that Pirlo will bring in a LM from the U23s to play at LM. as we only have two or maybe three there and this is the mighty Udinese! Nor will he use Frabrotta. Playing a left sided player in a left sided position simply will not do for our Mister’s blinkered vision of a muddled new world of football…
McKennie, a natural box to box central midfielder will plug the gap on the flank and look to become a hybrid LM or RM (whichever opposite side to Juan) who tucks in to fill space out wide and also morphs into an AM to make runs into the box. Which is fine I suppose, for he plays some of his game of definite value in the final third, whatever Pirlo asks of him elsewhere. And we need bodies in the box.
My problem with this, others are as likely bored of me repeating as am I…is that no other manager I have ever known uses a system with one natural winger on one flank and a CM as the ‘winger’ on the opposite flank. Add to this the complex transitions and it becomes logical to understand why the system has never worked from the top to the bottom of the side.
Given we have the left sided midfielders we could deploy there – Ake, Coreira, Frabrotta, Compagnon – it very much spoils the idea of lauding Pirlo for ‘focusing on youth’. Same applies to the criminal absence of Fagioli, who I do not tout as a top level player already proven and experienced, but I do suggest he has looked very promising indeed when playing with the first team. He also displays some of precisely what we have lacked in the central midfield area – dynamic creativity, eagerness and ability to play the ball forward.
Forgetting Pirlo’s reluctance to give youth a chance, a manager with knowledge of formations beyond a complex hybrid 4-4-2 might consider…we have no first team squad LM…but we have plenty of CMs and maybe McKennie could be useful playing in a role closer to his career before Juve? Maybe the middle of the park could become more solid with three in there, not the double pivot??? We can use Sandro and Juan as FBs and finally try to dominate from the midfield???
With safety all but confirmed, I imagine Udinese will be focused on damage limitation, attempting to frustrate and hit on the break, and hope for a lucky break. With our own struggles of late, especially away from home, it is reasonable to have concerns, though I suspect that such will be the strength at the back and up top of any side Pirlo deploys, we will prove far too much to handle. In fact, I will grasp onto a brief sense of positivity and suggest that this could be a mini turning point, for a resounding victory is possible, even likely, which could set us up to not just consolidate our top four position, but begin a steady march for 2nd.
Juventus (4-4-2):Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Cuadrado, Arthur, Bentancur, Mckennie, Dybala, Ronaldo
An aside from the desperate need to bring home the 3 points, the match offers opportunity for a closer look at Rodrigo de Paul. The combative attacking midfielder is enjoying another solid season with 8 goals and 7 assists proving his mettle and confirming reason for the vague links to Juve. He appears to offer much of what we lack. Dynamic, gritty with powerful determination to move the play from midfield to the final third with end product to create or score.
We have had good relations with Udinese over the years, and De Paul may prove an intelligent acquisition who meets requirements both technically and mentally. It remains to be seen whether the club are surveying what many fans already highlight, and the latest rumours suggest AC Milan are seeking his services. We may need to act fast…
What I personally like about the player is that rare mix of a combative nature aligned with high level technique on and off the ball.
I also look forward to seeing our old friend Roberto Pereyra, whose hit and miss time in the Premier League led to a return to Udinese last September . 8 Assists and 4 goals is strong output from the Argentine who gave great service for Juve during his stint at the club. His versatility, strong work rate with a hint of flair was often a joy to watch and I am glad to find him back to his best and enjoying his football.