Juventus 2012-13 Season In Review: The Defenders

Claudio Villa

As the saying goes, great teams are built from the back, and as cliche as it may seem, it is true. The Antonio Conte era Juventus has been built from the back, with the team molded to accommodate an excellent defensive trio and Andrea Pirlo - a player that needs no further description. This is the review of the defenders and wing-backs for 2012-2013.

Giorgio Chiellini

Why save the best for last when you can start with it? Original adjectives to appropriately describe the importance of Giorgio the player, the leader and future Juventus legend are quickly running out after each fantastic season from GC. His name has become synonymous with "best Juventus defender" year after year, and the 2012-2013 season was no exception. In 32 appearances, Chiellini had among others: three tackles/game, 3.3 interceptions/game, 7.1 clearances/game, 89.5 percent pass success and his one and only goal was the priceless deadlock-breaker in a delicate match at the San Paolo against Napoli. Important to note is Chiellini's excellent play in the Champions League. Despite a two-season drought from the competition, in eight appearances he accounted for 2.8 tackles/game, 4.3 interceptions/game and 9.9 clearances/game, while still keeping a fairly hight pass success rate of 86.8. Chiellini was also top 10 in the Champions League for most interceptions/game (fourth, while playing mpre games than those preceding him) and clearances/game (seventh with 9.9). For comparison, everyone's go-to favorite centerback Thiago Silva listed nine appearances, 3.9 interceptions/game and 5.7 clearances/game. Season Grade: 9.

Andrea Barzagli

One of the best pieces of business the club has ever done for countless Juventini, myself included. Juventus’ best-kept secret, while an increasing number of fans of the beautiful game have learned to appreciate Barzagli as a world-class center-back, his name still does not come up as often as it should when the topic of conversation is “best defenders in the world”. We can all take a collective minute and try to come up with one particular game where Barzagli made a clear mistake that lead to an opposition goal and write it down. This might take a while, so while we’re at it, I’d like to mention that if I were Giuseppe Marotta I would have already changed my legal name to the Italian equivalent of Giuseppe Iboughtaworldclasscenterbackforbubblegummoney Marotta (although carrying around 8.5x11-sized business cards might prove somewhat cumbersome). Or we can talk numbers: 43 appearances all season, 1.9 tackles/game, 2.7 interceptions/game, 5.9 clearances/game, 89.6 percent pass success ratio. In the Champions League, he was in the top 20 for clearances/game with 7.6. Time’s up, pencils down, any luck? I got nothing. Season Grade: 8.5.

Leonardo Bonucci

Another strong season from Leo, who continues to get better under Antonio Conte’s care while becoming a more polished defender. Bonucci and Conte’s 3-5-2 are in perfect mutualism with one another: being the weakest defender of the three starting CB’s, having Chiellini and Barzagli to his sides allows Bonucci the defensive support and cover he needs as he puts his ball-playing skills to use allowing Conte to use him as an important generator of play. Ball-playing skills that were put on full display throughout the season, as Bonucci attempted the greatest number of passes of the three center-backs (2389 for Leo, 1825 for Giorgio, 2200 for Barza, while also attempting the most long balls out of the three center-backs (456 for Leo, 220 for Giorgio, 258 for Barza). The most impressive statistic of it all is Leo’s accuracy at completing long balls on a consistent basis (7.6 completions/game for Leo, 5.5 completions/game for Giorgio, 4.6 completions/game for Barza). With regards to successful long ball completions per game, Leo was in the top 20 passers in the Champions League, despite being (together with Xavi and Xabi Alonso) only one of three players in this top 20 with double digits for appearances (Xavi 11 games, 9.8 long ball completions/game; Xabi Alonso 10 games, 7.8 long ball completions/game; Bonucci 10 games, 7.1 long ball completions/game). 10 of the aforementioned 20 best long-ball passers are CB’s, and Bonucci leads them all in total passes attempted with 535. All of this while being a barely 26-year-old center-back playing Champions League football for the first time in his career. Season Grade 8.5.

Lucio

He played well, although only for four appearances. Season Grade: No grade.

Martin Caceres

As is the case for the starting three CB’s, Caceres’ importance for this Juventus team has been made abundantly clear at this point. The club is lucky to be able to count on a player of his caliber as a viable bench option – he is the definition of a luxury substitute in the eyes of many, and as long as Juventus can rely on Caceres-level rotation players, the club is destined to be in a position to achieve great things. Despite playing in only 18 Serie A games, Martin completed 91.4% of his total passes, finishing top 5 in Serie A. He had a number of very good performances, with the first leg 3-0 away win against Celtic and the 2-1 away win against Chievo coming to mind. Season Grade 7.

Kwadwo Asamoah

Had a ridiculous start to the season, as he looked to be weeks ahead from everyone else with his preparation. Fantastic performances in important matches such as the Super Coppa showdown against Napoli and the 3-0 beat-down of Chelsea come to mind. This also led to Kwadwo seemingly “slowing down” a bit earlier than some other players, with the African Cup of Nations draining his batteries even further. As the last couple of months of the season rolled around, Asa looked to return to good form and become a more similar player to the first month of his Juventus experience. Season highlights: 2 goals, 7 assists, 2.5 tackles/game and a 86.8 percent pass completion ratio, numbers that promise well for a 24 year old with no previous WBL experience before being placed there by Conte. Overall, he was a very good buy, he’s 24, talented, a great guy, and his performances at WBL are only bound to improve. Season Grade 7.5.

Federico Peluso

WhoScored tells me Peluso is a strong crosser of the ball, I say lol. But a second look tells me completing 8/21, or 38 percent of his crosses since joining Juventus is actually a decent tally for the former Atalanta man. Joined midway through the season from one of Juventus’ most favorite markets, Padoin’s long lost left-footed twin did fairly well after a shaky start, with some of his better performances coming in matches he was utilized a full 90 minutes, such as the away wins against Bologna and Lazio and the home win against Pescara. Season Grade 6.5.

Paolo De Ceglie

If it feels as if he did not play much this season, it is probably because that was the case. Completed 12/72 crossing attempts while playing a total of just 962 minutes of game time in 15 appearances. I am not sure if even giving him a grade feels right. I like Paolino, he’s a Juventino through and through, he’s always been a model professional, he’s fairly versatile and the salary to keep him around is less than what Andrea Agnelli spends on cigarettes a year, or just about what Lapo spends on trannies on an average weekend. He’s months away from being 27, however, he should have a decent market among Serie A teams, and most importantly he is most likely not going to be getting much better anytime soon, while the Juventus board looks for options to increase the quality of play on the left side of the pitch. The nostalgic Juventino in me would like him to stay, but he is an expendable player and could be on the move. Season Grade: 6.

Simone Padoin

Sampath’s favorite player, Conte’s Talisman, Arjen Robben: The Diet Version, the Second Coming of Camoranesi, or as some have called him the Garrincha of the Poor, the hero that Juventus deserves is versatile, polyvalent and the definition of a sacrificial lamb for the manager’s tactics and fans’ frustration alike, regardless of the result or the team’s performance, so much so that even his WhoScored profile contains an image of Padoin playing with a nosebleed. You just raised your eyebrow and made a scrunched-up face while reading the above run-on. Instead of reading the rest of this review, you are now going on WhoScored to check if his profile picture is actually one of him playing with a nosebleed. Simone Padoin seems to be Conte’s favorite sub, taking part in 23 season games. When playing for a full 90 minutes, Padoin is actually a decent player. Don’t believe me? See the 2-0 win against Celtic, the 2-0 win against Bologna and the 2-1 away win against Stramaccioni’s former team. He does not excel in a single aspect of his play; Padoin is truly your favorite mediocre player’s favorite mediocre player. But again, he doesn’t make any game-changing mistakes, either. He’s a model professional and a locker room favorite. He also has the same amount of scudetti as Totti and Batigol, put together. Meh. Season Grade 6.

Stephan Lichtsteiner

Stephan continues to be one of the most important players of the Conte era. Although he didn’t have the chance to line up at his most natural position and his crossing left a bit to desire (just kidding, his crossing was terrible with 21/154 successful attempts) all season, he had a good season, as his contribution was as ever-present as usual. 4 goals, 2 assists and hundreds of kilometers covered with seemingly endless runs on the right flank and a great chemistry with Andrea Pirlo and his passes, the Swiss Express is about as solid of a RB/RWB as Juventus has had not only post-Calciopoli but the last few decades. Season Grade 7.5.

Mauricio Isla

Eight-hundred-twenty-five minutes played all season between Serie A and Champions League. That is a terribly low amount of game time to even think about giving a verdict on the kind of season he had, let alone about what kind of purchase he is. What we have had a chance to see is, in my opinion, 60% of what Mauricio Isla is capable of. Renew his co-ownership, let him train and prepare injury-free, give him some play time as the MCR in the 3-5-2 (when Arturo needs a rest) on top of his WBR role and then we will be able to see if he is worth keeping around. Season Grade: No Grade.

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