Boy-oh-boy do we like to do things differently here at the Juventus Offside. Man-crushes, binge-drinking, and good ol' fashioned rival club bashing have normally been the specials of the day until now. Today, Alessio and I proudly present to you all our post pre-season predictions. Now you may be asking yourself some simple, and very valid questions like: Hasn't the season already began? Shouldn't we be focusing on current issues? Why would you guys even attempt to win over our hearts now with this late lame-ass effort? Well my friends the answer is simple... I'm incredibly lazy. The truth is Alessio had his part done about two months before the season began, and I, well, have a love affair for beer. However, time heals all wounds and you'll be glad to hear Alessio is slowly talking to me again. Moving on, here now are some answers to some pressing questions about what we can expect this season, six months in the making.
What do you think about our transfer season?
Alessio:Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with it. We brought in quality reinforcements, and while we weren't thrilled about it at the time it appears they were perfect for us. My friend Anthony remarked that we only brought in reinforcements where our youth players weren't coming through, and that bears mentioning. Instead of a fantasista like Van der Vaart or Diego, we have Giovinco. Instead of Grosso as our left-back, we have De Ceglie. (Sorry, marco!) And lastly, instead of Xabi Alonso as our midfield general, we have Marchisio who put in a great performance the other day against Artmedia. We didn't have a prima punta or defensive midfielder coming through, so we got Poulsen and Amauri. We have some great depth, I'd like maybe one or two more defenders, like Criscito. Not Knezevic. Rather than feeding him to the wolves (literally) we should have slowly integrated him in, subbing him in and playing Coppa and "smaller games." Regardless, we have good cover.Manninger is a top-class backup keeper. I didn't like getting rid of Belardi, but when we realized Chimenti wasn't our starting backup, I was much more relieved about it. He did great against Italy last week. So in general, I think Secco and co did some good work this mercato. If we offload Tiago and sign Appiah on a free transfer, good deal. Appiah wants to play in bianconero badly, and there's no doubt he'd be better than having Tiago on our bench, and he's probably got similar (or lower) wage demands.
roberto:If you had some how been able to look into the future at the end of last year and tell me who we’d end up signing, I would’ve looked you in the eye while I slowly placed my hand atop a searing stove element. We needed quality defenders (plural) then, and we still need them today. Until that area's addressed, Secco's still an idiot.
What did you think of our pre-season friendlies? How did they go in your opinion?
Alessio:I never put too much stock into pre-season friendlies, but I was happy with them. Our management is planning for a big year for us, so we had several prestigious friendlies. I think (and so does Legro) we played too many, we don't want injuries or our players to be exhausted. Last year we had some problems with Del Piero and Camoranesi missing pre-season and with Serie B, they started out poorly. 1/2 our team was at Euro2008 or the Olympics, so they're all in good form. Best was 0-0 against Manchester United, we proved that we can hang with the best.
roberto:I think our pre-season this year was a calculated gamble by Ranieri and Juventus. Fearing his job would be on the line, Ranieri had to make sure we were more than ready before the start of our Serie A campaign to guarantee our entry into the Champions League group stage. So, we scheduled a lot of games within a short period of time. This of course raised our chances of someone getting seriously injured. However, the Tinkerman knows that there was really no alternative for achieving match fitness in time other than playing (you guessed it) matches. When all was said and done, Juventus put in some descent performances along the way, made it into the CL group stages, and came out virtually unharmed.
Who will be our breakout star this season?
Alessio:Hard decision, I think all our signings will do well. I was enthusiastic about signing Tiago, but he had shown elements of his lack of "personality" before, and Almiron was unproven at a top level. I can't see that happening to our new arrivals. Maybe nothing eye-popping, but I don't think they'll flop. Everyone says Giovinco, and I think he will light it up. I'll go with Marchisio though, he really impressed me against Artmedia. I'd been talking him up before but he distributed the ball well with good passing, showed some good individual skills, and showed no hesitation in challenging for the ball. His performance made me forget about Xabi Alonso already, let's hope he continues to grow.
roberto: “Our” breakout star is going to be Amauri. Ask yourself one thing: Is there another striker like him in the world?
Who will make the biggest impact this year?
Alessio: Dr. Agricola. Seriously. If we can stay relatively healthy and injury-free, we can do very well this season. Other than that? Camoranesi. He's proven how crucial he is to the team and he's without a doubt our most creative player, and his crosses are beautiful. He needs to stay injury-free.
roberto:Amauri will make the biggest impact this year. Aside from focusing on his array of abilities for a minute, think of this guy's potential on the international scene. No doubt he'll make his Azzurri debut as soon as his passport comes in, plus he'll be enjoying his first taste of the Champions League with Juventus. I'm telling you, sooner or later, you'll be forgetting about Giovinco... in a good way.
Last season injuries and suspensions hurt our backline badly, and in January we were regularly fielding a Legro-Grygera center-back partnership. Do you think our defense has enough depth for this season?
Alessio: I'd be a bit more comfortable with another player, but I think we'll be ok. Andrade's relapse was a real downer, because I thought we would be well covered. I wish we brought back Criscito and slowly integrated him, he could be great alongside Chiellini. One an enforcer, one more of a positional-Cannavaro/Nesta style defender. We have Chiellini, Legrottaglie, Mellberg, Zebina, Grygera, Salihamidzic, Molinaro, De Ceglie, and Knezevic, most of these players can cover in alternate positions. I think yes. I think with the Champion's League TV revenue and maybe a bit of leftover transfer kitty, Secco might be waiting till January to either bring in reinforcements or an added team member, which is a good idea.
roberto:No chance. I don’t see our defensive personnel having enough gas for Serie A, international duty, and the fucking Champions League. Come January, we’ll need to make a big move (when have you heard that before?)… But of course by then who’s going to be eligible to play for us in the CL?
We've finally made it back to the Champion's League after a two-year absence. Do you think we have a legitimate chance at winning it? How far do you expect to go?
Alessio: We could win it, but I don't expect to. On our day, we can beat any team in Europe. But with injuries, suspensions, exhaustion, and general poor form, we won't be always playing in top shape. So it all depends how the season ends up, I would like a quarterfinal finish. Of course it would be nice to win it in Rome, which as all Juventini know is the stadium where we won it last, against Ajax. Extra bonus of winning it in Roma's territory, but I'm not holding my breath.
roberto: Here's what I think the issue (or question) is concerning our Champions League hopes this year. Can we expect our club's inherit grit and determination to make-up for our obvious lack of depth in our back-line? The answer my friends is harder than fuck to come up with. All I know is that in sports, anything can happen. Juventusis off to a good start this year and with a little luck we can certainly go far. Who wouldn't like to see our boys that battled Serie B lift the trophy up above their heads in Rome?
Can Ranieri deliver us the Scudetto this year? What do you think are our chances of victory? What is the key to Juve winning the Scudetto?
Alessio: Yes, in my opinion our Champion's League commitment might be our undoing. I don't think the Italian media is giving us enough credit. I think Inter has a bit of an advantage, and Milan/Juve have an equal chance with Roma just slightly behind. If we don't get some penalty bullshit this season and Inter's defensive injury crisis continues, I think we have good odds. As of now, Bwin is giving 2.20 on Inter winning the league, Milan 3.50, Juve 5.25, and Roma 6.00. (Fiorentina is far behind) It's going to be a pretty open championship and I think any of the big 4 could feasibly win it.
roberto: Ranieri is a good coach. Personally I think this will be his last best shot at winning anything with a top club, and I hope he can be successful. The guy is a class act who seems to know what it takes to win. This year our lads look like they're in good shape which leads me to believe we can certainly contend for the Scudetto this year. What's the key to Juventus winning the Scudetto? The name of the game is consistency folks. It always has been, and always will be. If we can put out a more consistent performance than Inter this year, the league championship is ours.
What are your opinions on Milan's mercato? Inter's? Roma's? Fiorentina's? Other squads?
Alessio: Long question. Here we go:
Milan-They did well in bringing in reinforcements, they've been too weak over the last few years. Sheva, Ronaldinho, Borriello, Zambrotta, Senderos all have high potential, whether each player attains it is up to debate. They didn't really reinforce the positions they needed, but they do have quality players, but it'll be a battle for many of them to get back to glory. I don't think they are enough to win the Scudetto, but they don't have the Champion's League to worry about. Hopefully Pirlo can get back to his best.
Inter-When Mourinho first arrived, the media was predicting a whole-scale revolution, but most Calcio fans knew one really wasn't happening. Muntari and Mancini are pretty good pickups, however as most people have been saying Mourinho is their best signing. I don't think he's god, but he's certainly better than the tactical dunce that was Roberto Mancini. If they pick up Quaresma, they have done very well in the market. Suazo's had a year-to-forget and should pack his bags, for whever.
Roma-About time they started moving, Prade should have done this a month ago when they were training at Trigoria, so it'll take a bit for the team to integrate. Menez is a quality pickup, and I'm sure he'll be kicking ass in the spring, he'll need some time to adjust. Baptista and Riise I'll hold off final judgement though, Riise doesn't impress me and Baptista had sort of been floundering over the last few years. They almost have enough depth, 1-2 more players (out-and-out striker and a CB) would be perfect.
Fiorentina-Home run. Quality and quantity. Prandelli should be happy he has backers like the Della Valle brothers and Corvino as his talent scout. Vargas will be sensational. They could do with another CB though, they didn't properly replace Ufjalusi. If anyone can get Gilardino to his "Serie A Young Player of the Year" best it's Prandelli.
Catania- Great work in the market, I think Zenga and co. will comfortably survive relegation and they've set some building blocks for the future. ~10 points above relegation.
Torino- A team destined for the relegation battle couldn't do better than picking up relegation-specialists Amoruso and Bianchi. They had no firepower last season, but with Rosina and that duo up front, the Toro will also avoid relegation. Good pickups.
Others-Lazio and Palermo seem similar, both brought in a lot of new recruits and I'm not sure how they'll settle. Palermo's midfield still sucks. Midtable for both. Genoa brought in Palladino as their new #10, so I'll be watching, Former Juve youth coach Gasperini did well in getting Ferrari for their leaky defense, not enough for a Uefa cup push but also mid-table. Napoli did great work yet again, they are really rising.
roberto:Milan Milan Milan. Much like Juventus, they forgot to do anything significant about their back-line. Flamini this, Ronaldinho that. Zambrotta was a good move but last I checked, he isn't exactly who you'd want in Kakakladziii's boots. Inter just fucking pisses me off. Now they finally an official mascot in their gypsy Quaresma. Roma still pisses me off, but I like what they've done with the place. Just a matter of getting everyone on Spaletti's page... or off it, who knows. Fiorentina is grooving with Gilardino's revelation. I'll add Lazio here as they've really found a star in Mauro Zarate. The kid is dope.
With the Big 4 temporarily enlarged to the "Big 5," who do you think is going to finish in 5th place?
Alessio:Tough call. I'm going with Fiorentina. I think the Champion's League is going to take a toll on them (even if they have a good bench) and they'll slip a bit. Not as catastrophic as Lazio but a slip none the less. No offense to Viola fans.
roberto:Napoli, you watch.
Giovinco, De Ceglie, and Marchisio all impressed on loan last season. Do you expect them to winning starting spots by the end of the season? With young players like Essabr and Pasquato out on loan will they have similar seasons?
Alessio:Not quite starting roles for all, but I think Giovinco and De Ceglie may be starting towards the end of the season. Marchisio will be playing often but he won't be first choice quite yet, I don't think. Essabr and Pasquato? No, I think they need 2 years on loan, they have great potential but are very young. With Rossi, Esposito, and Ekdal also around we will be set for years to come.
roberto:Molinaro shits himself to sleep every night thinking of the day De Ceglie takes his starting role from him officially. Oddly enough, many Juventini have the same dream however we have very different endings. Marchisio will get to start and so will Giovinco. They will impress, and we will all rejoice in song. Molinaro is garbage... I just wanted to add that.
Who's going to get relegated?
Alessio:Lecce, Cagliari, and Reggina. Lecce's team doesn't impress me, Cagliari was very stupid to not keep their coach, and Reggina isn't going to survive if they keep dumping their star forwards. Berretta is a good coach but I'm not sure he can do it with Lecce. I think they might be replaced by their hated rivals AS Bari. BWIN is calling Lecce, Chievo, and Reggina with Siena, Catania, Cagliari, and Bologna very close.
roberto: Cagliari, Reggina, and Bologna. Too bad for Jeremy over at the Cagliari Offside. The man works hard... go check him out.
This year, Empoli took the hardest dive, from a Uefa cup finish to relegation. What team do you think is going to do comparatively poor this season? Who will rise the most?
Alessio:I don't think any team is going to have a comparatively disasterous season. But I think Udinese is going to drop out of the Uefa cup spot.
roberto: Inter, they really need some steady coaching in there. Oh boy, look out day 13!
Despite eventually being sacked, Claudio Ranieri was very popular in England while with Chelsea. Do you like the Mister? Do you think he is capable of leading us to silverware?
Alessio:I do like the guy, he seems like a good motivator and a good tactician. His subs were sometimes off last season, but I do think he can win us silverware. If we get the Coppa Italia we get a silver star (for 10). If we win the Scudetto we get our 3rd star. I'd love a Scudetto, Coppa Italia, and quarterfinal CL finish.
roberto: I feel like I already answered this question. Yes and yes.
If you could add one player (realistically) or one particular position to the squad, what would it be?
Alessio:Fabiano Santacroce. A solid young center-back. I'd like Criscito to return as an alternative.
roberto:If De Ceglie wasn't around I'd love to have Maxwell from Inter. Just think of the quality we'd have with him and Nedved on our left side. But, if I could only have one player than I'd have to go with a centre-back. Maybe Ferdinand... Maybe
For shits and giggles, predict Serie A 2008-2009
IERI... OGGI... DOMANI... SEMPRE JUVE!!!