For the first time all season, Antonio Conte comes out of an international break with all five of his strikers available and ready to play. At least that's what I'm going to assume since all of them are training with the team as we get closer to the resumption of the Serie A campaign. Some could think of it as a problem, others could think of it as a luxury. Hell, maybe ti's something in between that makes everybody happy.
Until we all try and figure out what exactly is going through Conte's mind, there's one thing we know: Carlos Tevez, Mirko Vucinic, Fernando Llorente, Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco are all healthy. Five strikers, two spots starting lineup spots available. But then you factor in Tevez basically starting every game like has thus far, it's four players for one spot when Conte sticks with his favorite 3-5-2 formation.
Tevez starting is a given. He's appeared in every game — starting all but one of them. He's Conte's guy, and is playing pretty darn well on top of it. And unless he's injured, there's no reason to think that he won't be one of the first names Conte puts on the team sheet week in and week out.
From there, it's a whole lot of interesting.
Does Conte continue to go with Llorente, who has been getting better and better as he's continued to get regular playing time over the last month or so? Does he turn to Vucinic, who has always been a favorite of Conte? Or does he rotate things like he has done in the past when things are hectic with games every couple of days?
Or maybe it's some kind of combination of all of the above?
Even with all of the extreme circumstances upon his arrival, Llorente pairing up with Tevez was something that pretty much seemed inevitable whenever it did begin to click. Well, these last couple weeks it has clicked and, as a result, brought some very good results both for the Juventus attack and the team as a whole. The rust has continued to be shaken off as the games and, as the weeks pass, one would assume Llorente will continue to get more and more comfortable both in terms personal form and adaption to Serie A.
That being said, I guess the wild card in all of this is Vucinic.
His injury during the October international break was what allowed Llorente to step into the lineup on a regular basis and really start to get back being o himself. Before that, though, Vucinic was starting more often than not — nothing all that surprising considering how Conte has played him regardless of form.
Could Vucinic be an effective player of the bench like Quagliarella and Giovinco have been this season, though? I'm not so sure. He might be if in fact Conte decides to go with Llorente alongside Tevez more of than not.
Having all five strikers healthy and ready to play is something Conte hasn't had to deal with yet this season. First Llorente was working his way back into game shape. Then Vucinic got hurt. Then Quagliarella got hurt. Then Giovinco (kinda) got hurt. The choices have been pretty easy to make thus far simply because of what's available to Conte.
And up until this point, he's played it right. Easing Llorente back into things instead of throwing him straight into the fire the first week of the season proved to be the perfect way to handle it. He's used both Quagliarella and Giovinco effectively off the bench and they've delivered the goods.
I don't doubt that all five strikers will play going forward. Some more than others, but that's just stating the obvious. How the pieces fit into the puzzle still remains to be seen, though.
Decisions, decisions. A whole lot of decisions.