The summer transfer window is when fans around the world turn towards their management teams and ask, "Why not us?" For the past few years, with Juventus repeatedly losing out on heavily-linked names like Sergio Agüero, Robin Van Persie, and Alexis Sánchez, fans have shown their discontent at the club's inability or unwillingness to land the big fish.
However, since the installation of Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici, Juventus has done an excellent job of attracting the best young talent in Italy and augmenting the group with high-ceiling players from around the continent. Not all of the deals have worked, but the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Andrea Barzagli and Andrea Pirlo show that Marotta has a keen eye for talent and opportunity.
Angelo Ogbonna and Roberto Pereyra were almost instantly — and, in the case of the Argentine, even sooner than that — discarded by significant portions of the Juventus fan base. Ogbonna came to the Bianconeri on the back of an exceptional season with city rivals Torino, with his signing expected to add depth and physicality to the defense. The Nigerian-Italian stopper had a difficult time his first year with the Old Lady, with infrequent appearances and high expectations contributing to an inconsistency that saw repeated errors from the Cassino-born defender.
Frequently asked to play in Leonardo Bonucci's role as the central defender in a back three, Ogbonna perhaps tried to do too much, attempting Bonucci-style long passes that frequently conceded possession. Even in his more natural left-sided role he was often caught out of position and lured into conceding needless free kicks. Ogbonna's poor form eventually led to his omission from the final Italian World Cup squad.
This season, however, Ogbonna has already deputized excellently for both Giorgio Chiellini on the left and Martín Cáceres on the right. Assured in the tackle and comfortable playing short, recycling passes in offensive buildup, Ogbonna again resembles the excellent prospect of his Torino days. A critical component of Juventus' defending crosses, his strength and anticipation has repeatedly proven up to the task, which sadly was not the case for much of last year. With a strong start to the season Juventini have become much more confident when they see his name on the team sheet.
Roberto Pereyra had the unfortunate fate of being cast as a low-budget replacement. Much of the talk this summer has regarded the possible transition back to a 4-3-3, a formation that relies heavily on talented wide forwards contributing in all phases of attack. While earlier in the summer the links were with Alexis Sánchez and Juan Manuel Iturbe, Pereyra's signing struck many as a distinctly underwhelming alternative. Signed from Udinese on the Marotta Special, a loan with the option to purchase, the player from Tucumán in Argentina's agricultural north was not seen for his skills and versatility, but rather for the production he was lacking.
Brought up at the famous River Plate academy, Pereyra started his career in Friuli out wide but only found true success when moved to the middle. Brought to the heart of the pitch he saw more of the ball and eagerly charged at opposing defenses, showcasing the dribbling skills and tenacity that are so familiar in Argentina players. Like Ángel Di María at Real Madrid and now Manchester United, he was the team's escape valve — just get him the ball and watch him make something happen.
Still only 23 years old, Pereyra's move to Juventus seems to have come at the perfect time. Filling in for an injured Arturo Vidal, his all-action presence has ensured that the Chilean star has hardly been missed. Driving the team forward with aggressive dribbling and combining excellently with the strikers, Pereyra has been extremely influential.
Against Cesena, Pereyra and Vidal played together for the first time. With Pereyra mostly on the left and Vidal to the right of Claudio Marchisio, their different styles were highlighted. Pereyra's positioning was slightly more fluid, drifting wide or high with the ball in midfield to create space for Patrice Evra or Sebastian Giovinco. Vidal on the other hand focused on what he does best: using his instincts and technique to recover the ball and score goals. Pereyra was the creator, dribbling and combining, creating space; with Vidal as the finisher.
Years ago, when at River Plate, some supporters claimed "El Tucu" Pereyra was worthy of the Argentinian national team. Three years at Udinese was seen as a surprise for a player of his talent but now, with a defined role in a big team and intimate knowledge of the league, his first call-up has finally come.
In Angelo Ogbonna and Roberto Pereyra, two players who were seen as disappointing squad-fillers a month ago have now played their way into consideration for every match. Far from being just acceptable replacements as Chiellini, Vidal, and now Cáceres have been forced to miss games, Ogbonna and Pereyra have shown true quality in the early part of the 2014-15 season. They represent the kind of signings that every big European club needs, not just in event of injury or suspension, but to push the starting eleven to constantly prove their level.
- The seven early wrinkles of Massimiliano Allegri
- Juventus 3 - Cesena 0: Initial reaction and random observations
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Cesena
- Juventus vs. Cesena Preview: Round 4 — She sells sea(horses) by the seashore
- Talkin' tactics: Juventus display hints of Conte's philosophy in 1-0 win over AC Milan