clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trying to find Juventus' best starting XI

Editor's note: Please welcome our newest contributor, Aaron West, to the blog. You might know who he is already. He's relatively popular on the Twitter machine, you know. He used to do some guest posts here and there, now he's going to be doing regular posts.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

This year we've seen countless team sheets announced, to general consternation/anger/disappointment from our ever-fickle internet fanbase. We've seen Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 switched to the Max Allegri 4-3-3/3-5-2 hybrid, a dash of 4-3-1-2, all to varying levels of success.

But what's this team's best lineup?

Here's what we know for sure: It's gotta have Claudio Marchisio. It's probably gotta have Sami Khedira. The rest of the questions are not so easily answered. Is the real Hernanes somewhere inside that listless husk of a Brazilian? Which Mario Mandžukić will show up? Can Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado co-exist? SHOULD WE LEAVE ALVARO MORATA BY HIS LONELY SELF ON THE LEFT?

This year's Juventus is deeper than any one in recent memory. We have enough quality squad members to field 2-3 different teams in a variety of tactical formations and with a number of different approaches. Unfortunately, with the injuries this team's suffered throughout this season, we've had to see all too many of them.

Let's state the obvious here: We miss Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez. Show me a team in the world that wouldn't feel the pain of their absence and I'll show you a team you just made up, liar.

There has been a TON of turnover this season. And it hasn't been pretty by any means. Just as if it looked as if Juventus had turned a corner, one Nicola Sansone (you little bastard!!!!) free kick and a Giorgio Chiellini red card (you dumb bastard!!!!) changed the whole perception.

But it really does seem to be coming together. The Torino win was a major rallying point for this team, although the Gladbach draw certainly was a bit of a downer following the emotion of Cuadrado's last-gasp winner. All the freshly applied bandages to this season's early wounds flew off in unison when Massimo Maccarone put Empoli ahead 1-0, but thankfully Mandžukić and Patrice Evra quickly allayed those fears.

However, as our walking wounded slowly return to the fold, we have 21 players fully capable of starting (and Simone Padoin). So what's our best XI? Obviously our lineup will change throughout the season with form, fitness and tactics, but what side puts us in the best position to win in Serie A?

Let's start with the easiest part of this task: Superman Gigi Buffon. He's been brilliant this year in rescuing our sorry hides from some — even more — embarrassing results.

Here's where it gets complicated.

Andrea Barzagli has been brilliant both as an out-and-out center-back and in the center back-cum-right back (don't you dare) role Allegri has asked him to play. However, playing Barzagli wide leaves out the Swiss Express. That's not an option for me, so Stephan Lichtsteiner gets the start at right back with the Wall in the center. But with whom do we partner him? Ever the warrior, Chiellini, is a brilliant defender whose leadership is always important, but his chaotic style and rash challenges have become more and more costly in recent years, so I'd opt for Leonardo Bonucci. While he still has some adjusting to do in a center-back pairing, his range of passing and calm play out of the back helps set the tone for the team. As much as I agitated for Alex Sandro's signing, at present, Uncle Pat Evra's leadership and experience is too valuable to leave him off the pitch in big games. Sandro has plenty of time to grow into his role at Juve, and his energy and quality off the bench is especially useful.

My midfield three of regista Marchisio, (hopefully healthy) box-to-box midfielder Khedira and phenomenon Paul Labile Pogba picks itself. They've not had many chances to play together, but the combined skillset of these three is far and away our best option at present. While Roberto Pereyra, Hernanes, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mario Lemina and Stefano Sturaro (my God, they have so many damn midfielders!!) are all more than capable, I don't think there's much question about that trio.

Now, bear with me for a moment. Imagine an attacking trident with Álvaro Morata at its head; Juan Guillermo Cuadrado wreaks havoc on the right, while Paulo Dybala flits and floats across the pitch, creating where he will. Álvarito drifts to the left to drag hapless center backs out of space, while Paulo Dybala appears out of the mist to find the ball in a previously nonexistent pocket.

It sounds good, doesn't it?

My firm belief is that unleashing Cuadrado and Dybala simultaneously is the key to Juventus' success. With one or the other on the field, the burden of playmaking is too much, and unbalances the team. Cuadrado's presence takes some of the pressure off Dybala's shoulders, while Dybala's craft and guile frees space for Cuadrado to be his electrifyingly dangerous best self. It's time to give it to our opponents with both barrels.

This Juventus team has a ton of growth ahead of it, and enough time to grow something special. For all of Juve's haplessness this season, they're still only NINE points off the Serie A title pace. With Milan up next and Manchester City looming a few days after, now is the time to lay down a marker and really kickstart this season.