For the last few months there have been many discussions about what Juventus' front line may look like next summer. This was fueled by the rumors that Tevez may finish his contract one year earlier, that Llorente may leave, or Cavani may join. Then there is the Berardi and Zaza situations that still need to be finalized. At least with the former, a decision about ownership needs to be made in the next few weeks. One thing is clear, next year's forward line will look different.
Then there is a certain Paulo Dybala. The young Argentine is in my opinion an unknown commodity. Last year he played 34 Serie A matches scoring 13 goals and contributing with 10 assists. In other words he was directly responsible for 23 out of Palermo's 53 goals (that is 43 percent of Palermo's goals if you are wondering). More importantly these goals and assists came in 18 matches, showing his consistency.
But Juventus are different than Palermo. Defenses close down, room for shooting or passing is limited, and tactical fouls are the norm. As we all know, in Italy it is generally a stroke of brilliance that leads to an opening in the scoreboard.
What about Tevez? He hasn't left for Boca yet? Well, if you read Nedved's interview you know that it looks like he will be staying in Argentina after the Copa America.
So what will happen with Juventus' front line next season?
Instead of wildly addressing every rumor from Cavani to Oscar, or from Adebayor to the Matri-Nargi partnership, it would be best to look at what Juve's front line looks like and what spots are going to be left open. Kind of like a game of musical chairs, a game in which those left standing will save the club millions which can then be used to finance those left sitting, all of this under the music of a ticking clock that will stop sometime in late August or early September.
Currently there are six "chairs" for players in our attacking department. Namely, Tevez, Llorente, Morata, Coman, Pepe, and Matri. Of those players, Coman and Pepe have seen the least amount of playing time mostly at the Coppa Italia. Not coincidentally, these players are wingers, however the similarities end there. Pepe will leave this summer to play elsewhere, whereas Coman is firmly in the club's future plans (although he may also leave). Allegri wasn't short on praise when it came to the youngest Frenchman in the squad.
In addition to Pepe leaving, the other player who will not be wearing black and white next August is Alessandro Matri. Conveniently, Pepe and Matri can open up spaces for Berardi and Zaza respectively. The young Sassuolo pair play in similar roles as Pepe and Matri (winger and forward) and will likely arrive with equal or lower salaries. Or maybe Marotta can convince Galliani to also pay for their salaries. You know how generous Uncle Fester has become.
Then there is Llorente. Should Juve continue to pay 4m/year for a player that produced so little last year? I don't think so. Llorente is a class act and a great player when deployed properly, but I doubt he will be any more than a third or fourth choice striker. Marotta can easily find a club for Llorente in England or Spain, free Juventus of his wages, and bring in 15-18m in cash.
If all this happens we will have Morata, Berardi, Zaza, Dybala and Coman. If the Old Lady is going to have as many forwards as last season then Juventus still needs one more player. Media reports have said that this player may be Mandzukic. Although he is a target man like Llorente, he is certainly more physical and contributes more to defending than the Spaniard.
If you have read this far then you know that what I am trying to get at is that next year our strike force may be Morata, Berardi, Zaza, Dybala, Coman, and Mandzukic. That is a very young line-up but yet a powerful one. One with some European experience (Mandzukic and Morata) but young and with a huge ceiling. Just look at the numbers for the 2014-15 Serie A season (for Mandzukic, La Liga) from our prospective strike force next year:
|Player||Age (Birth year)||Goals||Assists||Minutes||Minutes/contribution|
The numbers of Berardi, Dybala, Manduzkic and Morata are quite good. Only Coman and Morata did not hit double digits when it came to goals last year, but he also has the least minutes after Coman.
The last thing I would like to point out how our team's creativity center will change in the future. Last year the player with most assists was Tevez (7) followed by Marchisio (6). Berardi has almost as many assists as those two together. I think that in the coming season the midfield will become even stronger and more gritty than in the last three years, while creativity will be pushed onto the front line. Allegri likes to give little direction to his forwards asking that they give few reference points to defenders. Dybala, Coman, Morata, and Berardi certainly fit that mold.
Changes are coming, and it looks like most of the chairs occupied this year will be left empty, just to be replaced by a younger and more creative crowd. A crowd of players hungry for victory, hungry for carrying the team, hungry to give the Old Lady and its fans even more causes to celebrate than the players in the past. Afte all, that has always been the Juventus way... the sweetest victory is the next one.