Looking back on a season of wholesale change and no small bit of success, many of the key contributions came from wide areas. Whether playing in a four- or five-man defense, Juventus' core of wide men offered boundless energy, pinpoint crossing, and defensive rigor. With experience, versatility, and great nicknames like Uncle Pat, The Swiss Express, and The Padoin, it certainly feels a long time since we were choosing between Marco Motta and Zdeněk Grygera at right back.
The wingbacks, or fullbacks in a back four, are the guys running the flank for 90 minutes, asked to mark skilled attackers at one end and provide attacking width at the other. It is a role for robots, really, with no time for human failings like fatigue and inattention. While other positions get nicknames from the high arts, things like "Pinturicchio" or "l'Architetto," or fiction — "Superman," among many others — fullbacks get named after trains.
Cafu was "Il Pendolino," named after the high speed "swaying" trains. Our own Stephan Lichtsteiner, a one-time hero on the other side of Rome, earned his "Swiss Express" nickname in much the same way. But whoever has stepped into the breech on either side of Juventus' central defense this term could lay claim to their own train route, such has been the consistency of the group's performance. Anyway, on to the particulars.
Stephan Lichtsteiner - 8
What more can be said of the Swiss Express? A constant down the right flank since he joined from Lazio, this year the 31-year-old played more Serie A minutes than all but four Juventus players: goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, center back Leonardo Bonucci, midfield all-rounder Claudio Marchisio. and attacking inspiration Carlos Tévez. Our Lichtsteiner is nothing if not fiery, and only a couple bans for card accumulation, as well as the red against Torino, kept him from accumulating even more minutes down the right.
A vital component to many parts of Juventus' game, Lichtsteiner's constant presence in attack gives the midfielders and forwards a wide option, with Andrea Pirlo particularly in sync with the dynamic movement of the former Grasshoppers man. Over and over the system of movements would repeat, a Conte trademark that was maintained by Allegri. Ball from the left to Pirlo, then Pirlo drops it into the box for Lichtsteiner.
It was the move that created the first goal in the Juventus Stadium, and right through to the current day defences are powerless to stop it. With just a bit more luck on his final ball, the right-back could have contributed even more than his three goals and six assists. It was a career year for the fullback, who remains under-appreciated as one of Europe's best.
His finest performance came in the 7-0 thrashing of Parma, contributing a lovely goal and dishing out two assists.
Patrice Evra - 7.5
"Uncle Pat" came back to Italy this past summer, signing for Juventus after eight trophy-laden years in the red of Manchester United. At 34 years old, Evra was seen by many to be in decline, unable to match the bursts of younger players and, perhaps most of all, a symbol of the old, Ferguson-era team that needed moving on. Fortunately for Juventus, Patrice settled on Turin for a late-career renaissance.
Initially competing with Kwadwo Asamoah for playing time in the 3-5-2 of the early part of the season, Evra showed that he was more than up for the challenge. While not offering the midfielder skillset that makes Asamoah such a threat when he comes in off his flank, Evra offered a traditional wide presence, always looking to get to the bye line and drill crosses in.
For all his physical tools, however, it would be no exaggeration to say that Evra's biggest impact on the team has been psychological. The man has won the Champions League, and been to the late stages time and time again. He has faced Lionel Messi, played with and against Cristiano Ronaldo, left the final in tears of pain and tears of joy. He offers a depth of experience that few players in the world can match, and that kind of assurance, on the biggest nights, is invaluable.
On a personal level, it is not Evra's best season, with somewhat disappointing returns of four assists and just one goal. It was on the defensive side though that Evra did his best work on the field, shutting down his side along with Giorgio Chiellini, and based on the overwhelming success of the team, he was clearly doing something right.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to Uncle Pat, on the basis of this season, is that without him, his calm and experience and assuredness, it is very hard to imagine Juventus making the Champions League final. All that and the man's not afraid to C-walk.
Simone Padoin - 6.5
The Padoin once again racked up the appearances for Juventus this season, playing on both sides of defense, in a three or a four, and even popping up in central midfield. Contributing four assists as well as consistent, positionally sound play, Padoin has proven himself a valuable squad member, even if he's not the one you want starting the biggest games.
Best along the right flank, this season Padoin was mostly filling in on the left. He still managed to assist a fellow fullback, Lichtsteiner in the 3-0 win over Cesena, but was playing in central midfield at the time.
Kwadwo Asamoah - s/v
The Ghanaian international started the season well, alternating with Evra on the left flank and deputizing in midfield, with the team hoping to cover for his absence during the African Cup of Nations in January. Unfortunately, injury struck, with damaged knee cartilage requiring surgery and a long layoff.
Finally returning for the Coppa Ialia-Scudetto double celebration game against Napoli, hopefully next season will see much more of the talented left-footer.
Rômulo - s/v
Brought on the "Marotta Special" of a loan-with-option-to-buy, the Brazilian fullback-turned-central midfielder started the season as Allegri's first-choice backup to Stephan Lichtsteiner. After an excellent season at Hellas Verona playing in midfield, the Brazilian was also given chances in the engine room, however never got going in either position due to lingering injury troubles.
Only given three starts, one in midfield and two on the right flank, Juventus supporters have not seen much of Rômulo since joining. With his playing rights likely returning to Hellas, hopefully next season will be one of rebirth for Rômulo, who at 28 may sadly have lost his only shot at a big club.
Paolo De Ceglie - s/v
Everyone's favorite Ashton Kutcher look-alike returned from Parma as the financial waves crashed over the Gialloblu bow. Taking his station on the left, like always, the youth product showed once again that he can probably be a decent Serie A player, just not at Juve.
Paolino got another start in Bianconero to add to his C.V., if nothing else, turning out in the 1-0 win over Palermo and then entering as a sub against Cagliari as the season wound down. All the best Paolino, maybe it didn't turn out like you had hoped, but we'll always remember when you were the best we had.