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February’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Balance

Earth. Fire. Air. Water. Only The Avatar can master all four elements And bring balance to the world.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Recently, there have been some curious expressions of dissatisfaction in the comments section concerning Stefano Sturaro. Is he too one-dimensional for Juventus' midfield? Why doesn’t he contribute more in offensive aspects of the game? Whatever your opinion, there is an interesting and worthwhile discussion to be had concerning the hard-working Italian strongman.

To me, football is a game about balance. Attacking flair combined with defensive solidity. Possession play in the center combined with expansive wing play. A winger cutting in from one side while the other maintains width on the opposite side. Some players distribute the ball, while others have to dribble at players to provide directness. Everybody has a role within the team and a player’s prime responsibility is to fulfill his role. Above all, a player has to be evaluated against the criteria determined by his role in the team: Has he done what he has been asked to do? Only once he has fulfilled his role adequately and consistently can we assess him against a new set of criteria.

I assess Claudio Marchisio against his ability to distribute the ball and provide defensive cover. I assess Paulo Dybala against his ability to provide some fantasia in attack and score goals. Giorgio Chiellini basically has to clobber strikers while getting as few yellow/red cards as possible. And the list goes on.

I think that Leonardo Bonucci is a fantastic example to illustrate my point. Bonucci is obviously, first and foremost, a central defender. Therefore, he basically has to nullify the opposition striker(s) and maintain organization in the defense with his fellow defenders. In my opinion though, he was grown to become such a fantastic defender, that now I also judge him in his ability to carry the ball out of defense and provide good distribution and passing out of defense. Not only because distribution is one of his key strengths as a player, but also because nowadays he has fulfilled his duty as a defender so fantastically that he has ‘evolved’ in his responsibilities.

So there are two issues here: balance and responsibilities on the pitch. It’s Max Allegri’s responsibility to provide the correct balance on the pitch with his squad selection. It’s the responsibility of the players to fulfill the duties that Allegri has charged them with. And it’s our responsibility as fans to have faith in both parties to make the right decisions.

Injuries, injuries, injuries: what on earth is going on?

Where the heck are all these muscle injuries coming from? Is this all just an anomaly or an underlying issue that Allegri’s medical team needs to address? Has Max not rotated enough? I know Allegri is a strong believer in adequate nutrition before and after matches, so perhaps that is a contributing factor as well. Whatever the case, all these muscle injuries need to be addressed swiftly before things get out of hand.

Better than yours?

"Jesus Christ, some Juve fans are so smug and arrogant, it’s appalling. It’s alright if you don’t like a rival club or a player, but to call that whole club a rotten ship is purely generalizations and stereotyping. If you’re truly as classy as you say you are, you shouldn’t stoop down to such petty insults.

Oh, and btw, I love Juve as much as anyone on this board (obviously), but this whole harping on about being a "classy" team has got to stop, it’s obnoxious. When it comes to being classy, we’re no better than the average Italian club, in fact, we’re probably worse. We were relegated for cheating a decade ago. We’ve been convicted numerous times of bribery and doping. We’ve gotten tons of refereeing decisions in our favor. Our ultras are just as racist and offensive as ultras of other clubs, if not more so. I know the club has made strides to get rid of these ultras, but still, one can’t forget the ultras making fun of the Superga disaster last year vs. Torino."

By MLG Bush

Now I know that this is going to seriously ruffle some feathers amongst a lot of us, but allow me to explain why I want to bring this up. I thought there was a good discussion to be had behind what MLG Bush said here a few weeks ago in the comments section. Obviously I strongly disagree with his Calciopoli- and doping-related comments, but there is some validity behind what he says about arrogance, generalizations, and humility. Juventus is a fantastic and amazing club and I’ve never been, or ever will be, ashamed of being a Juventino. The environment around the club, Lo Stile Juve, the stories you hear about the characters and personalities in the dressing room; I’m supremely proud of being associated to all these things.

Remember that Darkness lingers in every heart - Master Eraqus

But I think we should remember not to get carried away, be smug or arrogant, act holier-than-thou with respect to other clubs or fans, or act like clubs are beneath us. Doing so would probably make us just as ‘bad’ as those that we criticize. Every club has its flaws and Juventus is no different, so we should not allow our emotion and love for the club blind us from them.

Catch me if you can

"Napoli needed something remarkable to get the victory in Turin, whereas Juve only required a normal performance." Arrigo Sacchi after Juventus vs. Napoli

Sacchi’s comments after the Juventus-Napoli game were perhaps the most intriguing ones that pointed to deeper issues within Italian football. Despite how close the Scudetto race has been, despite how poor we were at the start of the season, despite how much instability there was at the club during the summer, and despite how tremendous Napoli has been this season, there is still a seemingly insurmountable gap between Juventus and the rest of Italy. Given my academic background in economics, the closet-economist in me became a bit worried. Is such a clear market leader within a given market sustainable in the long-term? Is the market (i.e. league) stagnating? But then I began to think beyond that. Forget about the trite old argument of "it’s bad for the league if Juventus keep winning," think bigger.

Although the grumbles about the infamous European Super League have subsided for now, I wonder if Andrea Agnelli, being the consummate businessman that he is, can resist the temptation of such a lucrative proposition. As far as I know, he has neither declared an interest nor taken a particular stance on the idea, but I just wonder if he might not begin to consider new ways to grow the club, especially financially, or if the current marketplace in Italy is sufficient to achieve his ambitions for Juventus.

Tactics, Schmactics

Given the frustrating amount of injuries to the team, Allegri has not been able to play his now-preferred 3-5-2 formation as much as he would have like to. Since Roberto Pereyra is still not quite match-fit yet, Max has opted for a flat 4-4-2 with Paul Pogba as a mezzala on the left and Juan Cuadrado as an out-and-out winger on the right. In attack, it basically becomes an extremely lopsided 4-3-3 with Pogba tucking inside and Cuadrado pushing forward, while in defense it’s a flat 4-4-2 with the Frenchman still playing relatively narrowly. Although I understand Max’s choice given the circumstances, I’ve noticed one major issue with this setup: the left wing is ignored.

Since Pogba basically has to play two positions (CM and LM), he will naturally play to his strengths which are in CM. Consequently, he drifts inside, the formation becomes too narrow, and the left back (Patrice Evra or Alex Sandro) is on his own on the left. Pogba has to cover a huge amount of lateral distance in this set-up, especially without the ball. While he still does a remarkable job combining all that defending with all that attacking, he cannot be in two places simultaneously. Evra fared very respectably against Bayern, but Allegri is asking a lot of the LB to play with limited defensive cover ahead of him, especially if a winger-fullback combination double-teams him, and a lot of Pogba to play two positions at once.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Starter or Supersub?

We’ve seen some fantastic stuff from Simone Zaza and we’ve seen some horrendous stuff from him. He’s started a few games, but has mostly made substitute appearances from the bench. His brilliant goal-to-minute ratio makes him an unpredictable joker option from the bench, but I just wonder: is that all there is to him then? His playing style certainly polarizes opinions. He mixes a rabid, almost possessed, way of harassing defenders ̶̶ reminiscent of Carlos Tévez’s amazing work-rate ̶ with the perpetual risk of obtaining yellow/red cards by flying into borderline-insane tackles (ála Vidal).

So does Zaza offer enough extra, enough different, in his play compared to Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, and Álvaro Morata, to justify being more than just a supersub? I genuinely think that he has very useful skills to offer to the team- he has proven this- but sometimes it just seems that he does more running than thinking. If he can mix the method with the madness and achieve some balance in his play, he can surely be more than merely a supersub.

Quote of the month:

"Callejón has one of the most punchable faces if not THE most."

By Jonathan Robin

What are your thoughts about February?