Juventus' signing of Miralem Pjanic came swift and unexpectedly. When Beppe Marotta went in to finish the deal, he walked out with the finished product in hand. Or, at least, that's the way I want to think of it. Beppe met the buyout clause, got the final word from Roma and then walked out like a champ because he just scored himself quite a deal.
Now, with Pjanic amongst those players beginning training in Vinovo this week, it won't be too long before we see him making his (unofficial) Juventus debut when the squad heads out on its preseason tour of Australia and Hong Kong.
Obviously Juventus' squad is still being constructed for the upcoming season — both in terms of potential arrivals and departures. But, at least with what we know, adding Pjanic to a midfield that already has the likes of (a healthy) Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Sami Khedira is certainly quite the coup. Juventus' midfield was already pretty good, but with Pjanic on board it has gotten even that much better — and Marotta isn't done working just yet.
The main question is, where should Juventus manager Max Allegri deploy his newest midfield asset? How much might Claudio Marchisio's absence and then return impact where and how Allegri potentially uses Pjanic in the first half of the season?
Both viable questions. And both questions that we felt like discussing while everybody else around the internet drowns themselves in annoying and pointless transfer rumors that will make them go a wee bit crazy. (Crazy is not good, unless it's a crazy good goal from Paul Pogba or Paulo Dybala, but that's just me talking.)
Behold, the return of our first round of the BWRAO roundtables. And, this time, we're talking about somebody who has arrived, not left.
We're all aware of what Pjanic can bring to the team. He has abilities to play as a deep-lying playmaker and as a trequartista, the latter being a position that Allegri has been trying to fill since he joined. This signing may lead to Allegri reverting more regularly to his favorite 4-3-1-2 formation, with Pjanic being the "1," and playing in between the lines. In a 3-5-2, he could play as a deep-lying playmaker, giving Marchisio (when he finally returns from injury) the opportunity to play in his more natural box-to-box midfield role, making runs into the box.
Pjanic also doesn't shy from his share of defensive work. Though he's obviously not noted for this, his stats on tackling is not too far off from the rest of our midfield.
Then there's his delivery from set pieces. Pjanic has one of the best conversion rates from free kicks in the game. He adds another weapon, to go along with Paulo Dybala and (sometimes) Pogba.
One thing's for sure; we should be salivating at the prospect of the joint-top assists man in Serie A supplying through balls to Dybala and Mario Mandzukic, and whipping in those free kicks next season.
Pjanic should play on the right of Marchisio in the 3-5-2 formation, building up a deadly partnership with Stephan Lichtsteiner and/or Dani Alves — or even Juan Cuadrado — as needs be. With four world-class midfielders at Allegri's disposal (Marchisio, Pjanic, Pogba and Sami Khedira), I also expect to see the manager try out a 4-4-2 diamond formation with either Marchisio and Khedira alternating as the top and bottom of the diamond, and Pogba and Pjanic as the left and right sides, respectively.
With Simone Padoin gone, that leaves Mario Lemina, Hernanes, Kwadwo Asamoah and Stefano Sturaro for cover, and hopefully none of them have to play regularly. In fact, if Southampton do indeed come calling for Sturaro with €20 million, you've heard the saying, a Saint and his money are soon parted. Alternatively, offer Sturaro to Genoa with a cash sweetener and get Pavoletti.
If Allegri keeps the current 3-5-2 formation, I'd like to see Marchisio go back to his box-to-box role, and Pjanic play the regista/deep-lying playmaker role. With him running the midfield, it'll be like the 2011-2012 version of Andrea Pirlo never left. In that scenario, Khedira would have to go to the bench. However, I think Pjanic's ability to play balls in the final third and rack up assists might be good enough to consider going back to that 4-3-"and then we'll see" Allegri played. That would have Pjanic right behind the strikers in what would basically be a 4-3-1-2 with Marchisio at the base of the midfield, flanked by Khedira and Pogba, and Pjanic up front.
All of this is assuming Pogba stays, we'll have many more problems to worry about he leaves.
This is a tricky question. I believe that Juventus' midfield is still incomplete. Therefore, Pjanic's role depends on the Mercato. Right now, Miralem is the de facto regista until Marchisio is ready to return. In the long term, if Juventus sign someone like André Gomes, Pjanic would be a trequartista in a 4-3-1-2 formation. However, the Bianconeri could decide to bring a playmaker to Vinovo. In that case, Pjanic would be part of a necessary rotation in the middle of the park. Sami and Marchisio can't play all the games, and Asamoah's health is still a concern.