Come the weekend, Juventus will begin a four-week stretch in which things pick up a couple of levels. It starts with Sassuolo, heads into the Champions League for the group stage opener and sees a three-games-a-week theme return to our lives for the first time during this season.
That means we’re going to have a lot of Juventus-related things to talk about again once this stinkin’ international break is a thing of the past.
The only problem is Juventus plays Saturday. Today isn’t Saturday, it’s Tuesday. That means we’re still scratching off the days before Juve actually play against Sassuolo.
To help us out and deal with our international break blues, I’ve reached out to a friend of the blog, Italian football writer and noted Juventus supporter Luca Cetta. Not only does Luca have a kick-ass beard, but he knows a thing or two about a thing or two. You’ve probably seen his work published all around this here internet, too. Plus, he follows BWRAO on Twitter, so he must be doing something right with his life choices!
Some comments in jest said above aside, Luca was quite cooperative when I asked him if he’d like to collaborate on something. That’s why we’re here, so we thank Luca for that.
And no, Luca is not here to answer questions about Juventus’ last great Australian, Jess Vanstrattan, or talk about all of the kangaroos Max Allegri might have spotted during the preseason tour of his homeland of last month. But what we did ask Mr. Cetta about is a few of the more prominent Juventus-related topics during this time of year. Yes, that involves transfers. Yes, that involves the players Juventus did — or didn’t — sign over the last couple of months.
Without further ado, here is Luca Cetta talking about Juventus. Good times.
BWRAO: Hi, Luca! I could tell some more bad jokes, or I could just come out and start asking questions. I’ll ask this simple question right off the bat: Juventus' transfer campaign, your thoughts?
LC: Juventus had two huge departures to deal with. Alvaro Morata’s second season wasn’t as productive as his first, but his importance to the team was on display in the Champions League. Then there’s Paul Pogba, who was in brilliant form after a slow start.
But consider the players who have come in. Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic, Dani Alves, Medhi Benatia, Marko Pjaca and Juan Cuadrado — all in one transfer window. That’s a fantastic list. So while Juve did lose two key players, the squad as a whole is stronger. The work completed off the field sets Juventus up for a big season on the field.
BWRAO: Do you feel like there's one signing that got away over the last couple of months, or are you totally cool with how Juventus' summer transfer window came together?
LC: You can’t help but feel that Axel Witsel is one signing that got away given he was sitting in a Turin hotel all day on deadline day. So close, yet so far. But when deals are left to the final day, that can happen. Overall, I am happy with the transfer campaign yet feel another midfielder would not have gone astray. It won’t surprise me if Juve revisit the Witsel situation in January.
Javier Mascherano is a name I would not have objected to, but understandably it was a difficult deal to close — if it ever got to a serious negotiation phase. There would also have been issues with transitioning the squad in the medium term, when the new breed are to come through. While I’m confident that progression is something under Juve’s control, you don’t want to run the risk of a Milan circa 2011-2012 situation where so many veterans left in such a short period and it ripped a hole in the squad.
BWRAO: There are a lot of established players on the Juventus squad, obviously. But do you think there's a younger player that takes that next step this season?
LC: Daniele Rugani is the player Juventus fans hope can take over the mantle from the BBC defence both in Turin and with the Azzurri. We saw what he can do at Empoli, while last season was a good introduction to life at the Bianconeri. It is difficult to force your way into a defence like Juve’s which has been so good for so many years. However, Max Allegri did well to ease Rugani in and when called upon he hardly put a foot wrong.
It’s also a big season for Stefano Sturaro. His first six months were promising, although that growth was somewhat stunted during 2015-16. He can still play a part long-term, but getting back to his form of early 2015 will be important.
BWRAO: When it's all said and done, who's the more important signing, Gonzalo Higuain or Miralem Pjanic?
LC: Pjanic adds great quality, but I give the nod to Higuain. Juventus are targeting the Champions League and if you look back at say, the last 10 years in that competition, the majority of winners have a prolific attack and/or somebody to score at crucial times.
Juventus in 2014-15 were exceptional defensively and through midfield as the season went on. Pjanic lining up alongside Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira maintains the high midfield standards of recent seasons. But more than that, Juve had two strikers to take them to the Final. Carlos Tevez scored important goals in the earlier stages and then Morata shone in front of goal. They want Higuain to have a similar impact and that’s why he is that bit more important.
BWRAO: The Million Dollar Question: With the way this squad is constructed, how far do you think Juve can go in the Champions League?
LC: As usual you have Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich starting as favourites. Juventus are on that next tier with Atletico and probably Manchester City, but are well equipped to go far. With a tournament like this it’s always hard to name a finishing position, but there’s no reason why Juve cannot be thinking of at least a Semi-final place. Do that, and who knows from there. Injuries, the draw and fine margins within games play such a big role in the Champions League.