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January’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Steady Progress

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Juventus has started 2018 in beautifully stable fashion — no goals conceded and an impeccable 100 percent record in all games. Not a bad way to ring in the new year, don’t you think?

Atalanta BC v Juventus - TIM Cup Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

It was a stop-start month of January due to the later-than-usual winter break, but that didn’t stop Juventus from maintaining the momentum on the pitch. Five games played, seven goals scored, and none conceded as the battle for the Scudetto remains on a knife’s edge. A solitary man point separates the Bianconeri from league leaders Napoli, such that at least one league in Europe still has a somewhat interesting title race.

In fairness, except for the nail-biting, Gigi Buffon-inspired 1-0 victory against Atalanta, there was little from this month that really stood out to me. The games were gritty, tough, and rarely pretty, but in typical Juventus fashion we got the job done. The season is not going to get much easier as we enter the final 3 months, so let’s keep this steady progress going!

Atalanta BC v Juventus - TIM Cup
Love is in the air.
Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Keep those sheets clean!

I was in high praise of the team’s defensive solidity last month, and that praise continued in full force into the month of January. While the opposition was admittedly not of the highest caliber — the likes of Genoa, Cagliari, and Chievo don’t exactly instill fear into Juventini — the sheer consistency of this Juventus defense and team is a joy to behold.

As we slowly enter the most crucial and challenging part of the season, this consistency is absolutely fundamental to making-or-breaking our success. That said, the depth of our squad and the current consistency on the pitch makes me very optimistic regarding the challenges that lie ahead for us. It’s not going to be easy — it never is — but at least we can rely on the strength and form of our competitive advantage: our defense.

Houdini Rugini Rugani

Once upon a time, there was a young handsome magician by the name of Daniele Houdini Rugani. He dazzled the crowds with his surreal composure in every situation, even in the face of the most dangerous of (offensive) threats. But when the world needed him the most, he disappeared, much like the Avatar once did.

Juventus v Torino FC - TIM Cup Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Alright, that was mildly exaggerated for dramatic purposes.

Exaggeration or not though, it’s clear that our young defensive star Daniele Rugani has gone missing for Juventus. Besides his 90-minute runout against Torino in the Coppa Italia on Jan. 3, the Italian youngster hasn’t seen the green of the pitch ever since. We all know that the discussion regarding Rugani’s playing time is as old as the Old Lady itself and seems to never leave the comments section alone.

Some are worried that the situation is going to be yet another case study confirming that Juventus is incapable of grooming Italian youth and giving them a chance.

Others are similarly worried that if Rugani’s current demise continues he will a) leave the club and b) end up being brilliant at that next club.

Then you have people like me who have the luxury of not needing to have an opinion because I just write about what other people’s opinions are.

If you leave me now, you’ll take away the biggest part of me.

No baby please don’t go.

— “If you leave me now”; Chicago

Alright fine, I’ll give my two shekels cents on the matter.

Given Medhi Benatia’s very surprising uptick in form and consistently good performances, plus the stellar season that Giorgio Chiellini is having, there just isn’t any space in defense for Rugani (unless he miraculously turns into an amazing fullback). Quite frankly, if other players are in better form it is only right that Allegri puts them in the starting XI.

I do, however, have an issue with Andrea Barzagli coming on as a substitute for the starting center backs instead of Rugani. Despite the latter’s form (or lack thereof), I find it odd that a 36-year-old center back that is clearly not developing (but does, however, seem to be extending his contract) should be higher in the pecking order than a 23-year-old. This honestly tells me that there has to be something happening on the training ground that we’re not aware of that is negatively impacting the coach’s confidence in Rugani’s capabilities on the pitch.

Tell us, young Mr. Houdini. What dark side of you are we not seeing? When will the magic act come to an end? When will The Prestige finally happen?

“The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret... but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.

That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part.

The part we call The Prestige”.

CUTTER; “THE PRESTIGE”

Costa continues to make it hot

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A
This is seriously one of the weirdest pictures I’ve seen in a long time.
Photo by Valerio Pennicino - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Besides how surprisingly picturesque he is, Douglas Costa continues to seduce Juventini and strike fear in opposition defenders. It’s no wonder that Federico Bernardeschi is finding it so difficult to break into the starting lineup as he is up against Max Allegri’s well-known love of Mario Mandzukic and Costa’s continually impressive performances on the right wing. As both Hunter and Danny mentioned in their match recaps/analyses, Costa possesses a remarkable combination of speed, skill, and the ability to change direction at the drop of a dime.

Not only that, but it seems like the Brazilian livewire has also adapted to Allegri’s notoriously rigorous defensive demands that he requires of his wingers/attackers (and entire team, really). As many of you have already discussed in the comments section, one of the greatest challenges that new attacking players experience when joining Juve is acclimatizing to Allegri’s extremely taxing — but highly necessary — defensive (tactical) responsibilities. Costa seems to have passed that test and earned Mad Max’s trust, though it remains to be seen if he trusts him more than the currently-injured Juan Cuadrado.

Whatever the case, Douglas Costa is doing a great job in earning the praise, approval, and love of all Juventini. Long live Douglas!

Transfers

I made a joke with a buddy of mine the other day that goes as follows: You really know that you’re a Juventus fan if you forget about the existence of the winter transfer window. This window is so notoriously uneventful for Juventus — and Italy as a whole, apparently, as a measly €65 million worth of transfers were completed by Serie A clubs) — that it honestly completely slipped my mind.

The three most noteworthy events were the Emre Can ‘will-he-won’t-he-it-seems-like-he-probably-will’ transfer saga, Marko Pjaca’s loan move to Schalke 04, and the eye-catching transfer of one of Italy’s most highly-rated youngsters — and Juventus transfer target — Pietro Pellegri to Monaco for €25 million. The Can saga earned the greatest amount of discussion and attention as it continues to divide Juventini, probably because his rumored salary of around €5 million per year makes the most of us (especially Fefu) squirm in discomfort.

I suppose I could just walk away.

Will I disappoint my future if I stay?

— “King of Sorrow”; Sade

Other than that though, Juventini just moved on with their lives as usual, focused on the football, and let the English and the Spanish do all the ludicrous, absurd transfer spending in January.

Juventus Training Session
I’ll be back ragazzi, don’t worry!
Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

As a closing note, please make sure to read CH Ho’s typically wonderful tactical analysis of Mad Max’s “new” tactical configuration for Juventus!

Forza Juve!