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BWRAO Mailbag, Vol. 2 : Talking youngsters, Champions League and domestic doubles

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The season might be over, but the mailbag keeps on, keeping on.

Juventus v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

We’re back! As always thank you to everyone who sent questions and has given feedback on the mailbag.

As previously mentioned, if you want to get your questions in the mailbag send an email to BWRAOmailbag@gmail.com with your question and name, or if you’d like to keep it anonymous, that plays as well. Another way to get your question to us is via Twitter. @JuventusNation is our handle and do something other than argue with Danny. Write the question and use the hashtag #BWRAOMailbag.

On to your questions.

Q: Do you think Juventus should use their younger players next season (Rodrigo Bentancur, Federico Bernardeschi and others) to gain more experience and also to see what can they bring to the table? I think it’s important to give the veterans rest in order to go after every available trophy. What you think?? Nael, Florida

Manu C: Nael, buddy, I could not agree with you more. For as much as I like Max Allegri and all the work he has done as Juventus manager, I’m consistently baffled at his decision making when it comes to lineup rotation.

To be fair to Allegri, the development of Bernardeschi wasn’t so much on him as much as it was on poor timing with injuries. While he didn’t get all that much playing time at the beginning of the season, he seemed to be getting more and more run when the calendar turned to 2018. Matchday 22-25 saw Bernardeschi make four straight appearances in Serie A — three as a starter, where he tallied four assists and one goal. He also featured the full 90 minutes in the first leg match against Tottenham where he had another assist.

Unfortunately for him, that’s when he injured his knee, forcing him out of the rest of Juve’s Champions League run and most of the remainder of the Serie A season. I think he was starting to gain the confidence of Allegri when the injury happened, and when he came back, there were just not enough games left to give everyone playing time and probably didn’t want to risk having him re-aggravate his injury. I’m sure he will be a big part of the team in the next season.

Bentancur had 26 total appearances and, if we’re being honest, it’s probably one of the players whose use I least understood from Allegri. He went from starting Juventus’s two first Champions League matches against Barcelona and Olympiacos to featuring only 48 minutes in the remaining European games. And yet, due to Miralem Pjanic’s suspension, he went to start and play the whole 90 minutes against Real Madrid in the first leg!

You can see an equally weird pattern in Serie A, where he played in 10 games, starting four of them at the beginning of the season, and then as soon as the calendar turned to 2018 was relegated to the bench, appearing in eight games and only playing more than 25 minutes twice. I think Bentancur had a good season, and for what it’s worth he played really well when thrown to the proverbial wolves against Real Madrid. But how are you going to put the youngster in that incredibly pressure filled situation, in arguably the biggest game of the season and yet give him so few minutes in Serie A? Against much more manageable opponents no less?

(The kid played three minutes total against Benevento! Why not give him starts there?)

I hope Bentancur will play a bigger role next season, because as you mention, if Juventus plans to keep competing in all fronts deep into April and May, a rested squad is going to be vital. You could see Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain were absolutely gassed by the end of the year. Both Bentancur and Bernardeschi should play big parts in Juventus next season — and I think they will.

It’s also worth mentioning that Marko Pjaca will probably be back from his six-month loan spell at Schalke, where he scored twice in nine appearances. Hopefully, he will provide depth at the position and compete for playing time.

When are we going to win the Champions League? Secondly, when are we going to have a genius midfielder that can drag ball out from difficult areas and run 30 meter in the other direction to change the tempo of game (I.e Modric,Isco,Iniesta) and style of movement? Apata Mohammed

MC: My dude, if I knew when we are going to win the Champions League I would have placed a large bet on that result already. But, hey, next year? Let’s say next year, why not. I mean Real Madrid can’t keep winning forever, right?

Truth is, that unlike winning a league competition, a knockout style competition like the Champions League is so hard to predict because so many outside factors go into determining the winner. To win a league, like say Serie A, you have to play 38 matches, which allows for a much more predictable winner. Thirty-eight matches allow for talent to determine most of the results, sure Juventus can lose a game here and there, but in 38 games most of the time everything regresses to the mean.

(Not always of course, LEICESTER CITY FOREVER.)

But in the Champions League? Counting the group stage, you only have to play 13 games to be the champion and only seven in the knockout rounds!

So much has to go your way to have a deep tournament run, not only do you have to have talent and play good football, but which team you draw makes a big difference, injuries or suspensions in key matches, getting hot at the right time as a player or a squad and, hell, even just getting lucky at the right time.

In Real Madrid’s second leg match against Bayern Munich, they benefitted from a very clear handball by Marcelo that was not called and the biggest blunder I have ever seen from a goalkeeper at the highest-level stages of football. You must give them credit for putting themselves in that position, but there is no denying that they have gotten some lucky breaks along the way.

And to answer your second question, to paraphrase Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball: “Are there really any other players like Modric or Iniesta? And if there was, could we afford him?”

Absolutely best-case scenario? Buy a guy like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Lazio or somehow trick Manchester United into selling Paul Pogba back to us for anything less than an arm and a leg.

Most likely scenario? Emre Can on a free and a cost-conscious middle of the road purchase, similar to Blaise Matuidi last year.

Juventus will probably improve the midfield depth in general, but I doubt there is an elite midfielder like the one you mention out there.

Perhaps, for the next edition, the same question on best XI from the past 7 years but you get to pick based on the players’ prime (i.e., even if their prime occurred at a non-Juve club)? Juve 96

MC: I generally don’t take questions from the comment section (Email or Twitter, guys!) but this one was too interesting to let go.

To play a best XI out of ALL the players that have worn the Bianconeri jersey in this 7-year-run? That would be a fantastic squad, no doubt.

So, here it is, we play the 4-3-1-2, because it’s the only way I can fit everyone I want to play. Players who had their best season in other clubs are specified:

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (2015-2016 season, 44 games all competitions, 25 clean sheets, all-time Serie A record for minutes without conceding a goal)

Right Back: Dani Alves (2011-2012 season with Barcelona, 3 goals and 18 assists in all competitions)

Center Back: Giorgio Chiellini (2014-2015 season, 45 appearances in all competitions)

Center Back: Leonardo Bonucci (2014-2015 season, 52 (!!) appearances in all competitions)

Left back: Alex Sandro (2016-2017 season, 43 appearances, 3 goals and 7 assists in all competitions)

Regista: Andrea Pirlo (2012-2013 season, 45 appearances, 5 goals and 11 assists in all competitions)

Midfielder: Paul Pogba (2014-2015 season, 41 appearances, 10 goals and 11 assists in all competitions)

Midfielder: Arturo Vidal (2013-2014 season, 46 appearances, 18 goals (!!) and 5 assists in all competitions)

Trequartista: Paulo Dybala (2015-2016 season, 45 appearances, 23 goals and 9 assists in all competitions)

Striker: Gonzalo Higuaín (2015-2016 season with Napoli, 42 appearances, 38 goals and 3 assists in all competitions)

Striker: Carlos Tevez (2014-2015 season, 48 appearances, 29 goals and 9 assists in all competitions)

We have an Argentinian trident in attack, Italian vertebrae and Brazilian fullbacks in one of the most attacking squads ever built. 129 goals and 73 assists total.

Toughest omissions were: Douglas Costa (2017-2018 season, 46 appearances, 6 goals and 13 assists in all competitions), Claudio Marchisio (2012-2013 season, 43 appearances, 8 goals and 8 assists in all competitions) and Miralem Pjanic (2016-2017 season, 47 appearances, 8 goals and 14 assists in all competitions).

This is a definitive ranking and no other options, alternatives or opinions are allowed. I’m sure there will be no discussion at all in the comments and we will all accept this is as 100% the correct answer, thank you very much.

Parting shot of the week.

As this mailbag is posted Juventus has now, officially, won their seventh straight Scudetto and fourth straight Coppa Italia. Completing a domestic double for the fourth straight year.

Let me save you the Googling and just confirm what you probably already knew. This has never happened in the history of Italian football. Not only Italian football though, but of all the so called “Top 5” leagues in Europe including leagues from Germany, Spain, France, England and the Italian league.

THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.

Let’s take it even further, counting ALL European leagues there are only two other teams who have accomplished this continued domestic dominance. Dinamo Tirana won four straight doubles from 1950 to 1953 in the Albanian League and more recently, in the Austrian Bundesliga, where Red Bull Salzburg did the same thing starting in the 2013-2014 season and ending in the 2016-2017 season.

No Bayern Munich, no Real Madrid, no Barcelona, no PSG, no Manchester United.

There is no denying it, what we are now witnessing is the greatest run of sustained domestic success that Italy has ever seen. It might be the greatest run of domestic success in the history of European football.

(However, it is worth giving a massive shout-out to the Lincoln Red Imps, who won the domestic double in the Gibraltar Football League eight years in a row from 2003 to 2011)

By the numbers, it is undeniable that there has never been a better time to be a Juve fan. That European championship continues to elude the team; however, we would be wrong to let that failure in the European stage stop us from recognizing that we are witnessing one of the greatest runs any European club has had in the history of organized football.

Buffon is retiring, Lichsteiner is leaving, and Marchisio might be on the outs also. There’s a possibility that only Chiellini and Barzagli will remain from the team that started this run and they are no spring chickens either.

It might be next year, or the year after that, who knows? But at some point, Juventus will lose a domestic competition, that’s how sports work, no one is unbeatable forever.

So, let’s enjoy this run while we can, because odds are, we might not see something like this again in our lifetime.

Keep the mail coming and we will see each other next week!