For the first time in almost a decade, a Juventus goalkeeper not named Gianluigi Buffon played almost as many minutes as Buffon himself. This is something that wasn’t always going to be part of the plan even though Wojciech Szczesny signed for a sizable transfer fee last summer. Szczesny’s was more about the seasons after the 2017-18 campaign rather than the one right in front of Juventus.
But, as it turned out, Woj was able to find quite a decent chunk of minutes as well.
In previous years of doing this first leg of the annual season ratings, it was easy because Buffon played about 80 percent of the minutes at the very least and the same could be said for my recap here. However, things were different, and thus the same can be said for this post.
Buffon and Szczesny teamed together to form one heck of a 1-2 combination in goal this season. And unlike previous editions where the defense in front of them was absolutely rock-solid from the start of the season until the final game, things weren’t always as routine at the back. From the middle of August until the start of December, Juve’s defense was a complete mess, with a lot of uneasy times being brought forward whenever other teams were attacking.
And yet, the two goalkeepers who ended up essentially splitting time in Serie A this season, proved to be pretty good in the big-picture aspect of it all.
Buffon appeared in 21 Serie A games this season.
Szczesny appeared in the other 17 Serie A games this season.
Together, the end result was Juventus allowing 24 goals in those 38 Serie A games, which was once again the best mark in Italy’s top flight.
Together, they were a pretty good tandem.
Just think about all those clubs who spent the last 12 months without much of a long-term solution in goal. Then think about Juventus going through a season with Buffon as the starter and one of the best keepers in Serie A the last couple of seasons, Szczesny, backing him up and playing just as well as the G.O.A.T. whenever he got the chance.
We were spoiled.
Gianluigi Buffon — 10
Is there any other rating you’d give this guy in his final seasonal rating as a Juventus player?
OK, that’s pretty much what I figured.
At 40 years old, Buffon was still one of the standard bearers in Serie A. As much as a Buffon stan as many of you know I am, it’s not always easy to see your No. 1 be the dominant force in goal that he has been for so many years in the past. That doesn’t mean Buffon was poor this season by any means. No, he was far from it, actually. But there were certainly times where you could see that being 40 years old meant he couldn’t necessarily do the same things he did when he was 30 or even 35.
With all that being said, there was still this:
- Buffon nearly had as many clean sheets this season (11) as he did last season (12) despite appearing in nine fewer games.
- Buffon averaged just a tick above the amount of saves per game this season (2.06) than he did last season (2.03).
It might not have been vintage Buffon all the time, but it was still vintage Buffon a lot of the time — and that’s still better than a lot of goalkeepers in the world.
No matter if Buffon ends up retiring or joins another team for one last shot at European glory, we will always be thankful for what he’s done during his 17 years in bianconero. It’s impossible not to, dammit.
Wojciech Szczesny — 7.5
At the beginning of the season, I didn’t know how to spell Woj’s last name for the life of me.
This is now the end of the season, and I know how to spell Woj’s last name like it’s no big deal whatsoever.
In part, that’s because muscle memory is a wonderful thing that us writers rely on all the freaking time when writing about this sport. But it’s because there was a good amount of things to write about Szczesny this season — and luckily is was pretty much all good, too.
Without looking at any actual data, this is probably the largest amounts of playing time one of Buffon’s backups have gotten since Marco Storari first arrived on the scene as San Gigi recovered from back surgery in 2010.
(I have since looked at the data and this hunch has been confirmed.)
Szczesny appeared in 17 league games this season. For comparisons sake, Neto appeared in all of 11 league games in his two years backing up Buffon.
This happened for two exact reasons:
- Buffon missed two months in the middle of the season due to injury.
- Buffon is old and Allegri was more than cool with giving him rest whenever the situation called for it. (This was especially true after Juve played midweek and then had a quick turnaround that same weekend.)
If there were any doubts that Szczesny couldn’t be the guy to immediate follow in Buffon’s footsteps, his performances over the course of the 2017-18 season showed that he is more than capable of being Juve’s new full-time starter in goal.
No matter if Mattia Perin is around or not come the start of next season, Woj will be Juve’s new No. 1. (Hopefully not wearing the No. 1, though. That needs to be put on the shelf for at least a couple of years.)
And he did it the way you’re supposed to go about things when being billed as the guy who’s in town to be the guy after the current guy steps aside — playing just as well as Buffon did, if not better.
Carlo Pinsoglio — s/v
This is always the grade you want from your third-choice keeper. Because if your third-choice keeper actually plays meaningful minutes, then there’s probably something that’s gone seriously wrong over the course of your season.
Luckily for us, we didn’t see Pinsoglio until Buffon’s farewell match on the final match day of the 2017-18 season.
I guess you can consider it cruel that Pinsoglio was the one in goal when Hellas Verona scored just after Buffon thanked every human possible on the field before heading to Juve’s bench. For somebody like the 28-year-old Pinsoglio, somebody who was born in Turin and has been on loan spell after loan spell for the better part of the past decade, it obviously wasn’t something you want to see happen on your Juventus debut.
But he was the guy who got to come on and replace Buffon on his final appearance. I’m pretty sure that’s worth it right there.