An enthralling season has come to an end and Juventini all over the world can finally breathe again. The team was pushed to its absolute limit domestically, so now is the time to look back to rate and discuss the players’ performances in the 2017-2018 season.
Today, we place the spotlight on the fullbacks, so let’s get started!
Stephan Lichtsteiner — 6.5
As much as we love and appreciate our trusty Swiss Express, he experienced a notable decline in form in what turned out to be his last ever season in a Juventus jersey.
He was never particularly disastrous — he’s too much of a hard worker to ever allow that to happen — but as the season progressed, his defensive lapses became more frequent and more problematic to handle. He always remained solid enough to rely on for matches against relatively “minor” opponents, but it was no surprise to see him slowly become displaced by new signing Mattia De Sciglio, to the point where most Juventini probably preferred to see the Italian in the starting lineup.
Of course, the standout moment of the season for Lichtsteiner was his game-saving substitute appearance during that dramatic night at Wembley, with his impressive performance and assist against Real Madrid at the Bernabeú a close second.
I’m honestly happy that Lichtsteiner was able to conclude his extraordinary, stellar Juventus career with honor and on a relatively high note. He didn’t have a disastrous season, but he probably rightly realized that he risked ending his marvelous seven years with the Bianconeri on an ugly note if he continued for another season.
Grazie Stephan. And remember to smile once in a while.
Mattia De Sciglio — 7
I’ll be honest, I had exactly zero positive expectations for De Sciglio when he signed for Juventus. This feeling of doom-and-gloom was probably exacerbated by the fact that his signing felt like it was bundled together with the shock departure of Leonardo Bonucci to De Sciglio’s former employers.
Thankfully, my negativity was proven to be completely off the mark.
As I wrote about in December, De Sciglio was a force of stability and tranquility in defense. He was never a marauding fullback ala Jordi Alba, but he would always fulfill his defensive duties with little fuss or unnecessary glamour. In this day and age where the average football fan seems to be obsessed with sexy, attacking football and, thus, hyper-offensive fullbacks, watching De Sciglio play for Juventus almost felt like a return to the days of old where fullbacks/defenders did the one thing they were paid to do: defend (and once in a while contribute in attack).
Had he not been plagued by niggly injuries all season, I would/could have given him a 7.5 rating. But because he had such an interrupted season of football and, thus, a smaller sample size of performances, I’m wasn’t entirely comfortable giving him a higher rating. Nevertheless, I was extremely pleased with what I saw from the (relatively) young Italian fullback and can’t wait to see him nail down the right back spot now that Lichtsteiner has ended his stay at Juventus.
Keep it up, Mattia, because if you keep putting out these kinds of performances, you’ll easily get a higher rating next season.
Alex Sandro — 6.5
Oh man, talk about a fall from grace.
The first few months of football were absolutely shocking from the Brazilian. He was still reasonable offensively, but defensively he was absolute shambles. He timed his tackles poorly, struggled to keep tabs on the wingers he was supposed to mark, and generally just seemed to be a yard behind the pace of the games he was in. Thankfully, he improved his performances well enough to ease our most pertinent concerns but this improvement was clearly nowhere near sufficient to warrant a place in the Brazil World Cup squad for Russia ahead of Filipe Luis.
Sharp criticism aside, Sandro did display very commendable performances as a left winger when the team was struggling with injuries, which allowed for some useful tactical tinkering by Max Allegri. He further displayed his versatility by occasionally deputizing in central midfield in the closing stages of a few games.
All in all, it was a zig-zag season for Sandro where we’re left with more questions than answers, the most important of which being: given the much-discussed financial issues for Juventus, should the Brazilian stay or should he go?
Kwadwo Asamoah — 7.5
It might be controversial to say this, but I think Kwadwo
#BecauseOfHim Asamoah was, very surprisingly, the best fullback for Juventus in the 2017-2018 season. The Ghanaian, who felt like a bit of an afterthought at the beginning of the season in light of his near-departure to Galatasaray, surprised all of us with his energetic defending and incisive attacking runs. He was also the other half of the saving grace that turned that incredible second-leg game against Tottenham completely on its head.
It was probably a happy coincidence for him that his upswing in form coincided with an alarming downturn in Alex Sandro’s form, thus making his inclusion in the starting lineup over the Brazilian increasingly justified (although the two alternated starting spots roughly every other game). Once injuries for the team increased, him and Sandro actually operated as a pretty good double left-back pivot on the left side of the pitch.
Even though he is rumored to be joining the worst team on the planet this summer, I am extremely grateful to and happy for him for ending his Juventus career on such a high note, one that certainly was befitting of the wonderful guy that he is.
In bocca al lupo, Kwadwo!
I wanted to include a rating for Stefano Sturaro as a fullback as a joke, but I think we’ve all had enough of the Sturaro-jokes for the rest of our lives, right, Hunter? Also, Juan Cuadrado is not included as a fullback in the ratings because the sample size of games that he played in that position was too small to warrant a rating. Nevertheless, I’m curious to see if Johnny Square at right back is truly going to become a “thing” next season or not. Food for thought.