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BWRAO Mailbag, Vol. 4 : Talking fullbacks, depth and the World Cup

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A few injuries here and there and the situation might be more dire than you think.

Sweden v Italy - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The World Cup is here! The Olympics are fun, the Euros are always interesting, and the Copa America is usually entertaining. But there is nothing quite like the World Cup, it only happens every four years and with only three games to play in the group stage the importance of every shot, pass and goal increases by a factor of a million.

But before getting into what has been an eventful World Cup, let’s talk Juventus.

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.

What do you think is the most important area we need to improve in? And which realistic players (cost effective) would you like Juve to add to the roster? – Nael

Manu C: The easy answer here is the midfield, obviously. And all the transfer rumors seem to confirm that, with Aleksandr Golovin, Mousa Dembele, Mateo Kovacic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic all being rumored as potential Juventus transfers. As well as the seemingly unending 10-day period in which it is “imminent” that Emre Can formalizes his free transfer to Turin.

The thing all of those guys have in common? They are all midfield players.

As far as being realistic with costs, that gets a bit trickier.

Realistically and considering the current depth of the squad and assuming no major sales are in order, you are probably looking at Can on a free, and one of either Dembele or Golovin. Real Madrid isn’t letting Kovacic go and SMS is a €100 million player at the very least, regardless of whatever his dad might think.

My money is on Golovin — he’s affordable, keen on the move and, according to reports in Italy, has already agreed to personal terms with Juventus.

Are Can and Golovin enough to bolster the midfield for Juventus? If you add the potential development for Rodrigo Bentancur and more depth to give Miralem Pjanic more rest, I think it will help quite a lot.

While the midfield is the most pressing area of need, don’t sleep on the defense, especially the center backs. Mattia Caldara will be returning to Juventus after a solid season with Atalanta, but if Medhi Benatia is sold, the youngster might find himself getting thrown right into the fire. With an aging duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, this will have to be the season for youngster Daniele Rugani to prove he belongs. If the youngsters don’t pan out though? The defense will look ugly and in a hurry.

With both Asamoah and Lichsteiner leaving, we have lost very valuable depth & experience in those areas. While Darmian will be a good addition, don’t you think juve need to get at least one more player in that position. As Howedes will most likely leave, Spinnazola out injured, Sandro inconsistent and De Sciglio prone to injuries, which player should Juve be looking at? Or can they even switch to a 3-man defense at times, maybe one with Chiellini, Rugani & Caldara – Aditya Anand

MC: Speaking of the defense!

While the Matteo Darmian rumors have cooled off lately, the question of fullback depth is still an important one. As of this moment there are only two (!!) natural fullbacks on the roster, three or four if you decide to count Juan Cuadrado or Andrea Barzagli in there as well. And listen, I love Barzagli as much as the next guy, but if he’s playing at right back in any meaningful competition next season, that means something went horribly wrong for Juventus. Cuadrado is OK for a substitute and a more offensive option than De Sciglio, but it still leaves me a bit worried as far as depth goes.

The negotiations with Joao Cancelo are still ongoing, and if they were to go through a duo of Alex Sandro and Cancelo on the right is pretty good, with the caveat of Spinnazola coming in the second half of the season after an ACL tear. I still expect Juventus to pursue more depth on the wings, who that might be, though? That’s unclear, we will have to wait to find out.

Parting shot of the week.

A few thoughts, Juve related and otherwise, in what has been an eventful first four days of the World Cup in Russia.

  • Golovin looked incredible against Saudi Arabia in the opening match. He was head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch and finished with two assists and a pearl of a free kick for Russia’s fifth goal. That being said, Saudi Arabia might be one of the worst national teams these two eyes have ever seen at the World Cup, I honestly, earnestly believe I could have played a couple minutes for Saudi Arabia and I’m a notoriously terrible football player. So, let’s temper the Golovin hype just a tad. If he does the same against Uruguay, though, then all bets are off.
  • Speaking of Uruguay, have yourself a game, Rodrigo Bentancur! The kid was very impressive in his World Cup debut and didn’t look out of place in a squad filled with established veterans in good European clubs. If Bentancur takes the next step in his development, then it could be a huge addition to the Juventus midfield.
  • There’s no bigger hater of Cristiano Ronaldo than myself, but goddamn is that dude incredible. Portugal had no business even being in the game against a much more talented Spain squad, but Ronaldo — with an assist by David De Gea — singlehandedly got Portugal a draw with a hat trick. If Portugal has any shot at making some noise in the tournament they are going to need Ronaldo to keep taking over games, and by God he might do it.
  • Another reason he might do it? The pre-tournament favorites look quite vulnerable so far. Argentina tied Iceland, France barely squeaked by Australia, Brazil drew with Switzerland and we’ve already talked about Spain. Those are pretty much all the odds-on favorites tallying all of one victory and three ties, and not against any powerhouses either. Iceland is a good story and Switzerland is always solid, but they are not anywhere near in the same conversation as Argentina and Brazil regarding pure talent. However, the biggest upset so far was…
  • MEXICO! Listen, this whole thing was just a very thinly veiled excuse to talk about Mexico upsetting Germany 1-0. I was skeptical of Mexico throughout this whole qualifying process and the drubbing against a Germany B side in the Confederations Cup in 2017 didn’t help matters.

This Mexico squad was questioned by everyone in media and fans, fan polling showed that most people thought that Mexico would struggle to get out of the group, let alone make any noise. Add to that a bunch of tepid performances in the preparation friendlies and an off-the-field scandal that involved a party that might or might not have been attended by over 30 sex workers. Fair to say that expectations were low.

So, to see Mexico not only beat Germany, but at times outright dominate the current world champions was one of the most unexpected things in this World Cup. It’s a long competition and there is still a long way to go, but with this performance Mexico signaled that they might be one of the dark horse candidates in Russia.

That’s it for the mailbag this week, keep the mail coming and keep enjoying the World Cup!