Hopes are high going into the season just a few days from now — and rightly so.
This summer has seen a bit of everything from Juventus during the mercato. From the unexpected (Cristiano Ronaldo), the REALLY unexpected (Leonardo Bonucci), the foregone conclusion that always seemed anything but (Emre Can), and everything in between, the bianconeri have been transformed. This new-look squad has the main ambition and goal of finally winning the Champions League. Just ask Andrea Agnelli during his pre-match talk with the players at Villar Perosa over the weekend.
With that being said, there are a number of players, both new and old, who need to prove themselves a little more this season, whether to manager Max Allegri or the fans. I now present the players who in my mind have the most to prove this 2018-19 season.
Without question, Bonucci has the most to prove — not just with his performances on the pitch, but to the fans as well. We as fans loved Bonucci, and that love was reciprocated his first time around in bianconero. Leo could sometimes be found in the curva when suspended, and was always seen as a prime candidate for future captain after Gianluigi Buffon.
But then, as we all know, things took a turn. Bonucci split to Milan and their new project after seemingly falling out of favor with Allegri to the point of no return. He was named Milan’s captain, and celebrated quite enthusiastically for a man who claimed to have loved Juventus for his entire life after scoring a goal in his first game back at Allianz Stadium in March.
Bonucci’s first and only season in Milan wasn’t anything to write home about. His performances started to decline almost immediately, most likely the by-product of not being flanked by Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. When the BBC is whole, Bonucci is able to have the freedom to be a playmaker from deep, and this was something he could not enjoy to the same extent in Milan. Bonucci and Milan stumbled to sixth in the Serie A table after sky-high expectations going into the new season.
Wanting to come back to Juventus, and claiming to have repaired his relationship with Allegri, Bonucci asked out of Milan. To the dismay of many Juventus fans, Mattia Caldara was included in the swap deal, along with Gonzalo Higuain. Bonucci now has to not only repair his image with the fans, he needs to get back to where he was as a defender before joining Milan to justify giving up the bright future of Caldara, and even then it may not be enough. He needs to respect the club and Allegri to the utmost extent, as his previous actions are still not forgiven by many.
Bonucci has much to prove this year, and if he doesn’t, the fans will only like this move less.
Our Brazilian fullback has been somewhat of an enigma recently. After proving to be one of the very best left backs in the world during the 2016-17 season, Alex Sandro’s form dipped massively last year, to the point that there were many times Kwadwo Asamoah was chosen for his reliability.
Compared to his previous seasons’ work, Sandro’s 2017-18 campaign wasn’t very good. His offensive prowess was noticeably less effective, but more concerning was his defensive awareness and performances. After being a lock-down guy for almost all of 2016-17, including keeping Lionel Messi in his pocket, Sandro struggled to keep some of the most modest of wingers at bay on the wing. He was nowhere near as strong at the back, and that is something Juventus must hope he can correct quickly.
Sandro needs to get back to what he is capable of doing and should use missing out on the World Cup as extra motivation to prove himself to the world once again. We all know what kind of displays he can turn in on a match-by-match basis when he’s in-form, and want to see it consistently again. In a position that is becoming more dynamic each year, Sandro has the talent to be one of its shining proponents.
Let me start by saying that Il Principino has nothing to prove to us fans. Claudio is adored by all Juventini, and rightly so. He is a rare breed of player that has spent his entire career with the club, and has been in the system since his youth. No man on the roster is more bianconero than Marchisio, the local boy whose loyalty continues to shine through to the supporters.
What Marchisio does need to rekindle, however, is his status in the eyes of Max Allegri. Coming back from an ACL tear a couple of years ago, Marchisio’s fitness seemed to be coming back last season, yet he had the lowest total of appearances in his career to date. Marchisio needs to prove that he can still contribute after his major injury. If he is able to do so on a regular basis, the midfield gets a massive boost in depth and quality, as his experience and level of play can still be top-notch. He needs to show Allegri that he is worth being selected or substituted more often, as the recently-departed Stefano Sturaro was the only midfielder to have less appearances, by only one (Marchisio’s 20 to Sturaro’s 19). Marchisio was firmly entrenched as an afterthought of an option by Allegri last season, and needs to prove to the mister that he is capable of providing for his club more regularly.
The midfield was the weakest component of the squad last season, and a fully fit Marchisio goes a long way in helping remedy the problem. As the season goes into the late winter and spring, rotation is needed to give breaks to others and to keep everyone fresh in all competitions. Who better than Claudio to come in and restore himself to former glory?