There simply is not much to complain about with Juventus. Like a steamboat engine across still water, they have navigated this budding season with near-unrelenting perfection. Sure, the defense has not recorded as many clean sheets as one would prefer, and Cristiano Ronaldo is not yet halfway to 100 goals (although damn close for the calendar year). But, with that being said, we should all be pleased with what we have seen.
So, now the only question that remains is: How does Juventus go up from here?
The easy answer is to say that Juve doesn’t really have much room for improvement. In addition, an incoming January transfer might disrupt the team chemistry and put the season suddenly on skates. But, that take is just too simple. With proven leaders like Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Ronaldo, there is no need to worry about chemistry. And if there was, Massimiliano Allegri would stomp it out before it was even a fully formed whisper.
It is easy to adopt an ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality, but Juventus have gotten to where they are now by being in a constant state of evaluation. By always looking for ways to improve their organization and further their brand, Juve have created a habit of constantly improving. There is no reason not to explore ways to improve the squad for what is shaping up to be a stretch run that involves title aspirations in all three competitions they are taking part in.
The Big Weakness
Relatively speaking, obviously, there is a glaring weakness in Juventus’ current squad.
Mario Mandzukic, who at this point looks to be more machine than man, isn’t getting any younger. His play is not dwindling, and he is having a great season. But with older players, it is good to be able to rest them from time to time, which Allegri does a good job of. The issue at hand, though, is about when Mandzukic has to sit. In the squad’s current state, when rest for him takes place, the whole formation must change. Why, you ask? Because he is the only true center forward on the team right now. Moise Kean is the future, to be sure, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the present-day solution. Not shoring up the depth with another No. 9 is putting a lot on Mandzukic’s rather sizable shoulders. It is just an unnecessary risk when you consider how fleeting health or form can be.
Any big-money moves for Juventus seem unlikely due to UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations. The purchase Ronaldo over the summer made any sort of big-money buy unlikely because that would also mean a sale would have to take place. And selling a big name is just the sort of roster upheaval Juventus would want to avoid seeing as they have one of the best in Europe already.
A more likely signing to provide some depth to the front line would be a steady veteran that would just solidify the position and eat up some minutes in Serie A for Mandzukic. No matter the solution, if Juventus does decide to invest in their squad come January, center forward is the position that would benefit the most from a depth perspective. The squad itself is devoid of any glaring holes, so perhaps the most important thing is to reinforce areas of importance. The role Mandzukic plays has been integral thus far, so reinforcing him would be a wise move for the club to consider.
No. Probably not. It would be great to see, but this idea is especially unlikely as a mid-season transfer. Rarely are large figures thrown around in the January window, which is what it would take if Juventus wanted to bring Paul Pogba back from Manchester United. Pogba may want to return to Juventus, and Juventus might very well want him back, but getting him back for this season just makes no sense.
For one, the midfield is already a logjam ... when everybody’s healthy. Veterans Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi have had to make way for the emergence of Uruguayan standout and young starlet, Rodrigo Bentancur, as well as Juventus’ latest free transfer coup, Emre Can, a young and talented German International. Adding Pobga to the mix has the potential to stunt the growth of Can and Bentancur. While Juventus’ midfield depth has definitely been tested so far due to a spell of injuries, it does not mean the solution is to chase after Pogba at this moment in time.
If Juventus want Pogba back at any point in his career, they will most likely have to offload Pjanic to do so. They are similar players in that both are best suited with the ball at their foot in the midfield. Playing them together would potentially neutralize some of their best characteristics, and with Allegri always so keen on harmonizing every position on the field, the odds of seeing Pjanic and Pogba together are slim. Additionally, Pjanic would command the largest price tag on the open market should Juventus look to sell a midfielder to fund Pogba’s return.
With Juventus hot on the heels of Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, logic seems to have prevailed. Generally speaking, teams that spend hundreds of millions in January are doing so because they are in crisis mode. Juventus, on the other hand, are moving along elegantly. Ramsey, should Arsenal choose to let him go in January instead of waiting till his contract runs up this summer, presents a move for Juventus that does not upset the apple cart. It would add another body to Allegri’s disposal should the injuries in the midfield continue to pile up, and would not disrupt the chemistry of the team in any way. This seems like the type of move the club would execute this month, not an earth-shattering move for Paul Pogba.
After selling Mattia Caldara to AC Milan as part of the Bonucci deal this past summer, Juventus still have only one half of the equation for the future of their defense, by the name of Daniele Rugani. Bonucci and Chiellini are not getting any younger. Bonucci has continued to switch off and on defensively every so often, causing some games being much closer than they should be. The Bianconeri defense is fine for this year, but looking ahead it is evident that there is no position more important for the club to address than the heart of their defense. Mehdi Benatia is still on the team, but has received virtually no playing time and is also north of 30 years old. Benatia could be on the move, which would free up a center back spot on the roster. If there is a big move to be made, it would most likely happen if the club decide to move on from a disgruntled Benatia.
The two most obvious positions of need are center forward and left back, but through these seven glorious seasons I have come to trust the Bianconeri brass more than even my own brain when it comes to the execution of transfer windows. What Juventus decides to do in January is a relative mystery to us all, so let’s just hope that any acquisitions we do make are not out of necessity, but instead to shore up depth and prepare for the final leg of yet another memorable season.