Juventus were off to a great start in 2019, getting three wins in three competitions (Coppa Italia, Italian Super Cup and Serie A) and with a different starting XI each time. Much has changed since then. After narrowly escaping Rome with three points, Juve went on to concede six goals in two games against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia and at home against Parma in Serie A, then the 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.
This is a problem. There aren’t many positives to have come out of the last few fixtures, either. And unlike earlier in the calendar year when Juventus’ younger players were finally getting a chance to play, that’s not so much the case now.
Well, kind of.
Max Allegri had Juve looking strong and comfortable after a few nice wins, until mid-January came around and it was time for a somewhat-concerning collapse, which seems like it is becoming an annual occurrence. But, there’s light at the end of tunnel, and the only way Juve will see this light is through their youth.
Even though both players are back now, losing Leonardo Bonucci and then Giorgio Chiellini in the span of a few days was close to tragic, but, for a few weeks, it opened up a huge opportunity for Daniele Rugani, and it’s been up to the 24-year-old to seize it. Sure, there have been a few bumps in the road, but that’s expected after such a sudden return to consistent action after rarely appearing in games during the first half of the season. Rugani, however, is still the same, patient and collected defender with a touch of finesse. If he can put in another strong performance or two before our big guns return I would love to see him get some time with them in a back three (if Allegri decides to go that route).
In the last month or so we’ve seen some of Juve’s other young players get valuable minutes, and for the most part they were productive. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being very proud to see the son of many Juventini, Moise Kean, finally get his first start and second senior goal against Bologna in the Coppa Italia last month. I couldn’t help but smile as our son — who’s nearly a full year younger than myself, so yes, I can call him son — did his thing by the corner flag in front of the traveling collection of Juventini.
What I wasn’t proud to see was Allegri subbing him off in the 62nd minute in the Coppa Italia tie against Bologna. Yes, he had already gotten his goal, but why not let him go for another? Allegri surely couldn’t have thought Cristiano Ronaldo was needed in that game, right? Nevertheless, was refreshing to see Max utilizing his youth products last month, something that’s been missed over the last few seasons. Unfortunately for Kean, that game in early January was the last time he’s been on the pitch, excluding a brief, brief cameo against Chievo on Jan. 21.
If Juventus want to develop him the way other Italian giants are developing their youth, Kean is going to have to play more than once or twice a month.
Leonardo Spinazzola, another young player that Juve has finally given an actual run out with the team rather than another season on loan. Has thankfully been given slightly more opportunities since making his starting debut in the same match that Kean did. Spinazzola has played in a few games in 2019, and he’s now healthy and more than capable to contribute to the team. He’s made two starts, but only playing a full 90 minutes once. He’s a good blend of attacking and defensive ability with a bit of skill on the ball. I can’t say he should be starting over the other Juve fullbacks, but he should be utilized more than he’s been so far.
It’s comforting knowing the depth of Juventus is very strong, possibly the strongest the team’s been in years. But what’s the point if the rotation players aren’t rotating? What’s the point of having such depth if the entire team isn’t being utilized?
Although it’s been limited, the playing time these young players have been given, proves that they can be productive and help the team achieve positive results. If I was to ask Allegri anything it would be this: Why can’t Kean stretch his legs for the last quarter of a comfortable game and maybe get to dance a little? Why not experiment and see what the young guns can do? And a big one that I think anyone would ask is why Sami Khedira was starting so many games before his current injury situation?
Same applies to somebody like Rodrigo Bentancur, who I genuinely believe is the future of Juve’s midfield. Yes, the young Uruguayan has played significantly more than Kean, but he’s a few years older and he doesn’t have players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic ahead of him as Kean does. The Juventus midfield has been much less crowded than the attack because of injuries, yet Bentancur isn’t rotated nearly enough, especially now given that the busiest and most important part of the season is underway. Nothing from Rodrigo’s recent performances should give Allegri a good reason not to start him more often than he has in the last six weeks. Khedira isn’t getting any younger, but there’s plenty of young guys about to enter their prime.
If Allegri had rotated the team more in the first half of the season or even in the past month or two, then they might not be dealing with as many injuries or suspensions as they are now. And who knows, if Kean had been given more time over the last several months, he could be getting the same hype as Nicolo Zaniolo is. So please, Max, let’s look to the future of Juventus before there’s more injuries or lost talent.