With the preseason over and Serie A just a few days away, it’s time to go into full season preview mode here at your friendly neighborhood blog, BWRAO.
There’s an old saying that goes “There’s no I, in team,” which is grammatically obvious, sure, but metaphorically true. Nobody likes selfish, self-centered players. However, it is also undeniable that there are individual players that are just straight up more important to a team’s success than others.
In a successful team, sports or otherwise, everyone adds something. But, let’s just say some people add more than others. So that’s what this exercise is all about, we are going to rank the Juventus squad into tiers, from least to most critical to the success of the season.
We are only taking into account the active senior squad as of August 15th, so if there’s a transfer from out of nowhere, well, this thing is going to be dated real quick.
Also worth pointing out, this is not who I think is the best player in the squad. For example, Rodrigo Bentancur is a tier ahead of Miralem Pjanic, but that does not mean I think Bentancur is more talented than Pjanic; it only means that his potential play this upcoming season is more critical to the team than Pjanic’s. Mostly due to the uncertainty in the position for the club.
As always these are just opinions and everyone is entitled to agree or disagree with the picks I make, productive discussion is important! Though it’s equally important to remember, this is my article and I’m right and y’all are not. I don’t make the rules; my hands are completely tied on this one, folks.
Let’s get cooking.
Tier 7: “What would you say you do here?”
Carlo Pinsoglio — GK
Mattia Perin — GK
Marko Pjaca — LW
I guarantee you at least like 60 percent of you forgot about Pjaca. Poor dude. Brought in from Dynamo Zagreb in 2016, he struggled early in his Juventus career and when he finally looked like he started to get settled down — even bagging a goal against FC Porto in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League — he tore his ACL and was done for the rest of the year. He got loaned, recovered, got injured again, got loaned again and, well, he’s back in theory, but I wouldn’t bet on him to make any meaningful contributions to the team this year or at all, really.
Perin will be either on another team or rehabbing and then on another team during the January transfer window, so let’s pour one out for the rockstar goalkeeper that wasn’t.
If everything goes well, Pinsoglio should have one start all year — the traditional last game of the season where Juventus has the Scudetto all wrapped up and the result doesn’t matter. Let’s all hope that’s the case.
Tier 6: “Little help from my friends”
Juan Cuadrado — RW
Merih Demiral — CB
Aaron Ramsey — MF
Gianluigi Buffon — GK
Due to a bunch of reasons, all these guys should get some minutes, but not too many.
Ramsey is the one I struggled the most with — he has all the talent in the world to be a regular starter on this squad, but it would be foolish to peg him to have a full, healthy season. I believe that he will be given a light workload to start the season and take it from there. I don’t think he will be a key cog in the squad, and considering his health issues he probably shouldn’t be counted on being one.
Demiral had an impressive preseason, but he is still raw and with only six months of Serie A experience. I think he can be considered the fourth center back in the pecking order, at best. He is still a great signing, and considering he will essentially be filling in for the departed Martin Caceres, he is a massive upgrade. But I don’t think he will make or break the season for Juventus, though.
By all indications we are rolling with the Johnny Square experience at right back this season, may god have mercy on us all. Still, that means he is a firmly entrenched backup, behind new signing Danilo and maybe even Mattia De Sciglio depending on the rotation.
Gigi will get his spot starts here and there — especially, hell, hopefully — when the calendar crunches in the spring. The old legend might not be what he was in his heyday, but for a backup keeper and designated Coppa Italia starter, he is way overqualified. A luxury very few clubs can afford, folks.
The Wild Card Tier
Blaise Matuidi — MF
Sami Khedira — MF
Gonzalo Higuiain — ST
Mario Mandzukic — ST
Daniele Rugani — CB
No tier number for this one, because we just don’t know what will happen with these guys. They are all embroiled in transfer rumors, surplus to the needs of the team or both.
Matuidi is still a reliable tank in the middle of the field, but it was doubtful whether his style would work with Sarriball and so far the early returns have been less than ideal. Monaco has surfaced as a possible destination, but the rumors have gone cold as of late. It’s hard to predict where he might end up, but it’s almost a guarantee that it won’t be as a regular starter for Juventus.
The big German, Khedira, was almost a foregone conclusion he would be one of the dudes to get axed this summer, and yet, it looks more and more likely he will stay? Sure, his positioning and touch make him a better fit for Sarri’s style but he has looked a step slower for a couple of years now and his injury struggles will probably get worse rather than better. He garnered some interest from Turkey, England and the MLS but considering nobody wants to pay his pretty significant wages — between €5 million and €7 million depending on your source — he might stay put. Keep cashing dem checks, Sami.
Rugani is heavily linked to Roma and with Demiral shining in preseason, Cristian Romero waiting in the wings while he’s on loan at Genoa and Matthijs de Ligt coming into the squad as the marquee signing of the summer, he might be done teasing Juventus fans as the never ending heir to be of Juve’s backline.
Both Higuain and Mandzukic are on the same boat — surplus to the squad given the style of play and depth at the position. Both have had great moments in Bianconeri, but I would be very surprised if either of them are still on the team when the transfer season ends and even more surprised if either player plays a meaningful role for Juve this upcoming season.
Tier 5: “I need you to be better”
Leonardo Bonucci — CB
Danilo — RB
Emre Can — MF
It’s a guarantee these guys will get a lot of minutes, some of them might even be starters when it’s all said and done. But for the season to reach the heights that are expected from Juventus they will need to show a lot more than what they have.
Danilo is one of the most interesting guys. He has never quite managed to get to the level of his FC Porto days, and after falling out of favor in Real Madrid and never really unsettling Kyle Walker at Manchester City, he is going to get one last shot at a top tier club at Juve. If Danilo recovers his top form, he is going to play a huge role for the team.
Both Can and Bonucci came in last year to big fanfare and mixed results. Bonucci’s form ranged from mediocre to OK to objectively bad for most of last season and he consistently was a weak link in Juve’s backline. With the signing of Wunderkind de Ligt, Bonucci might not even be a starter anymore, and I think he shouldn’t be at least. Still, with competition in three fronts and Giorgio Chiellini getting older, he will still be relied upon for big minutes and he needs to capture some of the form he used to have in his first Juventus stint.
Can had some flashes last season but even though he was brought in to solidify the midfield, between injuries and lackluster play the midfield remained decidedly unsolidified. Sarriball is not exactly suited to his strengths but similarly to Bonucci, there is going to be minutes to go around. He needs to perform.
Tier 4: “Smooth Operators”
Alex Sandro — LB
Miralem Pjanic — MF
Mattia de Sciglo — RB/LB
Wojciech Szczesny — GK
Three starters and one super sub comprise this tier. All of these guys have a role and fulfill that role from good to elite level. For Juventus to be successful this season they are going to need these guys to perform to their usual level, nothing more nothing less.
Hell, they are so efficient there’s not a whole lot more to say about them. First name on the team sheet type of guys, moving on.
Tier 3: “Youth in Revolt”
Mathijs de Ligt — CB
Rodrigo Bentancur — MF
Adrien Rabiot — MF
We are getting to the actual, huge players for Juve this season. All of three of these guys need to perform up to expectations, it is imperative they do.
Bentancur has a huge task ahead of him. The midfield is way open and by far the biggest question mark for Juve heading into the season, if he continues to develop and puts it all together, he can snatch one of those starting positions and bring stability to a position that has been in flux for a couple of years.
Both de Ligt and Rabiot are new signings and whether or not they adapt and quickly establish themselves as key starters might be priority number one for new manager Maurizio Sarri. Both guys have enough talent to completely change the team, and if Rabiot is good, the aforementioned biggest question mark in Juventus lineup gets solved immediately and the midfield gets immediately better.
If de Ligt continues his meteoric ascent, he and Chiellini might be tick for tack the best center back duo in the world and he could potentially be the heir to Juventus long storied center back tradition. No pressure, kid.
Tier 2: “Fragile Superstars”
Douglas Costa — LW
Giorgio Chiellini — CB
We are nearing the end of the tiers, and these two guys are unquestionably going to be pivotal for any and all aspirations, European or otherwise, that Juventus might have this year.
There’s no doubt about it: When Chiellini is healthy, he is right up there as one of the best defenders in the world. Unfortunately, Father Time remains undefeated and to expect a fully healthy season from Juve’s captain looks like a dicey proposition. He already missed time during the preseason with a minor tweak, and at this point you have to expect he will miss a few games due to similar minor ailments. The best case scenario for him is to control his minutes and have a lot of luck. Oh God, let’s hope for a lot of luck.
Costa presents a similar problem — when healthy, he can be one of the very best wingers on planet Earth. We already saw it two years ago when he led Serie A in assists and was a constant threat down the flanks. If he can replicate that form, Sarri will have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal on the offensive side and a true game breaker in Costa.
And now, for the last tier…
Tier 1: “Up to you”
Paulo Dybala — ST
Federico Bernardeschi — RW
Cristiano Ronaldo — LW
At first glance, putting Dybala and Bernardeschi in the same tier as Ronaldo might seem odd, but hear me out.
Sarri was brought in with two purposes — continue Juventus’ winning tradition and do it in style. If Juve were to accomplish those objectives, that would inherently mean that Sarri not only was able to successfully implement his style of play, but that style of play worked to great effect.
Continuing with the line of thought, Sarriball has one defining trait and that is scoring and scoring a lot. Therefore, if we assume that Juve successfully deployed Sarriball that means we scored and we scored a lot.
Ronaldo will be an immovable starter, Dybala looks more and more like he will stay and start as a false 9 considering Sarri’s comments on the matter and Bernardeschi is the most natural player in the squad to fill in a right winger. Following the logical thread of the argument these guys are the most critical members of the team for the 2018-2019 season.
If these guys thrive, Juventus will thrive. If they falter, Juventus will falter as well.
It’s all up to you guys.
See you on Saturday.