Giorgio Chiellini is the only beacon of hope left for Juventus’ lackluster season. While many will rightfully discuss and question Maurizio Sarri’s performance as Juve’s manager, I want to point out that the worst aspect of the team’s play has been their defense, one that’s lacking one of Europe’s best defenders and the true team captain.
As of mid-February, Juventus, at their best show glimpses of Sarrismo, which is undoubtedly an upgrade over last season’s team, but consistently lacks quality on the defensive side of the ball. So, I have to ask, if Giorgio is added into the mix and shores up the backline does that make the team better than last year’s squad?
The simple and idealistic answer that I want to give is: Yes, a team with the same defensive pairing as last year and even the briefest of glimpses of Sarrismo is an improvement over the Juventus of last year. It’s impossible to know whether a rehabilitated Chiellini — who marked his return from knee surgery in Sunday’s win over Brescia as a late-game substitute — will be his usual tenacious self until his boots are muddied and face is bloody but until then we have to hold out hope because we’re fans after all.
So without getting too Star Wars here, Chiellini is Juve’s only hope.
I’m confident in believing that there isn’t anything about Juventus that’s going to change until the summer besides the captain’s inevitable return to the team. While I’m remaining optimistic, I’m in no way trying to convince anyone that Chiellini’s return from injury is going to magically make Sarri’s Juventus a world-class team or a top-notch Champions League contender. Unfortunately, nothing can take Juve to that level at this point in the season.
However, I’m hopeful that Chiellini’s return will have a positive impact on this team that’s in desperate need of another impactful player — especially if they want to keep their Scudetto streak alive. Juve’s ninth straight Serie A title seems less and less likely to occur with every matchday, so gaining a center back of Chiellini’s quality is sure to improve the team’s chances to continue the streak.
Juve’s defenders’ legs aren’t getting fresher at this stage in the season, so another player to add to that rotation is absolutely vital. It’s just an added bonus that that player just so happens to be the defensive anchor the team’s been missing, a bonus that will be wildly helpful during a season in which every team seems to possess a more than capable attacking force.
I don’t want to take too much away (I’ll just take a little away) from Leo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt who haven’t been poor, but they just haven’t consistently been a good enough pairing for Juventus. My first thought whenever I tune into a game and see the makeshift captain and young Dutchman, is that they need someone to turn to. Enter Il Capitano, Giorgio Chiellini, the leader to guide them and not only lift them but the whole team back to the level where Juventus belong.
I can’t say with confidence that Chiellini’s return will absolutely bring Juve back on target for being the best team in Italy again, but I have hope. And really, what else defines being a fan better than hope? Being a fan is having an unwavering belief that this will all be worth it and I’m confident that once I see that beautifully knotted nose and toothy smile turn into the fearless snarl that’s anchored Juve’s backline for the majority of the last decade, I’ll know that my hope was worth it.