Oh, how time flies.
It really feels like not too long ago we were ruing Juventus unceremonious dumping in the Champions League Round of 16 and their subsequent and even more unceremonious dumping of manager Maurizio Sarri. I still remember so vividly the shock appointment of Andrea Pirlo as the new manager and the unprecedented leap into the unknown it was.
Naturally we remember it so because it all went down about a month ago from the moment of this writing, which is kind of nuts to think about but as with everything this year, we have no choice but to roll with it.
So, here at your friendly neighborhood blog BWRAO we are adapting to the times and have gone into full on season preview mode and with that we are running back our power ranking gimmick we had last year.
(Power rankings, they’re truly the gift that keeps on giving for sports writers in need of content, everywhere.)
In case you don’t remember, we are going to rank the Juventus squad into tiers, from least to most important to the success of the club this upcoming season. This is to say, it’s not a straight up who’s the best player ranking, but who’s the most important to the team.
So, for example if I were to rank new signee Arthur ahead of Leo Bonucci it does not mean that I believe the Brazilian midfielder is in a vacuum a better player than Bonucci necessarily, it just means that whether he performs or not is more pivotal to the fate of the season than whether Bonucci does.
We are also, only taking into account the players who as of September 8th are members of the senior squad. So, no Luis Suarez or Manuel Locatelli or any other player that is the flavor of the week to be rumored to be a Juve target.
And lastly, please do remember this is a highly rhetorical, biased and unscientific exercise. If you happen to vehemently disagree with the opinions put forth here you are well within your rights to do so and please feel free to type away your feelings in the comment section. I’d be remiss, however, to not also mention that I’m right and you are wrong, forever, this is non-negotiable and is actually a clause inserted in my multi-million dollar agreement with BWRAO. The only way I will ever admit to be wrong is if I get bought out of said contract, Sami Khedira style.
With all the caveats out of the way, let’s cook.
Bonus Tier: Tribute to the Fallen
Gonzalo Higuain – ST
Mattia Perin – GK
Cristian Romero – CB
Blaise Matuidi – MF
Miralem Pjanic - MF
Higuain is a few administrative moves away from leaving the club and joining the four players who have already made their exits. Either via loan, outright sold or by being bought out, all of these guys will have absolutely no impact in Juve’s season unless something truly out of the ordinary happens, which considering the times we are living, don’t discount it just yet.
Maybe every single keeper on the Juventus roster gets stuck on some sort of island and they have to recall Perin to fill in?
Tier 8: “What would you say you do here?”
Carlo Pinsoglio – GK
Marko Pjaca – LW
Sami Khedira – MF
It’s unfair to lump Pinsoglio in the same tier as these other two guys because we actually do know what Pinsoglio does for this team. He keeps the mood light, cracks jokes with Gianluigi Buffon on the bench and is close, personal friends with world-renowned star Cristiano Ronaldo. Hopefully, much like this year, the only appearance he will make is in the last game of the season when the 10th straight is all but secured.
Pjaca will be lucky to get on the field for Juventus or otherwise, and Khedira is being an inspiration to all of us working stiffs by rarely being productive, yet managing to stick around. I swear if Khedira is still in the squad when the summer transfer window is done I will do a 180-degree on the guy and legitimately appreciate the hustle he’s got going on right now.
Keep getting dem checks, Sami.
Tier 7: “Anything is gravy”
Daniele Rugani – CB
Luca Pellegrini - LB
Neither of these guys is expected to be a massive part for the team, but if they were to over-perform it’d be a pretty pleasing surprise
Pellegrini will be second in the left back pecking order, and considering his age and lack of experience playing at a top club it’s unlikely he will be given the reins from day one. Either way, he is considered a bit more of a developmental player and the fact he doesn’t get big minutes this season might be by design.
At this point, Rugani is what he is — a guy who is firmly center back 4 out of 4 and that will only play whenever there is literally no other choice. When he does see the field it will be unspectacular at best and disastrous at worst. Either way — and speaking of finesse — Rugani is quietly starting his sixth season at Juventus, a five-time Scudetto, three-time Coppa Italia winner and technically still the center back of the future in our hearts.
Fake it till you — most likely never — make it, my guy.
Tier 6: “Injury Report”
Giorgio Chiellini – CB
Mattia De Sciglio – LB/RB
Aaron Ramsey – MF
Douglas Costa – RW
The most depressing tier of them all.
Similar in nature to Tier 7, if we get anything consistent from this bunch is gravy, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Chiellini is an all-timer and a true Juventus legend, but at 36 years old and with his recent injury history, it’s more wishful thinking than anything else to expect him to play a full season.
Ramsey and Costa are significantly younger and when fit could be very productive and a legitimate asset to this team, but their injury proneness is the stuff of legends and as they both get closer to turning 30 is unlikely those issues will magically get better.
De Sciglio is really the most interesting player here, because he has never even remotely shown the level of play the other three guys have but he is equally injury prone. At best, De Sciglio has been adequate during his time at Juventus and at worst a legitimate hindrance and yet because he brings theoretical depth flexibility I’m supposed to believe this dude is an asset?
Khedira was actually really good at one point and Rugani is homegrown, according to Serie A. De Sciglio is the only one that will never make sense to me why he is still on the team.
Tier 5: “Face Value”
Gianluigi Buffon – GK
Alex Sandro – LB
Danilo – RB
You are going to get what you are going to get with this tier.
Buffon is the aging, veteran backup keeper that is still good for a few moments of brilliance but that we would all be kind of queasy to see him start under the sticks in a big Champions League game. Then again, for a backup keeper, Buffon is going to give you what you need and more.
Danilo is more likely to have the occasional brain fart but will give you a bit more offensive upside than Alex Sandro, who is the steadier hand overall. At this point in their careers, both Sandro and Danilo are what they are — competent if rarely spectacular fullbacks who will more often than not put forth solid shifts.
The Wild Card Tier
Juan Cuadrado – RB/WB/RW
Federico Bernardeschi – RW
Weston McKennie – MF
Considering we still don’t even know what type of formation new manager Andrea Pirlo will play — latest rumors peg it as a 3-5-2 and considering the lack of depth at the fullback position it might actually be in play — it’s hard to really rank these bunch or what their contributions to the team will be.
Bernardeschi has all the talent in the world, but another formation shift and one that doesn’t even have a place for him is probably not the best use of his skills. Yet, couldn’t you see him have a second life as a hybrid wingback attacker in the rumored 3-5-2 system? Couldn’t you also see him crash and burn and become a little-used depth piece?
It might not look like it on first instance — and in the first draft of this ranking he was in Tier 7 — but there is a scenario in which McKennie ends up playing heavy, heavy minutes in his first season as a Bianconero. Assuming Juventus lines up with three midfielders — either in a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3 -— with Blaise Matuidi gone, Ramsey being his unreliable self and Khedira being Khedira, it’s not insane to think McKennie could find himself being the fourth midfielder in the pecking order.
We know that he brings a lot of positional flexibility and was a jack of all trades last season with Schalke. I’m just saying, don’t be shocked if we look back at the season and realize he had a far larger number of appearances than you would think. It’s going to be up to the young American whether or not he takes advantage of those chances.
Cuadrado is the wild card of all wild cards, both with his place and his use. He’s filled in as a winger, as a fullback and god knows where else. He can be a difference maker and a weak spot in the lineup. Everything is on the table for the Colombian, and it will be fun to see what he does this season.
Tier 4: “Steady as they come”
Wojciech Szczęsny – GK
Leonardo Bonucci – CB
These two guys will be in the top five of appearances this season — and they should be.
Bonucci had to step up as CB1 and captain after Chiellini’s injury last year and performed fairly admirably considering the circumstances. He’s clearly not at the level he was before he left Juventus for AC Milan, but he’s still an upper tier center back and will be expected to play like one.
Ditto for Woj, who quietly but surely has a solid case to be a top 10 keeper in the world right now, top 5 when he wakes up in the zone. Remember when we thought it’d be a dead heat between him and Perin to be the starting keeper once Buffon left? Yeah, not so much.
Tier 3: “The Kids are Alright”
Mathijs de Ligt – CB
Merih Demiral – CB
Dejan Kulusevski – RW
De Ligt is 21 years old.
Demiral is 22 years old.
And Kulusevski is 20 years old.
What were you doing when you were in your early 20s?
(I was studying at college in Vermont, getting average grades, drinking far more than I should have and once tried to steal a sofa from a common room. And when we couldn’t pull it off, I ended up knocking on the RA’s door to ask for help at 3 a.m. He was unamused.)
The Dutch international will miss the start of the season due to shoulder surgery, but is expected back in November, which is good because every minute de Ligt plays is a minute that Daniele Rugani does not — and we should all be rooting for that to happen.
All Rugani slander aside, the fact that de Ligt was such a huge part of the team last season and is expected to continue to be is a testament to the quality he has. How many 20-year-olds could step in and hold the fort for a team like Juventus from Day 1? We are witnessing the beginning of an all-timer career; let’s hope that is with Juventus for many more years to come.
Demiral is coming back from injury and should be eased into the squad. But, with that being said, he could end up playing a far bigger role than we expect him to. If the rumors are true and Pirlo does use a three-man backline and with Chiellini’s health very much in doubt, Demiral could be thrust into the starting lineup for far more minutes than expected. He’s shown the quality he has, so he’s going to have to show he’s for real very quickly.
To whom much is given much is tested and Kulusevski — who was acquired for €35 million in January — will be tested and quickly as he needs to be the shot in the arm on the wings this team needs. The reigning best young player of the league will have his hands full, but if what we saw from him at Parma is any indication, he might be ready for the challenge.
Tier 2: “Sharpshooters”
Cristiano Ronaldo – LW
Paulo Dybala – FW
As far as striker partnerships go, we are talking about a pair that has to be on the shortlist for best in the world.
We saw what these guys can do together by the end of last season. They both have immense individual talent and if they continue on the trajectory we expect them to, then opposing defenses will have nightmares about facing these two.
So why are they not, tier 1?
Tier 1: “Nut Up or Shut Up”
Arthur Melo – MF
Rodrigo Bentancur – MF
Adrien Rabiot – MF
The last couple of seasons we have seen Juventus have a very solid defense under Max Allegri and a solid attack.
We saw an explosive offense with 70 goals scored and Ronaldo breaking club records in domestic competition under Maurizio Sarri.
Yet, the team hasn’t managed to progress past the quarterfinals of the Champions League in the Ronaldo era — and the reason is the suspect midfield. It’s the common theme of Juve’s failures, and it’s yet again what will ultimately decide if this team goes anywhere in Europe’s most important competition.
Because it doesn’t matter how many goals Ronaldo and Dybala score and it doesn’t matter if de Ligt and Demiral establish themselves as the backline of the future, if you can’t dictate the flow of the game in the middle of the pitch this team is doomed and that responsibility is going to fall under the shoulders of this relatively unproven midfield.
Arthur is being sold as the answer to the midfield woes that Miralem Pjanic could never solve, a lot is being banked on him performing from day one and it’s a huge question mark if he will actually deliver.
Both Bentancur and Rabiot had stretches last season when they very much looked like foundational pieces, but they still have to replicate that throughout an entire season. And as the two main returning players, the brunt of the success of this unit will fall onto them.
Good thing they are being coached by one of the best midfielders in the last 20 years, huh?
Il Maestro, you have your hands full, so let’s get to work.