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BWRAO Mailbag: Dealing in if’s and hypotheticals

For this edition of the BWRAO mailbag we talk future stars, potential lineup settings and signings that were not meant to be.

Bologna FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

The Euros are done. Copa America is done. Football didn’t come home. Lionel Messi finally took the monkey off his back, and I’ve been told another international competition is happening in North America but I refuse to acknowledge its existence. So, as far as I’m concerned, the only thing this means is that we are getting closer, fellas.

We got the early sightings at training camp.

We got the schedule release.

It’s happening, I can feel it all the way down to my plums.

Juventus football is about to be back and I couldn’t be more excited about it. In the meantime, we have questions to answer in your trusty ole’ mailbag. Remember, you can leave yours in the comment section or send them to us at @JuventusNation or @manuc_bwrao on Twitter for the next edition of the mailbag.

Let’s cook.

Do you think Federico Chiesa and Paulo Dybala would thrive with someone other than Cristiano Ronaldo up top with them? CR7 is fantastic but it seems everyone else alters their play style to make sure he gets the ball. – Vernoluck (@Vernoluck)

I not only agree, but I think this is a fairly commonly held belief by almost anyone who has watched football in the last few years.

This is not necessarily a knock on Ronaldo. The truth is that almost every single transcendent player in any sport requires the team to adapt to the player to at least a certain extent. In fact, you could argue that a big part of why the results with Ronaldo on the team haven’t been as good as people hoped they would be is exactly because Juventus never quite fully committed to building the squad to serve their big signing.

In a nutshell, that is the main dilemma of Ronaldo at Juve era. In order to get the most out of a guy like him, he needs a squad that is fully built to serve his unique skillset. However, due to his age and the team that was already in place, it didn’t make sense to fully do that, either, so you were left with a very talented, very expensive square trying to fit in a very expensive, very talented round hole. The main lesson here is that half-measures never work.

Despite all this, I think there is still a scenario in which all these talented players can co-exist and produce to a certain level that would be the most productive for the team. Sure, if Ronaldo wasn’t here you could, in theory, get 100% out of Chiesa and Dybala with, say, Alvaro Morata playing as the traditional striker. Is that combination — as a whole — better than say Ronaldo, Dybala and Chiesa all playing together at 80% of their powers?

I don’t know for sure, but let me tell you something, I really need this whole saga to be solved so as fans we can finally start talking ourselves into either scenario. Speaking of our recent Euro 2020 champ…

Any concerns about Chiesa regressing in a new system? - @Felessuntbonae

Not really! Granted this answer is being heavily influenced by “Chiesa Bossed the Euros” goggles at the moment, but still, given Max Allegri’s reputation on getting the most out of his players I’m not overly concerned about his ability to get the most out of such a dynamic player like Chiesa.

(We are talking about the same guy that turned Mario Mandzukic into a fairly serviceable left winger, after all.)

One of the most pleasant surprises of the Chiesa Experience so far has been his adaptability. I have to admit that when the signing was announced I thought we were getting a talented but one-dimensional right winger. His early struggles on the left wing only accentuated my initial concerns. However, and to his credit, he has grown leaps and bounds since then and ended the season being one of the best players for the team in whichever side of the field he was deployed.

We saw more of the same with the Italian national team this summer — whether he was coming off the bench or starting, he was a deeply influential player and was deservedly named to the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament. I mentioned it during the game, but I’m so excited for his upcoming season. He was firmly in the discussion for best player on the team by the end of his maiden year in Bianconero, but given the level he’s shown lately I think there is a real scenario in which he takes the next step and becomes the top player in the squad and maybe the whole league outright.

What would it take to get Gianluigi Donnarumma in a Juve jersey. – Domenico JJ (@domenico_jj)

Another beneficiary of the Euro bump!

At this point, I guess the only recourse for Juve would be ask Paris Saint-Germain for the reigning Euro champion on loan, since it’s a done deal that Donnarumma will be plying his trade under the Parisian lights. Given this fact, I think any and all Donnarumma talk is now exclusively in the realm of hypotheticals and what ifs — which, given that we are in the doldrums of summer, is the perfect topic to talk about.

Personally, I flip flopped on this issue roughly 2,668 times since it was reported that Gigio would become a free agent at the end of last season. My gut reaction was that it was a dumb investment in an area that wasn’t a pressing need. This initial take only grew stronger when the early figures started to come out of what it would take salary-wise to get Donnarumma to Juventus.

We already had a solid keeper in Wojciech Szczęsny for a reasonable enough salary, so why spend all that dough to replace him with a keeper that might be a marginal upgrade at best? Then, well, Woj closed out the 2020-21 season in a supremely shaky manner and it gave way to a whole bunch of speculation regarding his standing on the club.

It’s also easy to forget that while Donnarumma seems like he’s been in our lives forever, he remains upsettingly young at 22 years old with six years of pro experience already under his belt. Sure, at this moment in time he wouldn’t represent a massive upgrade over the incumbent keeper, but it’s not illogical to suggest that in the long run he will end up being the better investment. Especially if we are willing to concede that progress is not always linear and that the position of goalkeeper specifically is one in which players tend to hit their peaks later on in their careers.

(A clear example being our very own Woj, who had to go through the wringer before playing the best years of his career in his late 20s or early 30s.)

Essentially, if you argued for the pro-Donnarumma side, your case lies on locking down a very good — with potential of being great — goalkeeper for your side for the next 10 years. A guy that is also Italy’s starter and someone who’s been pegged as the heir of Gianluigi Buffon since he debuted. That sounds significantly more reasonable and I’d argue that if the economics of the club where not what they are at the moment, it’s the exact type of deal that a well-run organization does 10 times out of 10.

Then again, the numbers are the numbers and because of the pandemic, the poor performances in Europe and the bad signings with huge wages, Juventus were just not in a position to pull the trigger on an operation like this for Donnarumma. Despite the potential future benefits, at the moment it’s just not as pressing as other areas of the team.

Which is a shame because goddamn, was Donnaruma freaking good at the Euros. How hyped would you be if you knew that the best player in the tournament — not keeper, player overall — was donning a Juventus shirt next season along with all the other champs? Alas, it wasn’t mean to be.

(Which reminds me of the time that I found a top of the line, beautiful, designer suit in my exact size on sale, but I was in so much debt at the time that despite the alluring offer it would have been just unbelievably irresponsible to get it. More fiscally sound, a mid-20s guy who has a credit card for the first time in his life or Juventus?)

Which players in the squad are very Allegrish and who is very UnAllegrish? What can he do with Arthur? – Kudzai (@oldman_Rod)

I don’t think there is such a thing as an un-Allegrish player, to be honest with you. This is a guy renowned for his tactical flexibility and adaptability. Even if a guy doesn’t quite mesh with what Allegri tries to do, if the player is good enough he will find a way to get him involved in the lineup to at least a moderate amount of success.

Funnily enough, if you were to point to someone who might be dubbed “un-Allegri” it might be the guy who seems to dominate every conversation, Cristiano Ronaldo. A positionally inflexible player who provides little when it comes to tracking back and defending. Then again, another guy that fits the description of that is Paulo Dybala, and Allegri managed to get a lot out of him during his first stint as manager.

Plus, to be fair, in Ronaldo’s lone year under Allegri, he ended up having a pretty good season as well, with 28 goals scored in all competitions and, oh yeah, the second leg comeback against Atletico Madrid.

(You know you had an epic performance when I don’t really have to say more than that and you already know what game I’m talking about.)

Now, for a very Allegri like player, may I point you in the direction of one Weston McKennie? I would bet a significant amount of money that Allegri will find myriad of ways to get the Swiss knife midfielder on the pitch. Also, and this might be wishful thinking but stick with me: I think Luca Pellegrini has a shot to finally stick in the roster long term. Allegri has a history of putting left backs in good positions to succeed, as Alex Sandro had his best years under him and even an over-the-hill Patrice Evra saw a revival under the Italian manager. If Pellegrini is ever going to make it, this is his last and best chance.

Arthur is another guy that if you were so inclined you could characterize as an “un-Allegri” player. He is good at recycling possession and … well, not much else, really. Not saying a guy with that skillset doesn’t have any use, but it’s going to be interesting to see how Allegri uses the Brazilian midfielder. If I had to make a prediction I’d say he will be sparsely used as a depth piece if the Manuel Locatelli signing goes through and it will become a fun bit of trivia when people remember how much he is technically worth in the books a few years from now.

(Note: The portion about Arthur was written before he underwent surgery and is set to miss the next three months.)

Random Song of the Week

All throughout the summer, I’ll be posting a random song from my Spotify library. This week, it’s “Anna” by Will Butler of Arcade Fire fame. I’m not a huge Arcade Fire guy, never have been despite the almighty algorithm consistently recommending them to me based on the other things I listen to. Still, haven’t been able to take this earworm out of my head and now you won’t, either. Also, the video stars Emma Stone maniacally dancing on a boat, which I find kinda neat.

Keep the questions coming and we’ll see you next week.