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BWRAO Mailbag: The Calm Before the Storm

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We talk Euro standouts, who will improve under Max Allegri, more midfield talk and the song of the week.

Matthijs de Ligt of Juventus FC celebrates the victory at... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

We are back!

The Euros are still going on, with upsets and madness galore. Copa America is … well, still happening technically, though I’ll be damned if I can tell you one single thing about it because all the spotlight has been on the Euros — a tournament that has been vastly superior in every sense of the word.

(With that being said, if you think Copa America is boring you just wait for later in the summer when all we have is some hot, crazy Gold Cup action. You think Venezuela-Peru is bad? Buddy, you’ll be begging for that once El Salvador-Curaçao or Qatar-Panama roll around.)

(Also, yes, Qatar is for some reason, an invitee to the Gold Cup. Why is a Middle Eastern team playing in a regional tournament for North and Central America? The answer eludes me.)

Due to the overall chaos and entertainment of the international game, there’s not a ton of new information regarding the Bianconeri since the last edition of your trusty mailbag. Manuel Locatelli? Still at Sassuolo! Cristiano Ronaldo’s future? Unclear! Paulo Dybala? Posting thirst traps on Instagram! Merih Demiral? A bummer! Aaron Ramsey? Unfortunately alive at Juventus!

(That was, yet again, very mean. Sorry, Aaron. It was unlike me, I understand and acknowledge your humanity and the inherent respect that should come with that. I hope we can one day be friends and you can forgive me for that very ill spirited comment.)

(But for real, trade Aaron Ramsey for a bag of balls ASAP.)

(Sorry again, Aaron.)

Still, despite all of this the mailbag keeps on keeping on. Thanks for all your questions, and 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.

Who do you think will be the top most improved players under Allegri? I think it will be De Ligt, I know he is great already but he’s gonna become perfect with Allegri – Joshua Fontaine (@FilialJuveFan)

Matthijs de Ligt is certainly a prime candidate to step up a level once Mad Max gets his second Juve stint underway. The one thing Allegri’s squads were always known for was their defensive stability, and since de Ligt was signed the coaching situation at Juventus hasn’t been all that great in that area.

De Ligt has hardly been a disappointment, but given the massive expectations the team had in him — as well as the massive transfer fee they shelled out for the Dutch international — I’m not sure he’s quite lived up to the hype just yet. He’s still scary young and has been pretty good overall for Juventus, but we all know his potential is to be the best defender in the world. Being coached by Allegri is as good a way as any to fully unlock that promise.

Outside of de Ligt, I would point to Rodrigo Bentancur as a guy who will probably improve under Allegri. If only because it’s going to be hard for him to be worse than he was last year and because Allegri always liked him and put him in good positions to succeed. Alex Sandro is another guy who has underwhelmed since the Italian manager left and his comeback might bring him back to the level he once showed for the team.

With so many guys having poor seasons last year, simply regressing to the mean might see this team make a decent improvement for Allegri’s first year back in charge.

Is Manuel Locatelli enough? – Włodek (@Wodek34330806)

The optimist in me wants to say yes and I think I have a decent argument for it. Despite the general lackluster form the team showed for much of last year, there was a stretch of games in which they looked pretty good, all things considered. That specific stretch occurred in January, when the team was as healthy as it had been the whole season and Andrea Pirlo could deploy a three-man midfield with Arthur in the middle and Adrien Rabiot, Rodrigo Bentancur and Weston McKennie rotating to flank him.

If you subscribe to the theory that Bentancur, McKennie and Rabiot are actually pretty good mids when being lined up as typical box-to-box players — or as a mezzala if you want to get fancy with it — as I do, this stretch was Exhibit A. A healthy and in form Arthur played the part of distributor from the back and it allowed the aforementioned players to do what they do best which is harass opposing players, get the ball back and make dangerous runs forward without having to worry about any responsibilities derived from building play or distributing the ball.

Of course, Arthur got hurt, McKennie did too and Bentancur and Rabiot had to deputize as distributors again and we all know how that turned out. With Locatelli in the fold and playing in that nominal No. 5 spot in the lineup, you’d have exactly the type of player you need to free up your other midfielders and put them in the best position to succeed.

With that being said, given that Aaron Ramsey will probably leave the club — even if he doesn’t, he is a non-factor anyways — and knowing that injuries can happen at any moment and throw a wrench into anyone’s plans, I would like to see the team try to get another piece to complement the potential Locatelli signing. On that topic…

If there’s a chance for Nicolo Zaniolo, should we or shouldn’t we? – Irene Saayman (@IreneSaayman)

If you’d asked me this question a year ago, I would have said yes, for sure. But in the year of our lord 2021? I’m not so sure. Why? Well…

Yikes.

(I will admit to chuckling when I saw “Coronavirus” as an injury in the middle of his ACL recovery. When it rains it pours.)

Despite his young age, suffering two ACL tears — one in each knee — is never a promising sign of recovery. One needs to look no further than our beloved Claudio Marcihisio to see players who never quite bouncing back from injuries like that. And while Marchisio was older and youth is on Zaniolo’s side, two brutal injuries like that would scare anyone off.

If he was, for whatever reason, available for a minimal fee or he was a free agent I’d say sure, why not, give it a roll, but I don’t think Roma will let him go when his value is at its absolute lowest. Zaniolo will either bounce back and show displays of his dazzling talent again or fizzle out and we will be left to play the “What if” game for the rest of his career. Either way, I doubt that either scenario happens as a Juventus player.

What Juve player and what Juve target have you most enjoyed watching in the Euros? – Caleb Turrentine (@calebturrentine)

Our very own Caleb with a question for the mailbag. You love to see it.

Since I don’t much care about who wins the Euros — outside of my beloved Switzerland and they already had their one shining moment knocking out France before being eliminated — I’ve been very amused seeing Alvaro Morata with the Spanish national team. I love the guy and he will always be a favorite of mine because of the Champions League run to the Berlin final, but he is a maddening, streaky-ass player and it has been on full display this Euros. And since this time I don’t have to rue his egregious misses, it’s just been fun watching him be at his absolute most during the tournament.

Since Federico Chiesa hasn’t been a starter prior to Italy’s win over Belgium, his chances to shine have been limited. However, seeing Chiesa come off the bench and save an Italian team that was laying an egg against a team they should have easily beat was essentially the story of Juventus 2020-21 season, so it was a fun bit of déjà vu.

As far as targets go, the aforementioned Locatelli — whom his ears have to be buzzing with how many times we talk about him in this here blog — has been exactly as advertised and I would love nothing more than to not see him on the field for Italy the rest of the tournament because every great game he has is more chances for some EPL team to find €60 million in the sofa cushions and outbid Juve for the Italian midfielder.

And lastly — and this is purely speculation but why not, speak it into existence — Paul Pogba was fantastic for France all tournament and his game against Switzerland in particular was a reminder of how good he can be.

(Getting dispossessed for a Swiss goal aside, which, was not great!)

Pogba is always linked with a Juve return because he has underwhelmed at Manchester United and he seems to still have a legit appreciation and love for the club where he had his best years as a pro. Add to that, the Cristiano Ronaldo saga and it’s obvious that every newspaper looking for space to fill will float a Pogba-Ronaldo swap, I very much doubt that it will materialize and if it’s even remotely on the table Juve should do that swap yesterday, but who knows, stranger things have happened.

You know what, I think we’ve earned it, let’s all imagine for one second a Locatelli-Pogba-Rabiot midfield trio next season.

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

Random Song of the Week

All throughout the summer, I’ll be posting a random song from my Spotify library. This week, it’s “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys. I’ll put “El Camino” right up there as one of the best pure Rock records of the 2000’s, eminently enjoyable start to finish.

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