If Dusan Vlahovic succeeds at Juventus this season or not is probably the second biggest question facing the fans about the blockbuster January transfer window signing. The biggest, of course, is how Juve are going to afford the lethal striker knowing the dire financial situation the club is in.
However, let us analyze the performance question first, especially when so much doubt has been cast on the midfield’s ability to supply the strikeforce. It is certainly a valid question because Juve are not even in the top half of the league in goals scored, so is the issue that the team as a whole are not scoring enough goals, or that the team is not creating enough chances?
Shooting Volume and Goals Scored
Juventus have taken 336 shots as a team in the Serie A this season, which is sixth in the league. From that they have managed 34 goals (11th). Of that, players in the forward positions* have taken 83 of those shots, scoring nne goals.
For comparison, let’s take the four teams sitting above Juve in the table:
- Inter Milan have 382 shots and 53 goals, of which 113 shots are from forwards with 18 goals.
- AC Milan have 362 shots and 47 goals, of which 61 shots are from forwards with 13 goals.
- Napoli have 384 shots and 43 goals, of which 68 shots are from forwards with 12 goals.
- Atalanta have 338 shots and 44 goals, of which 80 shots are from forwards with 14 goals.
(*Note: These stats are from WhoScored, and are only counting the total shots by players when lined up in the forward positions, no matter their usual positions.)
Juventus’ strikers are not shooting that much less than their peers, with both Milan and Napoli getting fewer shots from their forwards. However, in the goals scored category, Juve sit lowest of the five teams analyzed above.
Can the case be made that Juve’s strikers have not finished as well as they should have? To do so, that analysis will require us to look at expected goals (xG), and I fully expect a significant number of readers to leave at this point as is your right. Is xG a flawed metric? Certainly. But is there something to be learned from it? I certainly think so.
Juve have the highest net negative xG underperformed in the league, scoring 34 goals from 38.90, which means they are not finishing the chances they are getting. Compare that to the ‘overperforming xG’ stats for these teams — Lazio +14.40, Milan +5.99, Fiorentina +5.11, Atalanta +4.57. What do those teams have that we don’t? Better finishing, simply.
If we were not creating scoring chances, then we would not be getting shots right? Yet we are sixth in the league in xG (and 11th in goals scored), so clearly we are making enough to get shots off, just not finishing them.
To add more credence to that, let’s look at big chances created stats — Inter lead the way again with 51, Napoli have 31, Milan have 28 and Atalanta also have 31. Juventus have 30. Again, Juve are not necessarily that far off from their peers in creating big chances either.
What kind of immediate impact could Vlahovic make?
For better or worse, Vlahovic has already been signed, so all we can look at for the second half of the 2021-22 season is what we can expect from the striker.
Would it be wrong to believe that Vlahovic will create more goals and chances than Alvaro Morata or Moise Kean? From what we have seen he appears to be a better header of the ball than either of the two strikers we have, so midfielders aside, if he can convert more crosses that’ll be a win.
There is also a concern that the Serbian international has only a small sample size to draw on and could just as easily fall flat after signing with Juventus. This is his fourth season in the Serie A, but when you look at his track record so far, there is a definite trending improvement in his scoring and shooting metrics, so this season is not an anomaly at all. His goals plus assists per 90 has been steadily climbing, and while his shots and shots on target per 90 have been increasing, his goals per shot has remained steady the last two seasons.
His shots map for the last two seasons is especially interesting, especially when compared to that of Morata’s for the same period.
Also, Vlahovic shoots from outside the box more and with a lot more accuracy than either Morata and Kean. Aside from Paulo Dybala and the occasional shot from Juan Cuadrado or Manuel Locatelli, Juve does not get that regularly enough. Vlahovic is a higher volume striker, too, and will take a shot from anywhere.
It’s not a stretch to say that if Vlahovic is inserted into the lineup he will not only generate more shots than either of Morata or Kean, but he will likely score more as well with the same level of service they latter pair have had. Which brings us to the last point.
A ‘defensive’ defensive midfielder, finally
Juventus have had no shortage of midfielders in recent years, especially the kind that love to maraud forward. However, where they have lost out is having that central defensive mid that sweeps in front of the backline, keeping out opposing attacks and generally letting the creative guys do their work in front of him.
While the signing of Denis Zakaria during the January transfer window did not raise the same kind of eyebrows that bringing in Vlahovic did, there is every chance that in the long term the Swiss international is going to make a much bigger (invisible) impact in Juve’s fortunes from here on out, starting right away.
Zakaria has made his name as a physical player, cutting out passes and not hesitant to throw himself into a tackle. If he keeps that up at Juve, it’s going to allow players like Locatelli, Arthur, Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot a lot more freedom to play their natural game, especially in possession.
That should manifest itself in a number of ways, all of which will benefit Vlahovic and his fellow attackers immensely — from more chances for the midfielders and wingers which will require defences to pay more attention to them, to better quality crosses and passes into the box for the strikers.