The fullback position is a funny one.
The world of football seems to only glorify fullbacks that can attack rather than those who are, first and foremost, defenders. We love the Joao Cancelos and Trent Alexander-Arnolds of the world, but don’t care too much about the Danilos in world football.
Juventus’ fullback situation over the course of the 2021-22 season was certainly a fluid one. From a sharp loss of form of one of our best fullbacks to dealing with a series of injuries across the backline, Allegri had to tinker, doodle, dabble, and try different things with our fullbacks throughout the season.
And how did that work for the players this season? The short answer is that it was a mixed bag. The long answer is, well, read for yourself.
Note: It has been decided by the BWRAO staff that Juan Cuadrado will be counted as a forward having played more as a winger than a fullback this season and will be rated in that section.
Luca Pellegrini — 6
Pellegrini was one of the few pleasant surprises that came out of Juventus this season. Many of us had accepted his unfortunate fate: yet another young Italian player who was resigned to being sent out on loan to various clubs in Italy until finally being sold for a decent plusvalenza, all because the club is too afraid to take a risk on a young player.
Due to a combination of injuries and a decline in form of starting fullbacks though, Pellegrini was basically the only option at left back that Max Allegri had. And the 23-year-old gratefully accepted his (rare) opportunity to shine and started his Juve career with some very bright performances before fading a little towards the end of the season.
Minutes Played: 1,236
Yellow Cards: 7
Even though he has that air of Lichtsteiner-esque unlikeability to him, he’s far more timid defensively, making only 1.2 tackles per game. That said, he racked up seven yellow cards in 21 appearances this season, equating to a booking every three appearances.
So while he certainly isn’t the world-class left back that we hoped he might be, he showed us that he’s capable enough to remain in Juve’s roster, likely as a backup to whoever becomes the starting left back for the Bianconeri.
Mattia De Sciglio — 6.5
As much as De Sciglio epitomizes Juve’s chronic aversion to risk, he also personifies the dilemma that management has with players like him. De Sciglio is not so catastrophically bad that you’d want to pay a club to buy him, but at the same time he’s clearly not the future of the club and keeping players like him sends the signal that we’ve accepted mediocrity as our fate.
His most glaring error this season was his clumsy foul that resulted in Inter’s equalizer in the Supercoppa Italiana — although he was upstaged by Alex Sandro’s even worse error in the final minute of extra time — but besides that, I can’t think of too many instances when De Sciglio was truly awful. Yet, at the same time, besides his heroic winning goal against Roma, I also can’t think of many games where he was a shining start for the team.
Minutes Played: 1,891
Yellow Cards: 4 (and 1 red card)
He’s dependable, versatile, and defensively adequate. Rarely does anything woefully bad but has clearly peaked in his career.
And that basically sums up De Sciglio’s season: distinctly, yet usefully, average.
Danilo — 7
For the second season running, Danilo has the honor of being amongst the top performing defenders for Juventus. While he didn’t reach the stellar level of performances of last season — granted, he set the bar awfully high — Danilo can look back at this season with a lot of pride.
He was defensively strong — boasting a commendable 2.4 clearances, 1.6 interceptions, and 1.7 tackles per game — and made an important attacking contribution when he scored that crucial equalizer deep into stoppage in the February game against Atalanta. And let’s not forget that he missed a few months of action due to injury, too.
Just like last season, one could argue that he deserves the award for most versatile player that Juventus has on its roster. Due to injuries in the team, he occasionally had to fill in at center back and central midfield in addition to playing at his usual right back position.
Minutes Played: 2,627
Yellow cards: 6
Danilo’s strong performances at right back — and, to an extent, De Sciglio’s versatility — allowed Cuadrado to play in midfield and even part of the frontline more frequently. Despite the amount of transition and player sales happening at the club this summer, expect to see Danilo remain an important part of Juve’s defense next season.
Alex Sandro — 6
We end this review on a bit of a somber note, as we acknowledge the decline of a player who, at the peak of his career, was arguably one of the top 5 left backs in the world.
By his lofty standards, Alex Sandro certainly had a season to forget. His catastrophic error against Inter in the dying seconds of the Supercoppa Italiana stands out as the lowest point of the season and also sums up the fact that he has most regressed defensively rather than offensively.
He was caught out of position more often, wasn’t making the number of interceptions (0.9), blocks (0.2), tackles (1.3), and clearances (1.2) per game as he used to, and simply looked more prone to errors than ever before.
That said, I’m not as harsh as some other fans who think that Sandro was an abject failure this season. Once again, he set the bar so high based on his performances for Juve throughout the years, that it simply seems that he was horrifically bad. But Sandro on an average day is still good enough to compete with Pellegrini, who has received a lot of praise for his performances this season.
Minutes Played: 2,805
Yellow cards: 4
So while it does seem like it’s the end of the line for Sandro, I think we have to both remember what a stellar player he was for the Bianconeri in the seven seasons that he played for us while recognizing that he had a relatively poor (final?) season for the club.