A little dog, a mug of coffee, a burning house, and three words: “This is fine.”
Juventus are, at this moment, the very embodiment of this ubiquitous meme. Over the last season and a half, the Old Lady has seen her board resign, her points deducted, her stature fall, her injuries continue, and her players stumble into doping and gambling. While the Paul Pogba saga has yet to officially be resolved, we now know that Nicolo Fagioli has reached a seven-month suspension plea deal; when that sort of consequence almost qualifies as good news, you know you’re in a bad place.
Which leads us straight into the unit at hand: the midfield. As I wrote just a week ago, and as is exceedingly obvious at this point, this unit continues to be the major weak link on a team chock full of weak links. The Pogba and Fagioli issues only serve to underline what now needs to be done: a complete rebuilding of this unit.
That starts with letting Adrien Rabiot walk at the season’s end.
Allegri has maximized Rabiot’s potential
The oft-maligned Max Allegri has probably done the best job any manager on the planet could do with the Frenchman. When Rabiot played his first full season with Juventus in 2019-20, the talent was evident, but his gaffes were both frequent and egregious. Rabiot has always had the physical and technical tools; he’s big, very strong with the ball, and can move plenty well enough with it in his possession; he’s no Andrea Pirlo but he can distribute fine, and as we saw a year ago he’s got a nose for goal. From the first day in Turin, and long before that, the one space where he’s been wildly inconsistent is in between his ears.
Allegri has slowly but surely changed that.
Gone (for the most part) are the days when Rabiot would repeatedly miss attackers he should mark, when he would commit some lackadaisical blunder to gift the opposition possession in a dangerous area. He’s got a heck of a lot more hustle and grinta than he did when he first arrived. But if last year’s quantum leap Rabiot was always a bit too good to be true, this year’s regression to the mean is probably what subsequent years of the midfielder would look like.
For a midfield in desperate need of two things Rabiot is not — a creative playmaker and a true regista — this is a salary that is going to waste.
What the midfield makeover looks like
Here is where Cristiano Giuntoli should start: resolve the Pogba situation and let Rabiot walk. The Fagioli situation probably needs to see him through the next few months to determine whether returning next year is even plausible from a mental health perspective, so that leaves Manuel Locatelli and Fabio Miretti, essentially, as the only retained pieces. (Theoretically, Weston McKennie as well, but my guess is if he restores his value he might be sold next summer.)
Keep Locatelli but acquire a true regista so the Italian can play in a position more natural to him. Keep Miretti as a reserve midfielder and a transition player as the new guys get acclimated. And go get three damn midfielders.
At this point, you sell anyone not named Federico Chiesa. I think after years of watching the hamster spinning on the wheel without getting anywhere, that’s the conclusion I’ve reached: no more half-measures, and Rabiot, at this contract, is a half-measure.
Giuntoli is not, to my knowledge, a wizard. He’s shown some truly impressive roster-building in the past, but the challenge at Juventus, now more than ever, is great indeed. We certainly should not expect every single signing in a complete reconstruction of the midfield to work out, but the club is at the point where it needs to take risks. Letting Rabiot walk once and for good in order to pursue other players is, in my opinion, a risk worthy of taking. The Frenchman has had his moments, and his contributions and, frankly, consistent health have been appreciated, but it’s time to move on from his largely mediocre play, using it as a crutch to hide the true degree of ailment from which the midfield suffers.