Ah, the holidays. A wonderful time of expectation, consternation, over-indulgence, family gatherings, and looking forward to new things.
You didn’t ask, but here’s a taste of what our family is doing: we’re taking our 2-year-old Monty, who eats as much as Godzilla and is about as graceful, too, on two three-hour flights from Boise, Idaho, all the way to Naples, Florida, where we’ll soak up the salty air and sunshine for two weeks; I’m planning my reading list for 2024 in what, for the first time since graduate school, should be a projectable year in terms of books; and I’m also scheming my first 50K trail race, juggled between a baby due in March and a new job starting in August.
New Year, new things, new resolutions. Some for me, and seven for the Old Lady.
1. Mad Max: Experiment with a 4-3-1-2
I believe pretty firmly that the 3-5-2 gives Juventus the best chance to win against solid to good competition in Serie A this year, but against some of the bottom-feeders like Genoa it might be prudent for Max Allegri to at least try something different. Juventus’ typical midfield isn’t really made for fluid possession, and against at least a few teams in Italy the Bianconeri will more or less be forced to possess the ball. Finding a formation that allows for someone like Kenan Yildiz or Federico Chiesa-as-roamer might be a useful trick up the sleeve.
2. Filip Kostic: Rediscover your lost confidence
A year ago, the hard-working Serbian winger was one of the most reliable players on the team, and his contributions with assists were a welcome sight. These days, things aren’t so rosy, but I still believe he has a part to play for this team.
3. Moise Kean: Score a goal
What a strange year for Moise Kean: he’s looked and played pretty well, at least that’s the feeling I get, but due to bad luck and VAR (or both) he’s got a big goose egg as far as his goal tally. I root for this kid and hope he gets the goal he deserves soon.
4. Andrea Cambiaso: Find consistency
The 23-year-old has, all things considered, impressed this year, but as with any younger player starting to break into the starting ranks of Juventus there are lingering growing pains, manifested mostly in erratic stretches of play. If Cambiaso can fix that, he might have a heck of a future at the club, as demonstrated by his absolute peach of a cross in the recent Napoli win.
5. Samuel Iling-Junior: Find a new home in your old home
I like Samuel Iling-Junior, and I respect the hell out of a young kid playing abroad and fighting for his spot, but with Allegri’s 3-5-2 approach there just isn’t a spot for him on the field right now. As much as I dislike the proposition, finding a new home for Iling-Junior in England might be the best solution for all parties involved.
6. The Americans: Will the real starter please stand up?
This isn’t so much of a resolution as a “please can you figure this out” request. Timothy Weah has not played regularly enough due to injury for me to really be able to assess whether he belongs on the team, and while I think Weston McKennie does offer a valuable skill set this year, I’m not convinced he’s a big part of the long-term project, either. More pressing, though, is who should be starting against what type of teams here and now. I hope one or both of these kids can make that clear.
7. Dusan Vlahovic: Watch lots of film of Jamie Vardy and Luis Suarez
The tale of Dusan Vlahovic has been an up-and-down one, and he probably won’t like my resolution, but here’s the reality: we are not Manchester City, and he’s not Erling Haaland. He’s not going to be getting immaculate service every time he steps into the box. He needs to put his head down, get his hand in the mud, and embrace the dirty work. You may hate Luis Suarez, but the guy was one of the best at holding the ball up and linking play. Jamie Vardy, still plying his trade in the Championship for Leicester City, is another stand-out hold-up player, but he embraces the counter-attacking role with gusto. If DV9 wants to evolve and thrive in this system, he needs to look to strikers who were the great purveyors of mayhem, connection, and running.
Given everything that has transpired at Juventus over the last year and a half, suffice it to say that the final five months of 2023 have, in terms of the squad’s performances and place in the table, probably been better than anyone could’ve imagined around here. Despite the slip-up against Genoa, Allegri’s men sit in second place with a 10-point gap over fifth place. There are enough points left the rest of the year for that to quickly dissolve, but right now we need to at least spend a moment being happy.
Whether that top-four spot remains steady, whether the team falters down the line, or whether the team can truly challenge a strong Inter side for the Scudetto might depend on one of these New Year’s resolutions.
Happy New Year, happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, happy anything else you and your loved ones might celebrate this time of year. And as ever: fino alla fine.