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Juventus 2022-23 Season Ratings: The Center Backs

We continue our annual season ratings with the players who form the backbone of the team

Danilo Luiz da Silva (R) of Juventus FC shakes hands with... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Six weeks and nine games into the season and Juventus were already in trouble in the Champions League and stumbling in Serie A. Two wins, four draws and three losses told their own story, but it was how poorly the Bianconeri were playing that had the alarm bells ringing.

The following three paragraphs have been lifted from last season’s review, and still applied during this campaign as well, almost to the letter:

However, as Juve faltered right out of the gate to begin the 2021-22 season, it looked like chairman Andrea Agnelli had made a big, big mistake. The Bianconeri suddenly looked even more incompetent defending than before, with players making uncharacteristic errors and gifting opponents goals like Halloween candy.

Allegri pleaded for patience and eventually got the black and white bus back on track, but there was a feeling that the entire side was always just a silly error away from calamity, which did rear its ugly head time and again this season.

In particular, Juve’s lack of pace throughout the side was laid bare for the world to see. It was mostly in possession that they tended to get caught, with poor positioning contributing to the precarious situation that proved itself over and over again. The Bianconeri defence often got caught out by teams with a quick transition game, but that was not the only problem as Allegri’s insistence on parking the bus once the team had the lead in the second half invited more and more pressure heaped on the backline.

Despite adding last season’s top defender in Serie A in Gleison Bremer and the highly-touted Federico Gatti, the backline continued to look porous even as Allegri didn’t help matters shifting formations and putting players in suboptimal positions. Age, fatigue, off-field pressures and the aforementioned tactics all contributed to a season where they conceded big goals in big games to ensure we a second season without any silverware.

Zones of Control
Opta Analyst

Juventus came in 10th in PPDA (Passes per Defensive Action), typifying Allegri’s insistence that the team press early on when the game was level and then fall back into a low block when protecting a lead late on. Overall, a mostly average Bianconeri side failed to really show mastery on the pitch, and it came as no surprise that they looked toothless when taking on any top sides in Italy, and against European opposition as well.

In this review we’ll take a look at the centre back position, which thanks to the back-three formation had a couple of fullbacks counted among the ranks as well.

Juventus v US Lecce - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Leonardo Bonucci — 4

Hard to call this anything but a wasted season for the veteran defender, missing over 20 games due to a variety of injuries and illnesses.

Named the club captain in the wake of Giorgio Chiellini’s departure, the 36-year-old only featured in 26 games and did little of note in that time. Bonucci recorded the lowest number of tackles per 90 minutes played of any defensive player, but conversely was among the leaders in blocks, interceptions and clearances for Juve.

Even when he played, he was upstaged as a vocal leader by Danilo and is a pale shadow of the Bonucci that formed the fearsome BBC defense that shut even the best attacks down. One of his biggest strengths over the years has been his passing range, but that too was only on limited display this season with his long-ball accuracy continuing to decline.

The fact that Bonucci is the second-highest earning player on the Juventus squad and is still signed for one more year is reflective of how poorly the club has been run. If the Italy international with 120 caps will have to make more than a dozen appearances next season then Juve will more likely than not find itself scrapping for a Europa Conference League berth and not in the reckoning for the title.

Juventus v AC Monza - Serie A Photo by Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Gleison Bremer — 7

First of all, Bremer needs a new shoe supplier. His Puma Future Ultimate football boots might have been fitted with fidget spinners instead of studs given how he spent his time on the pitch looking like Bambi on ice. And of course, he almost always happened to fall over when trying to defend a quick counter, which would then invariably end up in the back of the Juve net. Such was life this season.

Picking up the best defender in the league last season from cross-town rivals Torino after Matthijs de Ligt’s move to Bayern Munich seemed an astute move on paper, but Bremer looked at his most comfortable when in a low block defending the box from crosses flying in. Luckily for him, Allegri had Juve doing a lot of that, but whenever the Bianconeri tried to play more expansively, the gaps between the backline and the midfield became yawning chasms for opposing players to run into and wreak havoc.

Numbers-wise Bremer was good, making 43 appearances throughout the season though he missed games here and there with minor niggles as can be expected for someone who plays the game with as much physical intensity as the Brazilian does. The 26-year-old made his national team debut this season too, playing in two games in the World Cup as well.

He notched four goals this season, but for someone who gets in the favourable positions he does in front of goal from set pieces, you have to believe that there’s more to come for him.

Juventus v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Danilo — 6.5

In a season where he was often the calming influence on a ragtag bunch of players on the pitch, it was his leadership abilities that came to the fore more often than his versatility and durability as a footballer.

The Brazilian international was asked to line up as right back seven times and at left back once in his team-leading 54 appearances for Allegri this season. While Filip Kostic also played the same number of games, no one bettered Danilo’s 4,644 minutes played, with Adrien Rabiot over 400 minutes behind, and Bremer a further 400 minutes back.

Danilo doesn’t offer too much going forward but still managed to bag three goals, all of them key to Juventus’ unaltered 72-point total. Defensively, he was top or else close to the top in most metrics. It was no surprise that he was offered a two-year extension as this season drew to a close, though it will remain to be seen if his aging legs will slow down even further next campaign.

A lot of Danilo’s failings also happen to be the shortcomings of the Juventus defence as well. Too often it was his forays upfront that saw the team unbalanced in the defensive phase, especially against quicker teams. One does wonder what will become of him in a four-man backline, as he is really neither a fullback nor does he have the defensive rigour to play as a centre back.

FC Internazionale v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images

Federico Gatti — 8

In a season where there was precious little to be cheerful about, the emergence of the cat certainly made many happy. The central defender was plucked from the obscurity of Frosinone in Serie B and slowly worked his way to contention under Allegri, eventually becoming one of the first names on the team sheet towards the end of the campaign.

Tough to beat and rugged, Gatti is like a leaner version of Andrea Barzagli, but with the same hunger for the tackle that all the best Italian defenders seem to be born with. This was the 24-year-old’s first season in a top-flight league and he acquitted himself very well, even popping up with crucial goals in the first leg games in both the quarter-final and semi-final of the Europa League as he ended up making 27 appearances.

Gatti spent a lot of time on the bench to begin the season but can be considered one Allegri’s few successes and will only get better from here. He looks equally comfortable on the right side of a three-man backline or as the right-sided centre back in a four-man setup, strong in the air and difficult to brush off.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Daniele Rugani — 6

As a second- or third-choice backup defender, Rugani was never going to get significant minutes for Juventus. He’s certainly reached his ceiling and looks quite satisfied to sit on Juve’s bench as a 28-year-old, which does say a lot about his motivations.

He does just about everything decently enough, without being particularly good or bad at anything. One suspects Rugani is the kind of player who would probably play better given a stretch in the first team, but given that none of his eight starts came in consecutive games, he never got that opportunity this season.

Rugani is a year away from the end of his contract, and you have to wonder if the Bianconeri wouldn’t be better served with some younger talents getting his 700-odd minutes without having to shell out his hefty wages.

FC Internazionale v Juventus FC - Coppa Italia Semi Final Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Alex Sandro — 4.5

Where do we even start with this liability? His theatrics convinced no one, his legs are gone, defensively he’s a mess and he’s making more than Danilo and Manuel Locatelli combined every week. He was expected to be gone at the end of the season but the club triggered an automatic clause in his contract that extended his term by one more season, and is emblematic of how dysfunctional this football club has become.

Juventus’ failure to sign an established left back has meant Sandro getting a lot more game time as both left back and left-sided centre back, and he’s been equally hapless at both roles. Often Allegri has been forced to go into a back-three to shoehorn both Sandro and Kostic into the side, and then throw Samuel Iling-Junior into the fray as a substitute when a solid left back would have prevented exactly that scenario.

Whether it’s watching him getting beat in the air by four-foot-nothing Ademola Lookman or falling to the ground when touched by the magnetic field of any opposing player, he is certainly worth his weight in gold as a footballing parody act. That Allegri chooses to trot him out on the pitch week after week only proves that the coach is little more than a circus ringmaster at this point of his career.