Following up with our season-ending Juventus grades, we now take a look at the forwards. And like pretty much every other position group, they had a mixed bag of a season.
As I analyze this group, I can only think of two things:
- Goddamn, did Juventus struggled to score — 44 goals by players in this position group and only one of them with over 10 scores;
- And how many big names but little production they got out of them.
This was a season defined by expectations and — for the most part — their failure to reach or exceed those expectations. Because of that, it is my opinion that the final season grades should reflect that notion. With that in mind, these grades are not, in a vacuum, who had the better year but more according to the expectation and level of talent these guys had and whether or not they lived up to them.
We are going to go from most to least minutes played - counting all competitions - as well as make note of counting stats and appearances.
Dusan Vlahovic – 5.5
42 appearances, 2,945 minutes played, 14 goals, 4 assists
This was probably the hardest grade of the bunch because there are so many ways you can look at it and come away feeling differently.
For a guy that cost Juventus over €80 million in last winter’s transfer window who was playing in his first full season for the team, 14 goals are a pretty underwhelming total. Then again, he’s still clearly the most talented striker on the team and was playing in a system that was far from one that serves his best traits as an attacker.
You also have to take into account that there were a number of times this season in which the team looked just plain better with somebody like Arek Milik in the lineup, and Vlahovic was completely anonymous in more games than you would like for a supposed star striker. The injury bug also kept him out of a big stretch of games that weirdly coincided with some of the best football Juventus played all season.
Should Vlahovic get credit for leading the team in goals despite the tactics and lack of service? Or should we expect and demand more of a guy that many people think is a franchise player?
Let’s put it this way: If you look at Alvaro Morata’s last season at Juventus under Max Allegri, it looks awful similar to what Vlahovic just authored and that was under the exact same coach in a team with similar deficiencies. Considering Morata is the definition of good not great striker, I think it’s fair to expect more of a guy with the price tag and talent of Vlahovic, regardless of whatever system he is in.
Also, this moment against Empoli:
Henderson a Vlahovic:— Alessandro (@90ordnasselA) May 22, 2023
“Uuh 80 milioni oh”
I’m sorry, but once you start getting punked like that against Empoli — of all teams — you are just going to get a failing grade, them’s the breaks.
I’m far from calling him a bust or demand he be sold this summer. There’s plenty of reason to still think he has everything to be a perennial 30-plus goal scorer for Juventus, but hopefully next season brings more of what the board envisioned when they signed him to that massive transfer than the guy who showed up for large stretches of this year.
If he’s still a Juventus player, of course.
Angel Di Maria – 6.5
40 appearances, 2,248 minutes, 8 goals, 7 assists.
Many people — myself included — were skeptical of this signing when it was first announced last summer.
A huge salary for a 35-year-old guy who was openly flirting with going back to his home country and retiring? How much can El Fideo, at this point in his career, move the needle for Juventus?
Well, for a stretch there Di Maria kept this team alive almost singlehandedly as he showed he still had something left in the tank. The showcase against Nantes in the Europa League alone was proof of how much of a difference maker he could be, and for a while it seemed that Juve should look into giving another year to their relationship.
It’s unfortunate that period of time was relatively short — maybe a month or two? — because other than that Di Maria struggled with either injuries or burn out as he tried to inject any measure of creativity for the side.
It probably speaks more to the incompetence of the Juve board and the managing rather than on Di Maria himself that he was often the team’s lone answer to trying to create offensive juice and that he simply wasn’t at a point in his career in which he could deliver that consistently anymore.
His highs were really high and his lows sort of mediocre enough for me to think he deserves a decent grade. Especially because there were many times in which he legitimately looked like the only world-class level player in the field. This is bittersweet one-and-done year for the Argentinian who I sure would have liked to see in a Juve kit about five or six years earlier than when it actually happened.
Arek Milik – 6
41 appearances, 2,252 minutes, 9 goals, 1 assist.
One of the more groan-inducing and underwhelming signings that I remember in recent Juve history. Literally not one Juve fan was excited when he was announced as a new signing and not entirely without reason.
Milik had flashes in his previous stint in Serie A, but he was coming off an injury marred, mediocre season in Ligue 1 as a Marseille player and there was no real expectation that he would do a lot more than that as a Juventus player.
The injuries were definitely there — like almost every single Juve player— but his performance was significantly better than what many expected. He was the third-highest goal scorer of the team and an ultimate professional. He was gritty, tough and made a difference even when he wasn’t getting a ton of chances. Unfortunately, his form dipped drastically in the second half after a flexor injury in his leg kept him away for most of the months of February and March.
He gets a passing grade mostly due to the infinitely lower expectations than almost anyone had of him when the signing was announced. He wasn’t a superstar, but he didn’t need to be for him to call this season a relatively decent one.
Federico Chiesa – 6.5
33 appearances, 1,483 minutes, 4 goals, 6 assists.
This grade might just be a bit high, but considering the catastrophic injury he was coming back from, how many minutes he ended up playing and that he showed enough flashes of his old self despite being played out of position almost exclusively, I feel compelled to give him a slight bump.
We know that Chiesa can still be a significantly better player than what he showed in the 2022-23 season. But it seems like we forget how brutal it is for players to recover from ACL injuries. Medical advancements have made it that it’s not necessarily a career-ending injury like it was before, but that doesn’t mean that guys just come back and look exactly the same — especially for someone like Chiesa who relies so much on speed and physicality in his game.
(Pour one out for Claudio Marchisio, who was never quite the same after a very similar injury pretty much ended his career.)
This was always going to be a year about looking for good signs that he can make a comeback more than anything else, and while there were definitely a lot of rusty moments for Chiesa, there was enough there for me to think that with another summer of rehab and ramping up — and God willing a switch to a formation that can use him as a winger — he can go back to his old self.
Moise Kean – 5
40 appearances, 1,439 minutes, 8 goals, 0 assists.
I was shocked to see how many appearances Kean had this season and how many of them were little more than cameos at the end of games.
There are times where Kean still shows glimmers of becoming the striker we thought he could become when he broke pnto the scene as a teenager a few seasons ago. He’s tremendously explosive on the ball and a legit threat in the air. As a counterattacking striker, he has the ability to position himself in front of goal and win spaces against defenders in order to give himself shooting chances is remarkable as well.
Unfortunately, he is also one of the more maddening strikers I’ve seen wear a Juventus shirt. He is good to miss at least one sitter per match and a lot of what he does well — ie. positioning — is completely wasted by his lack of finishing skills. He’s also prone to boneheaded plays that belong more to a rookie getting his feet wet for the first time rather than someone who already has a decent amount of caps under his belt.
Kean is still young, but it’s already borderline no longer possible to keep calling him a prospect. Progress is never linear and there is no telling what type of player he will eventually end up being, but until he can sort out the rough edges of his game, he will continue to be more of a squad rotation player rather than a legitimate top of the line attacker.
Matias Soule – 6
19 appearances, 1,029 minutes, 1 goal, 0 assists.
The one big thing I look for when young guys are starting to get senior level minutes is whether or not they look like they belong. Sure, the decision making is not always going to be there yet and they are usually a few pounds of muscle away from being able to win with physicality alone but the signs are always there for a guy that is not out of his depth.
Soule, for the most part, was up to the task. While most of his appearances came as a substitute late in games, he accumulated a decent amount of starts for a guy breaking into the senior team. Like I mentioned above, he was definitely way more deferential to his teammates than he should have and that cost him more often than not, but he showed more than enough to indicate that with more seasoning he can play with the big boys.
I think he did enough this year to give himself another shot at cracking the rotation and start to get significant minutes like his Next Gen brethren Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti have done, but a loan spell wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either considering how much good than did to a guy like Fagioli or Nicolo Rovella.
Either way, an encouraging first season at the senior level for a guy that we should keep an eye on for the future.