Despite all the change, all the chaos, and all the unknown, there is one great certainty anchoring Juventus right now: Paul Pogba not being healthy enough for meaningful minutes. The fancy-dressing Frenchman on a flamboyant salary has done very little to nothing since his (re)arrival in Turin other than do cool handshakes on social media. But where one door closes, another opens.
Until Pogba can contribute regular, substantial minutes, Fabio Miretti, subject once again to rumors about a loan departure after having recently renewed his contract, should stay at the club. It’s as simple as that.
Adrien Rabiot, Manuel Locatelli, and Nicolo Fagioli look to begin the campaign at the top of the pecking order. Behind that trio, Nicolo Rovella is really the only thing anywhere near a sure bet as far as a warm body goes, but we have no idea what he’ll bring to the table once the games get going.
Beyond that there are only questions: Is there really a possibility of Weston McKennie staying? Is the young Turkish player Kenan Yildiz, who is allegedly making quite the impression during the preseason, a long shot to make the roster? Is it only a matter of time before the arrival of Franck Kessie?
One has to make a lot of assumptions for it to make sense sending Miretti out on loan. Here’s why that would be a mistake.
Common sense and handy insurance
Retaining Miretti simply makes sense.
The number of immediate questions surrounding this unit is far too great to ship off a player who has been mostly reliable in his (for his age) fairly substantial amount of first-team minutes. Miretti turns 20 on Aug. 3, and he’s logged all this first-team time at a remarkably young age. I understand the desire to get the kid first-team minutes, but you have to take a little hop (if not a full leap) of faith to assume Miretti wouldn’t be getting a good chunk of playing time this fall.
Let’s assume that Juventus do, in fact, add Kessie (or a midfielder of similar ilk, one who probably would start over Miretti). That would leave four players ostensibly ahead of Fabio: Rabiot, Locatelli, Fagioli, and Kessie. Of that group, the latter would be completely new, and Fagioli and Locatelli can both be prone to a little inconsistency. Add to this the possibility of injury, the need for high-quality substitutes, and the need for different attributes matching up to different opponents, to mention the need to rotate players now and then, and it’s more than a little surprising to me that the club would even consider sending him away.
It’s much easier to imagine disaster striking: What if Juventus add Kessie, but he fits like Denis Zakaria? What if Rabiot gets hurt? What if Locatelli regresses? One of these would be difficult for the midfield to overcome without Miretti; two of these would mean someone like Danilo is having to play in the midfield. Not ideal. Miretti offers a very dependable, in-house insurance policy to a disaster scenario like this.
Following Fagioli: the art of not screwing up
Here are the steps a youngster takes to make his presence felt in the first team at Juventus:
- Show flashes of promise sporadically
- Show flashes of promise regularly
- Don’t screw up in glaring fashion
- Struggle through a string of games without being noticed at all, i.e. play with some consistency even if you’re not on your best run of form
For a side coached by Max Allegri, step No. 4 is kind of the pinnacle of what you can offer — and I’m not sure Miretti has quite gotten there. We’ve seen his compatriot Fagioli follow all of these steps in a really impressive manner. The ability to play a series of games, to stay healthy during that stretch, and to hold your space on the field, do what you need to do, even if you’re not able to show off your full repertoire of skills, is honestly an underrated ability. Being a plug-and-play player like Filip Kostic is very, very valuable.
Fagioli is starting to show he can do this, and we’ve seen the 22-year-old build confidence by moving through this phase to the point where he now intelligently inserts his creativity without sacrificing his position on the field. I believe Miretti will get to this point, and possibly past it, this year, especially if he stays at the club. The minutes and games he has already logged speak to Allegri’s confidence in the player, and if the club can offer him consistency in the black and white stripes, I think that’s the best-case scenario.
“I always prefer to play mezzala to drop deep and advance between the lines,” Miretti said in a recent interview. “I also like to play around on the pitch and play with my teammates.”
Indeed, this has always been my favorite part of Miretti’s game. Although Fagioli has been more consistent to this point — remember, too, that he’s two and a half years older than Fabio — I’ve noted over and over again that I think Miretti has a more creative, intangible sense for those spaces between the lines. He finds the soft spots. I know Miretti has remarked in the past that Kevin De Bruyne is a player he emulates, and while he’s miles off from the Belgian in pretty much every regard — like most midfielders on the planet — you can see little inklings of where he wants to go.
I think Juventus and Allegri should give Miretti this chance here in Turin. Without European football, of course, there are fewer games on the slate, but given the luck (or whatever you want to call it) the Old Lady has had with injuries over the last few seasons, given the Pogba situation, and given the unknown of every player after Rabiot, Locatelli, and Fagioli, I think keeping Miretti is the wisest move.
In a worst-case scenario — i.e., a best-case scenario — Juventus acquire Kessie, who is good; Pogba gets better; Rovella impresses; nobody gets hurt; and Miretti, as a consequence of this and the lack of European fixtures, gets pushed down the depth chart, at which point the club could loan him out to someone in need of a midfielder in January.
But for now: keep Miretti.