Snow and sniffles and the post-holiday malaise of sliding back into a routine: the second half of winter is here. I am at this moment about as lethargic and in need of long rest as my dear friend Sergio was ebullient in his Grab Bag.
Alas, despite the inclement weather, and despite whatever is running through my system, I shall here write down three things I’ve been thinking about recently with Juventus, in this strange and wonderful season. This piece might not quite be a Michael Jordan flu game, but it’s an attempt to create a bit of cogency in the face of nature’s conspiring.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
1. A 4-3-something seems inevitable next year
Let’s flash forward a few months to this summer when, theoretically, Juventus will be retooling its roster to make a serious crack at the Scudetto while also mounting a reentry campaign to the Champions League. The primary attack will consist of Federico Chiesa, Kenan Yildiz, Dusan Vlahovic, and Arkadiusz Milik; if you add Mattias Soule returning to the fold, as well as players who fit more as true wingers than wing-backs — Samuel Iling-Junior, Timothy Weah, and arguably even Filip Kostic — I think a 4-3-3 starts to make more sense than a 3-5-2. Maybe Kean returns from a loan spell, too. There are also fairly strong smoke signals that Juventus are pursuing Felipe Anderson, another winger (though he can play most attacking positions).
Even without factoring in Anderson or any other attacking additions, if you assume Juventus do move to a 4-3-3 the depth looks fairly impressive:
Striker: DV9, Milik, Kean
Right wing: Chiesa, Weah, Soule
Left wing: Yildiz, Iling-Junior, Kostic
If that’s not the most dangerous-looking attack Juventus have fielded in years, then my name is Diggity Don Davidson.
There are two big, dumb, obvious ifs. Juventus need to figure out who can truly play as a left center back, and Juventus need to strengthen the midfield. But if you’re looking to put your best attackers on the pitch in their natural positions, a 4-3-3 is the way to do it.
2. Juventus took care of the soft underbelly of the schedule in a way they haven’t in years
No big revelation or insight here, but in recent years Juventus have absolutely shot themselves in the foot, repeatedly, with a 12-guage, when it came to lower-table Serie A sides. Last year it was Monza; Sassuolo and Genoa always seem to give the Bianconeri fits, too.
Juventus entered this year’s soft portion of the schedule in a precarious place: getting results and looking comfortable toward the top of the table. After the Inter game at the end of November, I looked at the next couple months and felt a sense of dread, felt that this would be the exact sort of time that Juventus would decide to implode and regress to the disastrous mean of the last couple of years.
I was wrong. The opposite has happened. The lads have one eight out of nine games and are a remarkable 16 points above fifth place. There are still two lesser sides left before the schedule gets consistently serious, so we’re not quite out of the woods yet on games that we should win, but still. It’s been a damn good sight.
3. Mattias Soule will be the sacrificial lamb for a new midfielder
And now to amend the hopeful first thought of that glorious-looking attack in a 4-3-3: I have the sense that Soule, with the rise of Yildiz, will be sold.
The young Argentine does magical things with the football, and he’s bagged an impressive number of goals in an impressive number of ways for his loan club, but Cristiano Giuntoli is not going to be given carte blanche this summer; a sale or two will probably needed to get the reinforcements required for the midfield. It might be Iling-Junior, it might be Soule, it might be Chiesa, I don’t know. But my Spider-Sense is tingling and saying that we’ll never have the joy of watching Soule suit up in the black and white stripes.
By the gods, this season has been an absolutely lovely campaign by Max Allegri and the lads. I for one do not care much how we win, and as exciting as these recent thrashings have been I am certain that the Old Lady will return to her other customary weapon — the corto muso — soon. But like I said in my last piece, I am of the opinion that regardless of sport most great teams, and certainly the ones that become true dynasties, are able to win games and string together victories not because they win in one particular way over and over again, but precisely because they can get results in different ways.
We’re seeing a lot of promising things happen. I don’t mind the lack of activity this January; given the very real financial constraints and the consistent record of results, I don’t see the need to stretch at this moment. Get the top-four spot, get to the summer, and get Giuntoli rolling.