Nearing the halfway point of the 2023-24 Serie A campaign, Juventus are in an interesting position. A good position, certainly. But also an interesting position. If you’re Max Allegri and Cristiano Giuntoli, is your primary aim for the rest of the year mounting a challenge to Inter for the Scudetto? Or are you already looking ahead to next year, laying the foundation for the future of the club? Or, as is probably the case, are you trying to do a little bit of both?
There is grinta in this Juventus, and there’s energy. The 6-1 clobbering of Salernitana demonstrated as much, and perhaps a little more. Timothy Weah opened his scoring account with one of the best long-range shots I’ve seen from a Bianconero in a long time. Andrea Cambiaso was arguably the best player on the pitch. Federico Chiesa was damage incarnate. More and more.
This Juventus, apparently, is not merely corto muso; she can win in other ways, too. The Coppa Italia win, though, did little to answer the many questions surrounding the roster and the club. If I were Max and Giuntoli, I’d already have an eye (or even two) to next year. With that in mind, there are three pressing questions that ought to be answered before the season’s end.
1. How good is Kenan Yildiz — and how good can he be?
The kid from Turkey is good, and that’s exciting as hell.
Between Yildiz in Turin and Matias Soule at Frosinone, the Old Lady seemingly — I say “seemingly” simply because both players, no matter their promise, are still very green in reality — has two explosive offensive playmakers at her disposal, and outside of a top-flight midfielder (or six), creative playmakers have been the most dire need lately.
Yildiz, though, still hasn’t logged a substantial amount of minutes. Every time he has played, of course, he’s making that harder to stay the case. The problem is that someone else is going to get robbed if Allegri keeps a firm grasp on the 3-5-2. It may be Chiesa, it may be Dusan Vlahovic, it may be a backup striker like Moise Kean hardly seeing the field, but someone is going to pay. This isn’t an easy problem to solve. I am personally of the opinion there are only so many teams against which a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2 would be viable without exposing the vulnerable underbelly of the Juventus midfield.
2. Which wingbacks are worth retaining?
Holy wingbacks, Batman!
We’ve got Cambiaso, Weah, Filip Kostic, and a couple of players who probably aren’t wingbacks but who have played in the position to some degree of success — i.e. Samuel Iling-Junior and Weston McKennie. Unless you pull a Simone Inzaghi and substitute both wingbacks every single game after 55 or 60 minutes, you probably don’t need this many hovering around. Cambiaso is the one on fire as of late, and Weah finally (finally) showed us what he’s capable of on the offensive side of things, but there are still conundrums and questions here. Is Kostic too predictable and too awkward of a fit with Chiesa? Is Iling-Junior (or Weah for that matter) too much of a true winger to be a good long-term fit? Yet another quagmire.
3. How much money is Adrien Rabiot worth?
Ah, our fearless French vice-captain Rabiot.
The midfielder was a maelstrom last year, and he’s certainly had his moments this year, but in many regards he has come back down to earth a little bit. While the Rabiot-Juventus romance has been nice, and while Allegri’s development of Rabiot has gone criminally under-covered, I am starting to wonder if this relationship has run its course. I don’t doubt for a second that Rabiot would (understandably) jump at a higher contract offer if or when were to come this offseason, so the question then becomes how much Juventus should offer. Not for me to decide, of course, but I’d caution at going overboard, even knowing what he has brought to the table.
There are, of course, many more questions surrounding the Old Lady than these three, but these are the three that come to mind as actually answerable questions with the remaining slate of games. The midfield problem continues to outweigh the rest, but figuring out the Frenchman’s future is the first domino that will fall with that unit.
Juventus enjoy four more mid- or low-table opponents in the coming weeks before another game with Inter. After those five games, we might be able to truly tell whether a Scudetto challenge is possible or not; if not, I would love to see extended playing time for some of the players around whom these questions swirl.