Finally the circus of the mercato -which always trends at the final turn towards musical chairs – comes to an end. The rumour mill put into neutral and the squads now settled.
Before I begin my analysis, as I try to remember to peek now and then towards the webcam on my macbook (set at on odd angle next to the desktop) to give the impression that I am somehow engaged with the zoom meeting from work involving 20 others, with my only true engagement focused on some discussion in private chat with a Man U fan regarding Smalling far more keen on remaining in Rome than joining the haphazard project underway in Manchester…I must briefly make reference to the controversy of the game that never was from Sunday eve.
I cannot stand De Laurentis. He has long presented himself as a human pufftoad with the vanity of a prize peacock. Simply incapable of avoiding any opportunity to create ugly confrontations to then stand on some invisible pedestal of moral high groundery that nobody can see but the man himself and a large section of the Partenopei fan-base.
The outpouring on social media and no doubt on the streets of Naples accusing Juve of all-sorts of dastardly, evil, shameful behaviour was as expected as regretful. And whilst I advise all juventini to avoid reacting to such idiocy, I have proven unable to do so myself…
Essentially as Andrea Agnelli has stated, we followed the rules. Napoli did not follow the rules.
If the state authorities banned Napoli from traveling, why did they not ban the other professional sides from traveling who were experiencing similar issues? This is where it becomes a more serious problem for the FIGC. Offering Napoli a way out of this – through allowing them to break the rules they agreed to follow – will certainly lead to other clubs requesting replays and similar treatment. The agreement between the clubs becomes worthless.
The league are stuck now. They either make an example out of Napoli or the whole system falls down.
Add to this the grisly rumours of De Laurentis potentially on friendly terms with the very state authorities who allegedly gave Napoli special treatment and the saga becomes yet another blight on the league as a whole. One which could so easily have been avoided by Napoli simply playing the match.
The irony of De Laurentis in his latest episode of how to shit in your own nest is that he seems to have no understanding of form. For this is a fine time to be playing Juve – new manager, coming off a poor performance in Rome – with his own squad in a splendid moment, playing great football and looking stronger every game…Need music to change my focus>>>
Right. Onto the mercato where we have certainly been active and hard at work, yet perhaps not as focused on solving the key squad issues as many would have liked.
(all the above come from transfermarket.com)
If the above collection of transfers are to be assumed within the same budget period, we have fared very well in regards to such a high turnover of players leading to a net loss of approximately EU14m. Which is unlikely to cause us to move deeper into any collision path with the FFP crowd. Not that they have any real fangs…as the overseer heinous mega fiends of Man City demonstrated.
Curious to see Mr Mandrake aka Rolando Mandragora purchased by the club. For a cut price $10.7m likely due to the double ACL tear the centrocampista suffered in June of this year (expected back early 2021). A damn shame given his form, experience and fitting the aim of rejuvenating our squad.
Originally signed for 9m (Genoa) in 2015, loaned to Pescara, Crotone and Udinese between 2016-18, sold for 20m (Udinese), and now resigned for 10.7m, possibly 16m and left on loan at Udinese for 1-2 years.
I mentioned the discount – as part of the sale last year was for us to retain a buy back clause of 26m between the Summer just past and similar period next year.
Rolando is a player I have long held out forlorn hope to see in our pattern of black and white. Captain of the Italy U21 for a fair while, highly experienced in Serie A (103 games) and had broken briefly into La nazionale. A wealth of experience for a 23 year old. And given we have struggled to find any solid regista since Pirlo and Marchisio left the club, it seemed ideal to have a young italian developing in that precise role.
The investment made of late however, is less leaning towards a future at Juve, and more towards the expectation he will recover and his value will rise. Still…it appears we will have the option to consider him over the next two seasons.
Keeping on track with young, italian players who appear to fit the needs of our squad and system, I must mention Luca Pellegrini, who at 21 years of age with 40+ appearances in the top flight, great energy, enthusiasm and pace in the final third was loaned to Genoa for the season. After showing in the one friendly match played that he could be a good fit for Pirlo’s system.
Such lack of confidence Pirlo has in De Sciglio ( who has since been loaned to Lyon) and even the youth team player Frabotta, that he has trialed Juan Cuadrado for that role in Sandro’s absence. The Colombian is as often hapless as a RWB or even as a RW as he is valuable in those roles as a squad player. Given the obvious concerns of the LB/LWB options, it made zero sense to send Pellegrini out on loan.
And yet, a quick peek at his agent clears the mist – RAIOLA. Whose influence at the club remains strong as it has long been and will remain, for his relationship with Nedved and of course his business relationship with one of our prized assets in De ligt. Yet whose asset is the dutchman really? Ours or Raiola’s? I wouldn’t like to get deeper into that pondering…
The fullback positions, utilised in what we have seen so far in Pirlo’s larval development of the side, are pivotal. They as regularly move up the field to create overloads in the final third as drop back to make up a 4 at the back as required. This hybrid role of support at all positions on the flank is the modern wing-back. With a strong emphasis on the offensive front. No better examples I have see in recent years than Robertson and Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool.
The decision to move on De Sciglio will be supported by many and I can understand why yet disagree with that sentiment. Because for me, I would feel more comfortable having another natural FB in the squad, for now we have just the two Brazilians.
Sandro , whose form the last two seasons has been quite poor and we hope can be improved in the new setup, and Danilo who has looked more comfortable operating as a RCB in a back 3.
Juan Cuadrado is not a natural RWB let alone versatile enough to learn the positioning to play comfortably in this role on the other flank.
Kulu was trialed there against Roma and it was a failure from the start to finish which came as no surprise to me and many others, for the form which saw us invest the money, and the player earn the Young Player of the Yera award for the league was as a RWF operating much higher up the field. Admittedly he was regularly deployed as a central AM for youth teams, but almost all of his career to date at senior level is as a RWF. This is not the same role as a wing back.
The same concern – of Pirlo experimenting with players naturally at their best in the final third as deep wide men covering the whole flank – is now potentially magnified by the delayed 60m purchase of Federico Chiesa…another young, very offensive and fairly talented player who has shown his best form in the top flight as a RWF and even often as a striker. Not as a wing back. (I am no fan of this move, at this exorbitant cost, at this time, but will get behind the player and wish him amazing success now that he is with the club.)
Arthur appears from the early impressions given on the field a fine signing. Quick thinking, press resistant, swift in movement and delivery and gaining fitness. Too early to tell what his role will be though my suspicions are that the Brazilian alongside Bentancur will offer the strongest mix of technique, hustle and potential dominance in the middle.
Which isn’t to say that I have not been encouraged by McKennie and the continuation of Rabiot’s improved form from the tail end of last season. For the American appears a great injection of youthful exuberance, high octane hustle and aerial potency. And the frenchman is dynamic, grisly physical and only lacking any consistent output in the final third.
Mckennie also comes across as likeable, which is important to me. As I enjoy feeling that the players have characters I can admire and relate to. Which matters little to many but there remains for me a sense which may be by now long gone yet still I continue to feel a certain pride in the idea of the club somehow thriving as a family….
I see the ideal pivot – if Pirlo’s early conclusions of our best strategy set as 2 CMs is to continue – as one of more trusted physicality and smart hustle aligned with creativity and press resilience. And some may have forgotten, or simply disagree that Rodrigo Bentancur was our finest CM of last campaign. No doubt on that score in my mind. To then consider who is potential the more technical, creative element to combine with the Uruguayan’s natural skillset…I suspect most would agree that this is likely to be Arthur.
Up top, many questions must wait to be answered….
The return of Alvaro Morata was met more emotionally than mentally, for I remember how I was sad to see him leave and yet have not fully forgotten the cynical analysis of his last stint suggesting his mentality may be too fragile to ever become truly the determined win at all costs champion we need to lead the line. This may still be true, although he has not exactly fared appalling and been proven a poor player since leaving the club.
It would be ridiculous to make any judgement on his one appearance so soon after stepping off the plane and training alone for a day or two with zero familiarity with his new (and old) team-mates. It would have suited us more to have taken back young Kean and assuaged concerns that our new CF might be a starter and add more complexity to how our front line offensive outfit may settle into a regular shape and look. Although it appears we did try to bring Moise home but he made the decision to aim for a new adventure in Paris and who can blame him given how we treated him? Does our approach now lead to the conclusion that Morata was our third choice?
As it stands, we have no idea who will become the main starters, if that is even to be the case, for Pirlo may wish to regularly rotate in the final third, midfield and wherever seems right in response to what he finds on the training field between matches.
What we do have in the spaniard is a very capable header of the ball, an unselfish runner who can finish, a team player who has shown his affection for the club previously and apparently taken a sizable pay cut to return. In the least he provides us with the option of a focal point in the 18 yard box, able to draw defenders away for others to utilise the channels to goal that emerge.
My main concern of his arrival is how it affects playing time and position for La Joya. Who is the closest I feel we have found to a true bandiera since Del Piero. And I cannot help but stay one step away from concluding that we have wasted his talents more than he has failed to show them on a regular basis.
Where will he play? Yet that is another discussion entirely. I will be happy enough to see him back and moving towards match sharpness after a fair lay-off.
Kulu is arguably the most interesting addition to the squad. And by current standards, he could well turn out to be the best piece of business the much maligned Paratici has managed. For the giant Swede has long looked an exceptional talent. What role he ends up with in the squad will become apparent in due course and whilst I am very much against fielding him as a RWB, making that judgement on the basis of one game seems hysterical. Although it must be said that he was sparkling for Parma last season as a RWF, not as a RWB, which I am sure Pirlo understands.
Gianluca Frabrotta has earned a place in our CL squad, which pleases me and offers hope that more of the youth talent in the ranks may well be given opportunity to not just train with the first team squad but become involved. This is long overdue.
Overall the signings are all positive. Only the RB/RWB position seems the obvious absence on the incoming sheet of new recruits and perhaps Pirlo sees Danilo as able to deputise in that role so it is not as if we are not covered.
The average age of the squad has been hugely reduced, the wage bill also has been well trimmed and as the balance sheets high above confirms, we have made more money than many assume.
The management had a job too great to get 100% right in the short space of time allowed. Credit is given for removing much of the dead wood, although the pesky Khedira sloth remains steadfast in his demands to receive his full wages. Which will be ever the more irritating if he does receive this then signs on big wages elsewhere soon after. Still, that is his prerogative and I am against keeping a player in the squad who we do not need and cannot be relied upon, so no U23 duty, just pack his bags with gold and quietly usher him to the airport.
One of those leaving on loan I am most pleased to see go is Little Doug Costa, who sometimes appears a distant relative of Skeletor, as Rivaldo also used to resemble to my peculiar mind. Costa is more goblin however, in look and in nature.
His attitude has long bothered me. As have his fitness issues. His time at Juve has been a waste of money and time and the manner in which he lost the ball in the victory of Samp, then just walked away leaving other players to give chase convinced me that he has not at all changed his ways. We do not need players with that poor mentality in the ranks, they are bad for morale and offer incentive to the opposition.
The brazilian too often appears not far beyond playing a friendly game on the beach with his pals, eager for tricks and fancy flicks and rarely suggesting any serious steel in his spirit. As to why Munich have taken him off our hands, I have no idea as they seem very well stocked in the very areas Little Doug likes to prance and dazzle to deceive. Still, it is rarely prudent to question good fortune too deeply, better to just enjoy it and hope for the best.
One player who remains a conundrum of sorts is Freddy Bernardeschi. Such promise shown in Florence but since moving to Piedmont, his form has been on the steady decline culminating in me deeming him a non-footballer in the latter stages of the last season such was his constant ineptitude.
Has this staggering decline come from too much shape shifting in duties and system? Does he lack the mindset and confidence in his ability to perform at a high level consistently? Might he be just the trick for one of the wide roles to revive and prosper?
The last question is the most curious, for he certainly has the engine, just no natural defensive zeal, poor positional awareness and far from any renown for creative zeal in the final third! Still, the stage is set for him to be given further chance to impress.
I have only delved into the top-soil of the mercato routine, and each move highlighted could produce a separate piece in itself, though had at the back of my mind this conclusion that we are facing a season of unknowns not just with our tactics, and new recruits and manager, but also with the format and nature of the competition domestically and beyond.
Given the mega upheaval in the game and world as a whole, I feel we have fared well enough in the mercato. Certainly some progress and the squad is as Andrea Agnelli wanted – rejuvenated. How Pirlo can now learn to coach and find a system to get anywhere near the potential out of this squad will be exciting to witness and follow.
What is most important to bear in mind, if not heart, is that we are starting a new project. Which will need patience as there will be failures, mistakes and yet hopefully Pirlo – alongside the injection of youth – will bring us excitement and not just rejuvenate the squad but begin working towards a new side, a new identity.
The future looks interesting…
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