Squad matters

By TGP, 13 July 2021

No doubt like many with some italian blood flowing through their veins you are recovering from the carnival of tension, hope, fear and ultimate glory from this morning…the wake-up alarm at 443am was met with eyelids hard to unglue and after that first half they really did not want to open any further. Replacing the exhausted, spent force of Barella with Cristante did the trick though…

Euro 2020: Chiellini, Bonucci and the Art of Defense - The New York Times

I will get onto and into Juve, but it remains Impossible for me to avoid any reference to the just finished EUROs, not solely because I thoroughly enjoyed the tournament and fell in love all over again with La Nazionale, but for myriad other reasons.

The aftermath continues to rumble on. And for me, its two fold, for I am very english indeed. Having spent much of my formative life in England, embraced the culture and have half of my crimson rivers flowing with anglo blood. The other half is of course sicilian. Which I only became aware of aged around 7, when surrounded in my market hick town in the garden of England by Taylors and Smiths and Browns and Richardsons and asking my mother what the devil was afoot??? In short, I demanded answers, had it explained that I was half italian. Which seemed then something exotic and added to my sense of something a little different in my nature to the bruisers around me. Perhaps I was projecting. Regardless, when the italia 90′ tournament erupted, Pavarotti and of course Toto Schillaci, I was a little older and part of a group of lads at school who gave me plenty of stick for being the daygo, the wop, the spic…It was then that I took on Juve, as so greatly did I embrace La Nazionale, that I needed a team, and liked their zebra stripes.

The goading of my peers was playful, only in more rugged circumstances did it emerge as some added reason for generally needless brutality, yet it all just furthered my interest, perhaps lit a fire latent within. All this has not led me to despise the England team (nor the English!). It is more a case of being somehow firmly in one camp, yet such was and remains my combative, cocky nature, I enjoyed England but was never quite accepted as one of their true fans by even my closest friends. Which was fine, as I wasn’t. Regardless, I have some patriotism, which could probably be better explained as a deep, unbreakable bond to my tribe. I suppose the best way to describe it would be that if it came to a War I would be in the trenches by my english brothers. And yet when it comes to football, I will always be a fan first and foremost of La Nazionale.

It proved therefore of no conflict to see the two sides meet in the final. My general stance is to cunningly mock the English national side, but this is more due to my love for my brothers back home, trademark wind-up merchant, as some friend would say ‘Danny is a great lad, i love him to bits, but when it comes to football, and Italy, he is a fucking nause’…I just cannot help myself. At the same time, when I read of contacts in the game via social media who are generalising all english fans, even all english people, into these narrow minded, pigeon holes, I get instantly on the defensive, as part of those barbs and slurs hits many of my most beloved of humans on Earth. And I suppose, also myself to some degree.

The media propaganda and control of the West is the strongest brain washing routine every created. It is far beyond whatever China or little Russia could manage. And it is laughable to think any differently, though many do. What has irked me considerably, throughout this tournament is the steady avalanche of generalized bullshit aimed at all the english fans by many who follow me, and who I follow in turn, and usually consider something close to friends. And when this bullshit comes mainly from either non italians, or those like me who have the blood but not the upbringing from growing in a different nation, it bothers me even more.

It is fair to suggest, and I agree fully, that some of the english media for football is appalling. Also that there remains a sizeable contingent of scum in the ranks. Yet I don’t bother watching the idiots, I watch more balanced members of that same mainstream. And just watched the end of the match on BBC, for some reference point. Linekar, Jenas, Shearer, Murphy…all paid dismayed, heart broken homage to Mancini and the Italian players. Only Rio Ferdinand stated otherwise, and to most english fans, Rio Ferdinand is a moron. Same goes for Gary Neville. I do not know his thoughts expressed, nor do I seek them, and he is a mong.

Maybe it is age, its certainly not some innate decency, but I do not paint millions as of a certain nature and mindset, due to the flurry of a handful of morons expressing their idiocy to a wide platform. That would be akin to me judging all Americans as if they were Donald Trump. Or judging all English as if they were Gary Neville. It is puerile, insulting and the domain of the mentally enfeebled…and a damn shame to find so many still spouting the same bullshit. I can only come to suspect it is for the attention, a modern banter which my sensitivity and love for many english fans is hurt by. And what some will do for attention is often too disturbing and disheartening to mention.

It is probable, that many who do cast these sweeping assertions, do not intend to mean ALL english fans, I get that. And some of the criticism I agree with. I just wish more would express themselves with a bit more care, aim more accurately at the intended target rather than apply sweeping statements which come across to a brit as insulting. I suppose I can be guilty of similar unintended insults when I grumble of the modern twitter fan who has a very different connection to the game than myself. Always something to learn eh!

On the other side of this realm of hyper sensitivity…I find a fair few of the English media scum. As I find many of the English wannabe pundits on social media cut from the same cloth. Add in Boris and the Queen. For fucks sake, tone it down. Then the scuffles outside the stadium. The rampage of those getting into the national stadium, and causing bother before, during, after…And the media gone into hyperdrive to focus more and direct attention to the ugliness, which is very much by design I fear.

There is a core minority of such scum who demand to cause horror, gain attention, for all the wrong reasons. I do not understand why Russia, which has a long term hooligan issue, as do many nations, was able to stage the world cup with zero problems. England were not officially ‘the host nation’, but plenty of games at home and for the final, why didn’t the police go monstrous, which would have avoided the horror that abounded../How could Russia do, what England could not??? Some suggest that the state in Russia bussed the main hooligans out of the venue cities for a holiday on the proviso that they cut any of their usual shit out…Why not eh? If that is what it takes.

As for the football…I thought and felt Italy deserved the title. They played with enthusiasm, on the front foot, with admirable and unwavering passion, heart, determination. Dealt with the loss of Spinazzola, adversity in the last two games, an onslaught of the Spanish, going a goal down in the final the the most powerful defensive side in the competition, in their own backyard.

Special moments for my old heart in the black and white corner for Chiellini, Bonucci and Chiesa. Even for Freddy B!

Its a new dawn for not only Italy, but also Spain, who look a tremendous side in the making. And also for England, who with a new manager to rebalance a little away from cautious towards playing to their attacking strengths, will make them better and stronger.

And now back to JUVE….

Cherubini: Juventus might have no summer transfers - Black & White & Read  All Over

It seemed likely before Cherubini made his press conference statement, that our natural eagerness, dreams and hopes for major changes to the squad were forlorn. The main reason for this is obviously our financial issues. The 400m capital injection is to cover losses and help with wages, NOT some mega transfer kitty to go out and buy Gosens, Pogba and Locatelli.

There is also another reason behind the likely quiet mercato, namely that the management consider the squad already of a high level which is in itself further suggestion that I was not the only one aghast at what I considered a coaching nightmare last season under Pirlo. We under achieved. Yet I am not writing to cast more scathing aspersions on Pirlo. I mention the perception of squad quality solely because I have long thought we were nowhere near the sum of our parts.

There is also another problem for Cherubini and Max to face, which is the amount of players in the squad on mega wages, some of whom we would rather move on. Ramsey, Ronaldo, Rabiot, Arthur, De Ligt…Even Bonucci. With the Ramsey-Rabiot pair exceptionally hard to move on, as who will take them at anywhere near their current wages? Similar story with Ronaldo, whose 55m gross wages is shackling the club and I do not yet feel convinced that he has brought into the club more money than he has and continues to cost us.

Add to this players like Rugani, Bernardeschi, De Sciglio who seem very hard to get out the club, and it becomes clear that beyond the financial concerns, we don’t have much space in the first team squad for new recruits, unless we move a few out.

GK

I think we are fine with Tek. Donnarumma would have been a superb addition, yet we simply don’t have the funds. When the corporation which owns Juve, Exor, has to bail out our debts for 400m, this should tell us all much of the reality of our finances, which aren’t pretty. The Pole did not enjoy the best of seasons, but neither did many others in the squad and I am comfortable to have him continue. I agree with others in that he lacks command of his area, but this is also instructive of the lack of leadership within our rearguard, which Chiellini, if he can stay fit, will provide. Perhaps Leo will take his Italy form back to Juve. And De Ligt, despite his lull in the last year, has leadership material in the fabric of his nature. Accepting Tek is not great at organising the back-line, he is in the least a very reliable shot stopper…

Pinsoglio is extended as the cheerleader which leaves us in need of a number two, who must be solid enough to be relied upon if called into the breach. Many names have been linked to the club and yet we need to find a buyer for Perin, else it will be the Italian reluctantly in the squad. It is unlikely, as he wants to leave and some compromise on the price can probably be made to suit all parties. Beyond which, I would like to see Audero return to be groomed as our potential future number one, though he will likely cost too much. Its a redundant position most of the time, but a serious injury to Tek makes its a pivotal position.

CB

Chiellini is close to certain to extend and can evidently still offer elite standard defending and leadership, yet probably cannot be relied upon regularly for the bulk of the season to come. I assume Max will opt for De Ligt and Bonucci with Chiellini swapping in and also one other…Perhaps Rugani gets stuck in there and finally improves. And what of Dragusin? In the U23s whilst also available and often training with the seniors? Or are we that desperate for cash that one of our finest youth talents is sold?

All seems fairly quiet on the Demiral front, though I would not be surprised to find him staying put and getting more game time under Max. And why not eh? He looked a superb prospect before Pirlo appeared on the scene.

LB

Sandro has long felt and looked jaded. He does not make many mistakes but has dropped to bang average in both phases in a period where fullbacks play a hugely important role in adding dangerous width high up the field. If the club are able to bring in a decent, younger LB to challenge and back-up then it will be certainly improving competition for a key area of the field where we are lacking. Rumours continue of Pellegrini potentially returning, yet his form elsewhere has been very poor. Frabrotta is still an option and I would be happy to see him given a chance during the Summer to impress, as there was definitely something energetic, quick, adventurous about his game, albeit in snippets.

RB

Danilo had a superb season, and has continued one of the best years of his career with some sterling performances for Brazil in the copa america. He is the starting RB for one of the strongest national sides on the planet and I hope his rich vein of form continues into the next campaign. We also have Juan, another who enjoyed a brilliant stint in the recently finished league adventure and has also featured prominently for Colombia in the copa america.

Will be interesting to find what Max makes of Di pardo, who I have been impressed with on the ball and could well earn some time in the first team. Yet he seems destined for a loan move to Vicenza.

CM

Ramsey has been the worst failure, and given his mega wages, he appears to have no suitors. We may be stuck with him, and unless the fitness coaches can work out how to keep him more fit, the Welshman will block a spot in the roster whilst providing little value. Ideally, we can get rid of him.

Rabiot is more interesting, as he has shown some good form towards the end of the season, though its small fry over the course of his 2 year juve career. If we get any offers, I hope we move him on.

Mckennie seems low cost with hopefully more potential to plumb, probably as a squad player. A promising debut season then to go on and star for his country of late and with no offers or interest talked about, count on him in the mix.

Another featuring regularly in the copa america was Bentancur, who bore much of the blame for many of our poor results last season. However, I didnt find him more hapless than any other in the tactical soup Pirlo midfield, and a lot of his work with interceptions and covering goes unnoticed. If Max can help him improve in the final third, I retain hope that he can regain his rhythm and become an integral part of the side. I am confident he can prove an exceptional player.

And then we have Arthur, who may well need an operation (that he does not want) which will keep him out of all of pre-season and beyond! A shame if true, as I had begun to allow hopes of his potential realised to blossom>>>

We do not have any natural wingers beyond Juan, who has already been mentioned, though I suppose Freddy Bernardeschi has to fit in somewhere and here it must be. A player who looks a different man under Mancini, not a world beater, but hugely improved upon what he has offered in black and white under different managers for many moons now. I would prefer for the club to try capitalise on his EURO shop window, though the man himself seems desperate to remain.

I would very much like to believe that Nicolo Fagioli could earn a place in our senior squad for next season. It has been reported by several sources that Max was a huge fan a few years back, and now the player has developed and is too good to keep in Serie C and looked very bright in his brief outings for Pirlo’s side last season. Yet it returns to the idea of space. We have presently a brimming to burst squad and slim chance of moving on the dead wood. It is not just a case of whether Max deems Fagioli good enough, its also a case of can he fit in the squad? I suspect the best scenario is that he is registered with the U23s and moves between the two sides, but this can only help the player and the club IF he gets regular playing time with the men. It may prove for the best, the closest we can find t an ideal to loan him to a Serie A club where we have faith if not assurances he will play regularly. In absence of which, his chances of being part of Max’s side rest hideously on moving out players who have huge wages and cannot be moved or released without making our financial situation even worse.

Up top

Some vague question marks still languidly swirl around Ronaldo. The big money (unfortunately) is on him staying either another year or worse still, extending his contract. That 55m wage bill is staggering and given our financial woes, it makes no sense to me to believe this is not an issue. Having debated this many times, with many people, I remain unconvinced that he is a mega cash cow for the club who more than pays for or huge investment, yet it may not be as awful as I fear. The player is still one of the strongest of the elite strikers on the planet. I have zero doubt of this. My concerns, outside of the wage bill we seek to cut, are on tactics and development of the side.

I often imagine how the system would be, how the side would look and flow, without him. As a LWF who roams centrally, the side is set up to help him get chances. This is a given. Why would the tactical direction not play to the strengths of an elite finisher of immense physical prowess and fitness??? And yet I fear that Max, Sarri, Pirlo all shoehorned their own ideas around this focus, to the detriment of both our growth as a collective and results on the field. For we have won less since Ronaldo joined the club.

His free kick ownership, his dominating of the tactics, yes yes! It leads to plenty of goals for Ronaldo, yet perhaps that tail end game of last season where our forward line comprised of everyone but Ronaldo, when the side looked for the first time for many moons capable of completely demolishing the opponent, was a hint of how much more dynamic we could be without the ageing superstar.

Admittedly, it was an end of the season game which mattered not a damn jot for the home side. Which has to be considered. Though on the other hand, I saw the side play with a fluidity and joy which had been long absent. The forward line of Chiesa – Morata – Dybala – Kulu were brilliant to watch with their movement, interchanging of position, one touch football and the chances created, the quality of the goals made.

I have hope this will be our front line next season. Which cannot happen if Ronaldo is in the squad. If he stays, it must be with the player accepting not just that he will deployed at CF but also that he will not play always, as a given. I don’t have faith that the management will take such a strong stance, and Max will be building a team with Ronaldo playing as much as he wants, in the position he wants, taking all the free kicks.

Morata is a curious player. Truly high level in his movement, passing, intelligence, pace…but something is missing. Namely a conversion rate to match his chances. Though I retain hope that he can still further improve. As much as I mumble and wail on occasion of the investment of 100m for wages, loan, transfer fee I suspect we have already agreed to pay. We have overpaid, but if Morata becomes a potent striker scoring 25+ goals next season, I will be happy we brought him back. Again I return to the idea of whether this is possible with Ronaldo in the squad??? I would suggest NO.

I likely do not need to write much of little Freddy Church. He has somehow managed to further blossom on the bigger stage with his superb EUROs endeavour and emerged clearly as Italy’s strongest attacking threat.

He is the player Max should be building his attack around, along with Dybala, Kulu and Morata. That quartet could become deadly. And all I wonder with young Federico is…how far can he go, and take us with him for the ride? If he continues to soar, my own long standing swiping at Paratici will be somewhat humbled and transformed.

Paulo Dybala is yet to sign his new contract, though I cannot believe the club are undecided of his future, Max won’t be in a situation where he does not know if a potentially key player will be at his disposal, days before the first game and all through pre-season, as was the case with Sarri. Will assume La Joya is to stay. Which brings much happiness, as his career to date suggests he will not suffer another stop start season of injuries, and he still has a window of opportunity to make that final step from sporadic genius to elite level front man.

Dybala’s last season with Max> (apologies for the awful music)

Kulu had a hotchpotch debut season in black and white, which was mirrored in his EUROs performances. I feel more than hopeful that he can be given the required confidence, guidance and position to MAXimise his growth. Incredibly skillful, a superb reader of the game, can take players on and has a mesmeric, almost lazy style to his game, which reminds me of Zidane.

We seem likely to continue seeking a second prima punta, to cover Morata, or Ronaldo and Morata. Or Dybala even, who can play there, yet it is more as a false nine, a term too oft used without much sense. Rumours abound once more of a cheap-ish move for Milik, and if we can grab him for 11m, then why not eh?

Outside of that, and unlikely, is that Max sees enough of Da Graca or Baden preseason, to judge either up to the job of moving between the U23 and Senior side. The latter especially, looks a real talent, already blooded at senior level, yes solely in the Austrian top flight, but nevertheless, he looks solid.

Strong with both feet, dominant in the air. Link up play, hold up play, movement…all appear very promising.

(edit – I now find Baden has been moved on a permanent transfer to dutch side Vitesse. Not sure of the fee, and I am instantly disappointed for he appeared a solid talent. Knowing little of the details, my instincts lean instantly to the concerns I have of Cherubini…)

So much is pivotal upon Ronaldo staying or leaving. I mean this in terms of growth of the best talents we have who could potentially develop into something as powerful as the best of their collective parts, and perhaps more.

Without wading through the tangled word swamp above, I feel I have not done the analysis of the EUROs or Juve Squad matters much justice, yet the aim was more to inject movement from one to the other, and on that score…I feel slightly more content.

The nut of them matter is that I feel we have the makings of a splendid team. A returning manager far more connected to the club and proven a winner than what has replaced him since he was kicked out, and enough quality to trounce the league, in the least emerge from the CL group stage as a side nobody wants to face… I cannot hope for more, or assume less.

forza juve e forza azzurri

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