Juventus at the Top in Serie A But For How Long?
Juventus have scored 29 goals in 18 league matches which is not very impressive but by no means is it a disastrous figure considering only two clubs in Serie A have scored more: Milan and Napoli.
The figures do not lie and a closer look reveals the Bianconeri have scored 10 goals in 3 matches meaning the club managed only 19 goals in the other 15 games. This explains why the Bianconeri have drawn 8 out of the 18 matches played. The Juventus attack needs a more lethal striker with summer signing Mirko Vucinic struggling to find the back of the net with any consistency.
Alessandro Matri is the club’s top scorer and has been in fine form yet he remains the only proven attacking threat in the squad considering club legend Alessandro Del Piero is nearing the end of his journey while Fabio Quagliarella has been hindered by injuries.
The Bianconeri are desperate to offload veterans Vincenzo Iaquinta, Luca Toni and Amauri as the three strikers have failed to impress and have not been used by coach Antonio Conte. In addition to Juve’s inconsistent and indecisive attack, coach Conte has a few other issues to contend with if the Bianconeri are to return to glory:
1) Lack of midfield alternatives: There is an urgent need for a quality midfielder to cover for the impressive trio Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo. The coach’s tactics dictate that the three midfielders start each game yet there is not a single reliable substitute capable of contributing at the same level if any one of them is missing. Milos Krasic is a winger and has struggled all season with the Serbian’s move away from Turin becoming a very plausible option with every passing round of fixtures.
2) Hard-working wingers: Utility player Simone Pepe who has practically played on the right and left wings as well as deputized as a right-back does not have a true replacement within the squad. Pepe is not the most talented of players yet there is no doubting his effort and his determination. This season he has shown vast improvement from his first one with the Bianconeri.
Despite having the speed, Krasic does not put the work as hard and is one dimensional so he cannot be seen as an ideal replacement. In addition, Dutch signing Eljero Elia has so far failed to impress Conte and has barely played for the club prompting some to wonder why he was even signed to begin with.
3) Need for a centre-back: Andrea Barzagli has over-performed yet his defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci continues to disappoint in the sense he has not shown much improvement from last season. Bonucci has been guilty of some unacceptable mistakes such as his wayward and poor clearance which led to Cagliari’s equalizer through Andrea Cossu last weekend.
The club’s best centre-back Giorgio Chiellini is being used as a left-back emphasizing Juve’s need for a quality centre-back to challenge for honors. While summer signing Stephan Lichtsteiner has performed fairly well and is a huge improvement compared to Marco Motta in the right-back position, the Bianconeri do not have any other reliable full-backs in their squad. This explains why the club is being linked with former player Martin Caceres who can play in more than one position at the back.
While the club’s defensive record is the best in the league with just 12 goals conceded so far, this impressive stat is perhaps misleading since it gives credit to the defenders while overlooking the role played by the midfielders. Vidal has been a massive influence in midfield and his non-stop running has seen him go back and retrieve the ball on countless occasions. The same can be said of Simone Pepe and Marchisio while the presence of Pirlo must not be underestimated.
Last season, Felipe Melo had his best year in Juve colors yet he remained a liability when it came to passing which meant he regularly gave away the ball after winning it. The current trio of midfielders are all better passers and have the ability to not just keep the ball but surge forward to create scoring threats.
In addition, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is gradually returning to form and has made a number of impressive saves this season. Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci were all with the club last season but, once again, the main difference is the enhanced quality of the club’s midfield.