In this two-part review on Juventus’ 2012-2013 campaign, I review all the major aspects of their season including, but not limited to: individual player reviews, tactical analysis, Champions League and Coppa Italia breakdown, most significant matches, and 2013-2014 season expectations/outlook. Part 1 will cover player analysis for all Juventus squad members and examine their contributions and critiques coming from all competitions. A special thanks to Jujex for his help with the article. Okay, Here we go…
Gianluigi Buffon (GK):
Buffon responded well to his first year taking over for Alessandro Del Piero as club captain with another great season between the sticks. After starting the season with a bang by lifting the Supercoppa trophy on his first official match as club captain, Gigi started 43 games with 118 saves and only 29 conceded (8 coming in CL) showing again that he is integral to Juve’s success. Some of his best saves and performances came during the Champions League group stage matches against Chelsea (both home and away) where he made some classic Gigi saves against Hazard, Oscar, and Ramires. With a save percentage of 80%, Buffon maintained the highest save percentage in Serie A over #2 Morgan De Sanctis of Napoli who had a great year as well. It should be noted that at least 2 of the goals he allowed his year came from deflections from Bonucci when he would deflect a shot outside of Buffon’s reach: first coming against Chelsea at Stamford bridge when Bonucci deflected Oscar’s first goal by ticking out his right leg, and the second coming against Napoli when Bonucci deflected Inler’s shot with his head). All of that aside, at the age of 35, he showed why he is still a top 5 keeper in the world.
Marco Storari (GK):
Unfortunately for Marco, he suffered from Buffon’s dominance and health. He only had 6 total starts this season (3 league, 3 Coppa Italia) compared to 29 starts during the 2010-11 campaign (23 league, 1 Coppa, 5 Europa) when Buffon was sidelined with a back injury he picked up during the World Cup. Even with limited minutes, he still had a high save percentage (69%) and proved that he could and possible should be starting for any other Italian club. We are very fortunate to have such a reliable and stalwart backup keeper that is willing to be second-fiddle to Buffon. Hopefully next season, he will be able to be featured more for the team, especially in the Coppa tournament.
Andrea Barzagli (CB):
Arguably the best defender in Serie A this season, Andrea proved that at 32, he is the most reliable and consistent defender in Italy. He started in 47 of 52 total matches this season (League, CL, Coppa, Super Coppa), maintained a 90% pass accuracy and was second only to Chiellini in the main defensive categories (interceptions, tackles, and clearances) but committed 50% fewer fouls than both Bonucci and Chiellini. In addition to committing far fewer fouls, he also committed fewer defensive errors than any other defender in the squad, especially errors that ultimately lead to goals. Add to that his physical and dominant presence, he was able to control nearly any attack coming down the right flank while also providing critical cover for Bonucci who sometimes made poor decisions moving forward or over-committing during counterattacks. His yearlong performance was exemplified in the match at home against Roma where he made a key tackle deep in our half and dribbling the length of the pitch to set up Giovinco with an assist in the 90th minute. He is a big reason why Juve has the best defense in Italy and one of the top 5 defenses in the world.
Leonardo Bonucci (CB):
Bonucci continued his progression and improvement under Conte becoming one of top Center Backs in Italy. Leo produced 256 successful long balls with an accuracy percentage of 73% making him the second most effective long baller in the squad only to Pirlo. He has definitely grown into being the fulcrum of Juventus’ back line quite well in the past two years with expectations on improving even more. That being said, he was the 3rd best defender in Juve’s started back line making fewer tackles, interceptions, and clearances – keeping in mind Juventus’ defense was the best in Italy and is the same starting back line as the Italian National Team. Much of this is due to his tendency to push forward with the ball and distribute long balls in an attempt to instigate the attack. More so than previous years, Leo was lofting the ball over the defense trying to find players like Giovinco and Vucinic making runs forward completing an average of 7.8 accurate long balls per game.
Something that he needs to address is his propensity to stick his leg out to deflect shots because many of them were diverted towards goal and not away from goal. The prime example of this was the first match against Chelsea in the Champions League group stage where he deflected Oscar’s first shot onto goal past Buffon. Without that touch, the shot goes wide. He did the same thing away against Napoli where he deflected Inler’s shot with his head. Leo also made many critical mistakes at home in our loss against Inter which led to the second and third goal, both of which were mental and laziness errors that could have been avoided with better positioning. With players like Ogbonna joined the defensive ranks, it will be interesting to see how Conte distributes starting time because although Ogbonna needs to improve, he is more than capable of handling the responsibilities of a 3 man back line and is as good of an offensive threat on set pieces with the potential to become a top defender on a National level. That aside, Bonucci is set for another strong year and even if Conte chooses to go with a 4-3-3 formation with only 2 center backs, Leo will more than likely get the nod as the right center back alongside Chiellini or Ogbonna.
Giorgio Chiellini (CB):
Another good year for the Vice-Captain. Chiellini had the top average tackles per game (3.1), highest average interception rate per game (3.0), and by far the best average clearance per game (6.2). That last statistic is the most telling about his importance to the Juventus defensive back line as Giorgio is always the player making the last-ditch defensive play, often saving Buffon from 1-on-1 opportunities on Juve’s goal. Unfortunately, with the injury that carried over from the Euro Cup during the summer, he missed some time in the starting 11 but was able to fit back in well. The only negative for his play was his attempts coming forward. With our ability to maintain possession and keep the opposition on their half of the pitch, Juve defenders were able to move forward. However, Giorgio did not make the best tactical passes and often gave up possession unnecessarily. This was exemplified in our matches against Chelsea in the group stages where these mistakes led to dangerous counterattacks from Ramires and Oscar. However, a poor pass was also deflected and ended up at the feet of Pirlo which led to a goal from Quagliarella past Petr Cech. All-in-all, great year from a quintessential Juventino.
Martin Caceres (CB):
Caceres proved that he is not only versatile at the back, but also worthy of Conte’s selection as a backup to Barzagli at RCB when he needed a rest. His one and only goal of the season, which is arguably he most important goal of the first half of the season, came against our Neapolitan rivals at home in the 80th minute, breaking the nill-nill deadlock and opening the door for Pogba goal 2 minutes later. While only making 13 total starts and 7 substitute appearances, Martin proved to be ready every time called upon. He had the second highest blocked shots per game average at 0.4 and was a spark of energy when coming off the bench. Best example of this was the away match against Torino when his appearance in the last 16 minutes helped lead to Vidal breaking the duck in the 81st minute. Very deserving of the contract he was given by Marotta as his first year 100% a Bianconeri, Caceres should see more opportunities with the loaded schedule Juventus will be undertaking this season.
Stephan Lichtsteiner (RWB):
Well deserving of his nickname “Forest Gump” because of his long, galloping runs down the right flank, Stephan proved yet against that he is one of Juve’s most valuable players who doesn’t get all the credit he deserves. Not one to necessarily fill up the stats page, although he did net 4 goals, Licht can always be called upon to supply 150% effort in any match and keep the rest of the team honest in their approach to the match. He is not even worried about mixing it up with his own teammates throughout the match; it is no wonder why Conte gave him the seventh most appearance of anyone in the squad, third most by a defender only behind Bonucci and Barzagli. Besides Vidal, there is probably no one else in the squad who gives more effort and energy every minute of the match than Stephan. Although he is playing out of his natural position was a right back, the only part of his game he really needs to improve onto become a more complete wing back is his services into the box, which were better this year than past seasons. That, coupled with increasing his skill set so that he is more confident going directly at the opposition’s defense when given space, Lichtsteiner will yet again prove he one of the most reliable players in the squad.
Mauricio Isla (RWB):
Suffered most of the first part of the season with a bad injury, Isla only received 10 starts and 6 substitute appearances in all competitions throughout the 2012-13 campaign. With his lingering injury and with Caceres proving to be a highly capable substitute for Lichtsteiner, Isla found it hard to break into the starting 11 for much of the season. During the matches where he was featured, Mauricio showed glimpses of his old form at RWB, providing great services into the box behind the opposition’s back line. With a full offseason of training and the departure of Giaccherini, hopefully he will be able to compete for more playing time in the future.
Simone Padoin (RWB/CM):
Outside of Quagliarella, no player was utilized more off the bench than Padoin. Called on 16 times as a substitute, Simone played in the CM or on the right and left flanks providing Conte with someone who he could rely on to hold possession and not make too many risky moves moving forward. Although not the finisher with zero goals and a 71% shot accuracy, Padion’s maintained an 86% pass accuracy and his flexibility made him a valuable member of the squad. However, with midfield positions in even shorter supply with Pogba’s stratospheric emergence, he will need to make the most out of the limited playing time he receives moving forward.
Kwadwo Asamoah (LWB/CM):
Proclaimed early in the season as Awesome-oah by fellow Juventini, Asamoah was a revelation on Juve’s left flank and was a welcomed change from the previous 2011-2012 season which saw Marcelo Estigarribia, Paolo De Ceglie, Emanuele Giaccherini, and Fabio Grosso all trying to support the position. The Ghanaian national brought strength, pace and stability to an area of the pitch that the year before, would only garner opposition attention from 1 defender or 1 midfielder . Now, Asamoah can demand attention from 2 players at almost all times because of his ability to beat defenders to the touchline with his bursts of speed and his ability to cut into the middle of the pitch and distribute the ball to one the M.V.P. trio or strikers. He contributed 2 goals (one being a spectacular bicycle kick assisted by Quagliarella), 6 assists (tying him for third most with Giovinco and Vucinic), a team high average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game, and the third highest passing percentage amongst the consistent starters with 88.9%.
Unfortunately there were some negatives to his campaign that hopefully he will be able to build off and correct for the upcoming season. First and foremost, we saw fairly significant drop off in performance following his involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations. While his performance in the tournament was very good, he came back seemingly fatigued and never really returned to the efficiency and dominance we had come to expect based off his earlier performances. Hopefully this upcoming year’s tournament does not have the same result. The other critique of Asamoah is his limited “bag of tricks” on attack. He seems to have the same moves going forward: cross over, cross over, then go to touchline, or it’s cross over, cross over, cut inside. Keeping in mind this is not his natural position, having predominately play as the center midfielder at Udinese, he will need to improve his crosses into the box and 1-on-1 skills which will ultimately elevate him to the next level. All that being said, a great year from Awesome-oah and high expectations for his performances in the coming campaign.
Paolo De Ceglie (LWB):
Not the most active season for the former Primavera star. Only appearing in 15 matches (13 starts; 2 substitutions), Paolo had to compete with newly signed Asamoah and Peluso for playing time which ultimately led to him watching from the bench for much of the season. While he was on the pitch, he provided arguably the best services into the box from the left flank but was often caught in bad positions when called upon to provide additional cover for Chiellini down the left side. Paolo’s poor position is an even bigger issue when it comes to set pieces because he has extremely poor aerial defensive and coverage skills. Not sure what the future is for De Ceglie as he is 26 years old and not in a good position to fight for regular playing time in the starting 11, especially with Asamoah and Peluso already ahead of him and the prospect of signing another LWB like Kolarov or Zuniga (both of which are highly unlikely for the 2013-14 season). Hopefully Paolo will either be able to fight for more playing time or Juve are able to sell him to a club where he will get more opportunities, once we acquire reinforcements at the LWB position.
Federico Peluso (LWB):
After a mid-season acquisition from Atalanta during the winter transfer window, Peluso was able to get a number of opportunities to play after Asamoah started under-performing following his return from the Africa Cop of Nations. A top 5 statistical performer in average tackles, interceptions, fouls, clearances, and blocked shots per game (2.9, 1.8, 1.3, 2.7, and 0.4 respectively), Federico proved to be a more than adequate substitute for Asamoah when called upon by Conte. Although he was caught in bad positions a number of times, most memorably in the Coppa Italia semi-final loss to Lazio where both goals were from players that he was tasked with marking, he was definitely favored by Conte over De Ceglie as the #2 LWB in the squad. With his permanent move to Juventus formalized in June 2013, it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets competing with De Ceglie and even more difficult should Marotta choose to sign a new LB/LWB for Conte’s future plans of alternating back to the 4-3-3 formation.
Claudio Marchisio (CM/CAM):
It was another good year for Il Principino even though his statistical contribution was not quite up to the standard he set following his outstanding season last year when the M.V.P. Trio first got together. His 8 goals and 4 assists in all competitions was a slight drop off from his 9 goals and 4 assists in all competitions during the 2011-12 season for two significant reasons: the Out-of-this-World year from Arturo Vidal and the unanticipated rise of Paul Pogba. All that aside, a lot of what Claudio brings to the pitch doesn’t make it on the stat sheet: his runs forward, setting up players like Vucinic and Vidal during their runs forward, moving the ball to the flanks to spread the defense, and giving the ball back to Pirlo so he has the opportunity to distribute and allow Marchisio to move forward. His also was consistent with his defensive contribution being top 5 in tackles per game with 2.7, 1.5 interceptions per game, 1.1 dribbles past opposing players per game was good enough for second most in the squad, and committing an average of 1.8 fouls per game. Some of those stats are slightly skewed since, towards the end of the season, Pogba had forced Conte to start 4 central midfielders because of his outstanding form that moved Claudio into an attacking midfield role which diluted his strongest attributes of playmaking, instigating the attack forward, and quick, connected passing. That change in tactical formation poses a couple interesting questions: will Pogba get the starting nod more often? Will Conte change formations to field the M.V.P. Trio and Pogba? If he keeps the 3-5-2, when will he tactically choose to play Claudio and/or Pogba? Stats and everything else aside, Marchisio is one of the best off the ball players on the pitch and gives everything while wearing the black & white shield.
Arturo Vidal (CM):
The quintessential Juventino, Arturo “The Warrior” Vidal was hands down the MVP of the season and the MVP of the M.V.P. Trio. His productivity on the stat sheet are endless so for Vidal, I am just going to simply list them out (he deserves it):
- Total Goals: 14 (Serie A – 10, CL – 3, Supercoppa -1)
- Total Assists: 11 (Serie A – 8, CL – 2, Supercoppa 1)
- Shots per Game: 2.0
- Passing Percentage: 87.0%
- Average Passes per Game: 53.5
- Key passes per Game: 2.0
- Tackles per Game: 4.9
- Interceptions per Game: 1.5
- Fouls per Game: 1.9
- Dribbled per opposition players: 1.9
He single-handedly won a number of games for Juventus with his goals responsible for 26 points of Juve’s total point tally in Serie A. Vidal’s goals were often quite spectacular with two particularly standing out: first, in the away match at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea in the Champions League where his 45th minute goal brought Juventus back into the match; and secondly, in the Derby della Mole away at the Stadio Olimpico in Torino where his 81st minute goal from outside the box off the volley broke the deadlock and lead to a Juve victory. He has an engine that never stops, unstoppable tackling skills, great finishing and passing skills, makes a huge defensive contribution, and is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world. His statistics pretty much say it all so I will end by saying I can’t wait to watch how he does next season, possible playing in the same line-up as Pogba, and seeing if he can beat the statistics he put forth this past season.
Andrea Pirlo (CM):
What to say about a player that has already proved since his time at Brescia and Milan that he is pure class and elegance. Aptly named “The Architect”, Pirlo was again the at the heart of the M.V.P. Trio and field general for Juventus, controlling the pace of the match and ball distribution while on the pitch. Playing in nearly every match (45); Pirlo was only surpassed in playing time by Barzagli and Bonucci and was one of the most consistent players in the squad when it came to form outside of Barzagli and Vidal. Contributing 5 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, all coming from direct free kicks which is the highest total amongst the top leagues, even more than Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Pirlo was again arguably the most valuable midfielder for Juventus alongside Vidal, as long as he was not being man marked. What sides began slowly to figure out during this past season was that keeping him off the ball by having him shadowed or constantly man marked was a way to neutralize his effectiveness. In my opinion, that is the only reason why he did not reach the 13 assist total he had in the 2011-12 season. Even with all that, he still had the best average key passes per game average (3.0), the highest average passes per game in 78.7 which was 20 higher than the next closest, the highest average accurate long ball average per game (10.6) and the highest average accurate through balls per game with 1.0. At 34 years old, he has proven once again that class is ageless and will go down has arguably the best transfer (free!) that Marotta has made since the start of his reign (so far, close seconds being Vidal and Pogba). His free kick goals against Roma and Atalanta were simply stunning and his ability to switch the field with ease is like watching an artist at work. Even with the emergence of Pogba, Pirlo has nothing to worry about regarding his playing time because he will start ever match that Conte and he wants him to start.
Paul Pogba (CM):
Without question, the biggest surprise of the season was Paul Pogba, a.k.a. PogBOOM, a.k.a. Il Polpo Paul (Paul the Octopus) for his long legs that look like tentacles during tackling or running. Another great transfer from Marotta, coming off a free transfer from Manchester United, Paul Pogba forced his way into the starting 11 of what already was considered the best midfield in Italy and one of the best midfields in Europe. Coming into the season, Pogba was hoping to get 20 caps for Juventus because he understood the situation he was coming into: MVP dominated central midfield, a young Pirlo-in-waiting Luca Marrone (who has been waiting for his time to shine), the possibility of playing in a 4-3-3 formation should Pepe recover from injury, and players like Padoin and Giaccherini as popular subs for Conte who are versatile with what tactical positions in which they can perform. But for Pogba, he has 99 problems and getting starting time ain’t one (my one and only shout out to Jay-Z lol). His season changed on January 6th, 2013 when, during a disappointing loss to 10-man Sampdoria, Marchisio picked up a late injury which would force him out of the line-up for a few matches. Having played 839 minutes in 14 total appearances in the first half of the season, Pogba would go on to appear in 16 straight league games (12 as a starter) and accumulating 1,331 minutes of playing time in all competitions.
After his first year, Pogba had made 35 total appearance (21 being starts) and was definitely able to light up the stat sheet: 5 goals (all amazing and 4 of them from long-range), averaging 2.1 shots per game, 83% pass success percentage, 3.5 accurate long balls per game, 1.8 successful dribbles, and 2.5 tackles per game. He was on such good form late in the season that he ultimately forced Conte to move Marchisio out of the central midfield and put him more in an attacking midfield position behind a lone striker. Moving forward, he provided a dimension to the attack that we had lacked in the previous years, a long shot threat. Because of Pogba, defenses could no longer sit back in their own box and clog up the passing lanes because Pogba is more than able to hit a shot from over 30 yards out. His goals against Napoli and Udinese made my top 10 goals of the season because both are from about 30 yards out and are bullets that no keeper would have been able to save. Come to think of it, none of his 5 goals could have been saved by any keeper with two coming off the bar, two were bent around the outstretched arms of the opposing keeper in the lower corners, and one was a glancing header from point-blank range. And he brings far more than just finishing skills to the game. His long legs and great strength allows him to make great runs down the pitch, get out of tight places, hold position and the ball around 3 opposing players, and be able to complete passes with similar grace to Andrea Pirlo. And keep in mind, HE WAS 19 FOR MOST OF THE SEASON! The sky is the limit for this young talent and I am so happy that he will be in our midfield and be someone we can build around with Vidal and Marchisio whenever Pirlo decides to hang up his boots. With the ball at his feet, you have to watch out for a PogBOOM!
Luca Marrone (CM/CB):
Unfortunately for the former Primavera star and seemingly second in line for Juve’s 3 man central midfield, Luca had to deal with the catastrophic emergence of Paul Pogba who ultimately took the playing time that would have otherwise gone to him. And moreover, with Juve’s stacked central midfield, he was relegated to playing in Bonucci’s CB role for 8 of his 10 starts in matches, especially while Chiellini was injured. He definitely proved his usefulness and flexibility but with Pogba proving to be the next in line for starting spots going forward, and Ogbonna joining the CB defensive ranks, I am unsure how much he will get to play in future seasons. He is still a great player, has similar passing skills to Pirlo in terms of ball distribution and is physically strong which are both important attributes for a modern holding midfielder. But does he have a strong future with Juve? Time will tell…
Emanuele Giaccherini (CM):
Taking the role for the consummate flex player in Conte’s squad, Giaccherini was the most used role player on the squad, especially after Pogba started receiving regular starting time. With 10 starts and 7 substitute appearances, Emanuele contributed 3 goals, 3 assists and a top 10 passing percentage of 87.9%, which for a squad winger/attacking midfielder is definitely above average. His most memorial and influential moment of season was his goal in the 90th minute of the Catania match late into the campaign that helped keep the distance between Napoli and Milan in the league table. His most outstanding match was actually the first match of the season where he appeared in the 1-3 victory away to Genoa and he not only scored but was instrumental in setting up the attack. The only real critique is his lack of consistency when he was playing and often making the wrong decisions with certain passes. With his size, he had to rely on a finesse that was not always on form. All that said, he will be missed in he Juventus squad because of his usefulness and flexibility but wish him the best of luck with his next club Sunderland where he should prove to be a top player.
Mirko Vucinic (ST – Secondary):
Undeniably Juventus’ best striker of the last two season, Vucinic proved yet again why he has been our most reliable and called upon striker since his arrival from Roma in 2011. He was top 3 in nearly all key statistical categories for strikers (goals: 10, assists: 6, shots per game: 2.9, and through balls per game: 0.7) and was the through point for the ball to get up the pitch to the attack. In my opinion, his most valuable attribute to the squad was his ability to hold onto the ball and allow players like Vidal, Marchisio and the wing-backs to get forward to support the attack. Without that, we would have been hard pressed to maintain possession for any significant period of time since Matri, Giovinco, and Quagliarella were all unable to do so, at least on a significant basis.
Unfortunately, there were also negatives that counteract the positives, most significantly, his lack of energy/interest/laziness during certain matches. This has been an issue since last season so he obviously has not kicked the habit but he gets into situations where he makes terrible choices in passing, does not hustle back to help on defense after giving up possession, and had the highest amount of turnovers per game average out of the entire squad at 1.9 per game. And while his ability to hold the ball was a positive, it sometimes proved detrimental because when slows down the play, instead of passing to the player that has making the run or making the pass in a one touch play situation, he would often hold the ball and cancel the run of that player. Although his turnover statistic is not as crucial against the weaker sides, it is unacceptable for Champions League matches and now, with many teams in Italy having bolstered their squads since last year, even less acceptable in Serie A as well. The benefit Vucinic has at the moment is that his only real competition for starts will be Llorente, should Conte maintain the 3-5-2 formation, because Conte is trying to get Llorente to play a similar style to Vucinic but is still getting used to those movements and style Conte demands. On the other hand, Vucinic is the only striker other than Giovinco that can set up another striker with Tevez and Llorente looking to be put into goal scoring positions by their paired striker. Even in preseason matches though, it is clear Vucinic already has the instincts needed for Conte’s style of play and Llorente is still in development. With that said, I hope we do not sell Mirko because he is still a reliable striker and will remain a top 3 striker in the squad.
Sebastian Giovinco (ST – Secondary):
Definitely a season of adjustments and ups-and-downs for Giovinco after his return from Parma. Coming in with extremely high expectations following his 15 goal and 11 assist season with Parma during the 2011-12 season, Sebastian dealt with skepticism and doubts for long stretches of the season with questions mainly stemming from his size, strength and finishing abilities; especially against the larger and stronger defenders in Europe and stronger Italian sides like Napoli and Milan. The match that seemed to fuel that fire was the away match at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea which saw Gio knocked around far too easily by the Chelsea back line and find little to not space to work through. Once a taller and stronger Quagliarella was subbed in, it took less than 10 minutes for him to find the back of the net. One the positive side, there is no doubting that Giovinco has the ability to be a great finisher, possesses great passing abilities, and fast/quick feet that can get him out of tight places. That and he clearly has some great free-kick skills which were exemplified in his goal from about 18 yards out against Milan which got up and over the wall with ease. He was top 5 in goals with 7, 6 assists , 2.7 shots per game, 1.5 key passes per game, 1.5 successful dribbles past the opposition per game, 2 fouls per game, and 0.3 successful through balls per game. Unfortunately for Sebastian, the arrival of Tevez and Llorente will limit his starts and overall appearances but would be an almost automatic first team selection should Conte deploy the 4-3-3 formation as he works best coming in from a wide position with space to create. Hopefully Giovinco finds his stride in the Juventus side for the 2013-14 season.
Fabio Quagliarella (ST – CF):
The player that provided some of the most important goals of the season, especially out of the group of stickers, has to be Fabio Quagliarella. Making 34 total appearances (17 starts and 17 substitutes), Fabio provided 13 goals and 3 assists with 4 of those goals coming in the Champions League. In his first 13 appearances, he scored 9 goals and had 1 assist including a hat-trick against Pescara where he had some spectacular goals and the tying goal away at Chelsea in the 80th minute where he perfectly placed a shot through Petr Cech’s legs. Three of his goals made my Top 10 Goals of the Season list, his most magical coming in the 3rd minute against Inter where he turned and from 30 yards out, shot a screamer into the upper left side of the net. Fabio was often needed to substitute in for Giovinco when the size and strength of the defense was too much for him to handle, making him arguable the second most important striker of the season looking purely at statistical contributions. Unfortunately, with the addition of Llorente and Tevez, his playing time will most likely decrease fairly dramatically and be competing with Vucinic and Gio for second-fiddle playing time. However, with the prospect of playing on three fronts, Conte will probably tend to field him in Coppa Italia matches to give him opportunities, similar to Storari in-goal behind Buffon, or choose to sell him for funds to acquire a young striker to develop. I hope we keep him though, because he is a very competent goal scorer, but understand if his desire for more playing time takes his services elsewhere.
Alessandro Matri (ST – CF):
It was an interesting year for Marti with the arrival of Giovinco. In the 2011-12 season, he participated in 31 league matches, 23 in which he started scoring 10 goals and 4 assists. This season, he only played in 22 league matches, starting 10, and contributing 8 goals and zero assists. Although his goal per appearance rate rose a bit from year to year, it is clear that he is not the striker Juventus needed or needs moving forward because his weakness far outweigh the positives. Negatives range from: poor passing abilities in an attack that has relied heavily on the quick touches between the paired striker and advanced midfielders, EXTREMELY poor ball retention capabilities which has cost us a number of goal opportunities because it stops all the attacking momentum, weak offside awareness (caught off-sides a number of times for no reason), and little to no defensive contribution which is essential in Conte’s system especially against the tougher sides. Furthermore, if you look at Matri’s goals, most of them were relatively lucky. He more often than not missed great opportunities to score because he makes terrible first touches or can’t put the ball on target with a wide open net. Compare that to Quagliarella’s goals which were not only more significant but MUCH more skillful and powerful, Matri is only in front of Bendtner and Anelka in the pecking order of strikers. The positives for Matri is that he made the most of the time he was given on the pitch and scored, while not pretty, important goals to help the team win. His match of the season, for me, was the away match against Celtic in the Champions League where he provided a goal and an assist to ensure a Juve victory. But now, with the addition of Tevez and Llorente, he is going to be hard pressed to get much playing time at all, short of an injury, and should really be considered to be on the chopping block by Marotta. Sorry Matri, you helped the team a lot in the 2011-12 season but now we have much higher aspirations to fulfill which I am convinced you are not the answer.
Nicklas Bendtner (ST – CF):
Arguable the worst Marotta acquisition to date, Bendtner was a consolation loan following a disappointing summer transfer where we were promised a star and received and “black hole”. Sometimes, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
Nicolas Anelka (ST – CF):
Only received a total of 45 minutes playing time following his arrival in the winter transfer window, Anelka made ZERO contribution to the team, short of training session involvement. His weak tactical awareness and lack of contribution to the defense, Anelka was hard pressed to even be included in 20-23 man squads on match day – let alone get playing time. Although the 34 has a great history, he will be long forgotten in the annals of Juventus.
Simone Pepe (injured):
Last but not least, shout out to Simone Pepe. We miss you and hope you get well soon so we can see you back on the pitch, scoring goals, and watching your magical celebrations. You are true fan favorite and give your all for the Bianconeri shield.