Juventus v Roma
Serie A Week 38 – Saturday, 1 August – 20:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium
Ahead of the last meaningless match of the season, where there is really no point in fielding the strikers, let’s take a look at what the upcoming transfer market session could lead to. It will be condensed and likely very busy and it should be a time for Fabio Paratici to normalize the roster after putting together an ill-fitting one for the 2019/2020 season, making the week-to-week job for the coach easier. There is a plethora of questions that need answering.
The only areas that seem to be set are goalkeepers and centre-backs, although they can always relatively cash in on Daniele Rugani and go with a different, less expensive back-up, or give Cristian Romero a shot, although he probably would not be able to play as much as needed since Merih Demiral will need to be more involved. Having Giorgio Chiellini available is a bonus at this point so there is no doubt that the centre-backs should be five. The rest is up in the air.
Juan Cuadrado surely has a place in the roster for his versatility, and he has been one of the most consistent performers, but can he really be the starting right-back? Assuming it will be impossible to offload Danilo, should the management look at improving there, although it would not be easy, and keep Cuadrado as a secondary option in few roles? Or is it easier to just stay the course and allow the Colombian to complete his transformation into a pure fullback, suppressing his more offensive-minded instincts?
On the other flank, will Alex Sandro stay? He is no longer a difference-maker on offence, but he is a fairly steady, and he has cleaned up his defensive blunders. Like with Miralem Pjanic, Sandro is pushing 30 and this is one of the final opportunities to make a good profit, and he generally does not lack suitors. However, that would force the team to look for two specialists, as they can not go another season with just Mattia De Sciglio as the back-up there. Considering his precarious health, his role should be capped as third option on both wings. Will Luca Pellegrini fill that void, after some indoctrination about high-end defending? It would make sense, but other Italian teams might want him in some swaps and the number of bargaining chips is limited.
The fans ask for an upgrade in the midfield, but getting a superstar would be super expensive, so, while there will be some movements for sure, they will probably be disappointed in the end. First of all, after Pjanic, who will leave? It is clear that Sami Khedira has run his course given the continuous injuries, then Aaron Ramsey has struggled in his first year in Italy. Will he be given another chance? He too had troubles staying healthy, but, at the peak of his powers, he would be very helpful and it is not easy to give up on an investment after just one season. Adrien Rabiot has shown enough in the restart to be worth holding onto and Juventus are pretty much looking for somebody like him, just better. However, he is still fairly young and a sale would be very profitable since he joined for almost free. The health of the balance sheets is always paramount. Is Blaise Matuidi, who is on an expiring contract, a keeper or a goner? He is a decent reserve with his dynamism but his lack of technique is often frustrating.
Will Rodrigo Bentancur permanently move to regista to fill in for Pjanic, or will they look for a purer option? Does Juventus even need a deep-lying playmaker since the scheme is more of a 4-4-2 than a 4-3-3? If a regista does join, will that be the only purchase? I guess it depends on the amount of departures. How long would it take Dejan Kulusevski to turn into a devastating box-to-box and provide the offensive punch the midfield currently missing? That is the elephant in the room, because it would both save big bucks and shift the resources elsewhere.
As for the attack, where Gonzalo Higuain is poised to leave, will Paulo Dybala be used more as false-nine or slightly tilted to the right. The caliber of the striker needed hinges on that question and there is no doubt that the front-line is already the most talented area of the roster. If the plan is to have Dybala more as right ‘winger’, then it would be necessary to bring in a top-shelf centre-forward that can complement well the two stars, otherwise they could go with a productive but lesser/older player to rotate in and out. Should the new centre-forwards perhaps even be two, including a new young back-up to Dybala ?
Have Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa done enough to stay? Costa is great when healthy, but that is rarely the case. Bernardeschi often looks like a fish out of water, but his wages might be prohibitive for other Serie A teams, thus slowing down some rumoured trades. Should Juventus get rid of both and rely on Dybala, Kulusevki and/or another talented winger?
The questions which have the biggest ramifications are: what will Kulusevski’s role be (both in terms of position but also playing time)? Should the biggest purchase be in the midfield or in the attack? And ultimately, what is Juventus’ financial firepower these days?
4-3-3: Buffon; Cuadrado, Rugani, Bonucci, Sandro; Muratore, Bentancur, Rabiot; Bernardeschi, Higuain, Zanimacchia.
Khedira (thigh), Costa (thigh), Dybala (thigh).
Roma surely are not thrilled with finishing outside the top five, but the other teams kept a strong pace all season long, while, yet again, they went through big summer chances and had been pretty seesawing up until the last few matches, as they were able to fend off Milan’s ambitions with a seven-game undefeated streak, where they won six times.
While the situation at the club has been a mess as per usual, as their owner has conducted a never-ending negotiation to sell the team but it is not close to coming to fruition and they fired their sporting direction due to turmoil behind the scenes, at least Paulo Fonseca has proved to be a quality coach in his first year in the Peninsula.
While his approach has not been revolutionary as some would hope, they have displayed a decent brand of football, and he has been versatile as well, recently moving away from his trademark 4-2-3-1 for a sturdier 3-4-2-1 that powered them in their recent run. The move might have been forced by the fact that some of their wingers have not been great, to be kind, so he was better off not using them, but it also enhanced a few players, Bruno Peres, Amadou Diawara, Jordan Veretout and Leonardo Spinazzola have performed better in this formation that allows the wing-backs and the holding midfielders to have more freedom. Their centre-backs are also at ease and using Aleksandar Kolarov there, a la Guardiola, is pretty interesting if he does not fall asleep defensively. Roger Ibanez emerged thanks to the switch.
On top of those, Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been impressive all season long, Lorenzo Pellegrini has been pretty good and Nicolò Zaniolo has showed some real flashes of class. Pellegrini is out with a fractured nose, so Zaniolo could see his first start in a long time after the ACL tear, although he has already done some damage off the bench in the restart. The other option would be Carles Perez, since Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert have completely vanished.
Fonseca has quickly become more Italian in his style, putting more stress on the defensive phase, but they still employ a possession-oriented, quick-passing style that can generate pretty good-looking actions, especially when their attackers, who are all playmakers on top of scorers, are cooking.
3-4-2-1: Lopez; Ibanez, Smalling, Kolarov; Peres, Cristante, Veretout, Spinazzola; Zaniolo, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko.
Pellegrini (nose), Jesus (hip).