With the new season just around the corner, Juventus will look to maintain their place at the perch of Italian football for the fifth consecutive season. Notable departures and strong transfer campaigns from their rivals, however, will make this objective that much harder.
Going into last season, Juventus fans truly did not know what to expect. Antonio Conte’s abrupt departure on the second day of preseason meant that many would be content with solely retaining the title. When Massimiliano Allegri was appointed as manager, Juventus’ winning cycle was proclaimed to be over. Nothing of the sort would take place as the bianconeri, led by a relentless Carlos Tevez, would have their best season in the last decade. The Italian champions got off to a storming start in the league confirming their domestic pedigree. Rudi Garcia’s Roma were up there with them until about January until inconsistency plagued their season. From then on it wasn’t much of a title race as Allegri’s side would comfortably retain the title finishing seventeen points ahead of second place. Juventus were not done on the domestic front and made their way to the Coppa Italia final after beating Hellas Verona, Parma and Fiorentina. In the final they were greeted by a strong Lazio side. After an initial scare, the bianconeri would go on to win the Coppa Italia for the first time in twenty years thanks to an extra time winner from Alessandro Matri. It was the first time in twenty years that the club completed the domestic double.
On the European front, on the other hand, the Italian champions once again struggled to make an impact in Europe. This prompted a formation switch from Allegri which resulted in a change of fortunes at the club. Following the switch to a back four, Juventus would go on to win their next two Champions League encounters and tie the last game to progress as group A runners up. In the months that followed, the club had one of its best runs in Europe’s elite competition. After dispatching of Borussia Dortumund and Monaco professionally in the round of sixteen and quarter finals, Juventus were drawn against Real Madrid. The real litmus test of their progress on international waters was about to take place. Allegri and his men would pass with flying colors and beat the Spanish giants over two legs thanks to an Alvaro Morata winner. In the final, they came up against Barcelona which proved a step too far. Despite competing with Luis Enrique’s side for the majority of the game, Messi and co. were simply too much. Even if Juventus had not completed the treble, there was still much cause for celebration at Vinovo.
Notable transfers: Arrivals
After nearly winning the treble, Juventus decided it was time to renew the side’s hunger and took to the transfer market. Before the window had even opened, the Serie A giants had already secured Paulo Dybala for €32M euros from Palermo. The young forward had the best season in his career in which he scored thirteen goals and registered ten assists. With Tevez’ return to Boca Juniors, Juventus were left without a true catalyst in the final third. While his skill set is not quite the same to the former Manchester City man, he will be expected to pick up the slack when attacking. The bianconeri’s spending spree would not end there as they would shell out a further €19M for Mario Mandzukic and another€18M for Simone Zaza. Their arrivals signaled a mini-revolution in attack and surely mean an end to Fernando Llorente’s Serie A stay.
The attack would not be the only thing the club would strengthen as Andrea Pirlo’s departure would leave a gaping hole in the midfield. Once again, Juventus conducted their business early and picked up Sami Khedira from Real Madrid on a free transfer. Their midfield appeared to be set for the upcoming season until Bayern Munich came knocking for Arturo Vidal. Following the Chilean’s sale to the Bavarian outfit, Allegri’s men have been in the market for an attacking midfielder. Despite being heavily linked to Julian Draxler and Mario Goetze among other names, the Italian giants are yet to get their man. In recent days, Chelsea’s Juan Cuadrado and Borussia Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan have emerged as favorites. The former is available on loan until the end of the season while the Armenian is reportedly available for €20M. Given the club’s purchases, I expect that the Colombian will be the man to come in.
In defense, Juventus would only wait until recently before making a significant splash. With Daniele Rugani coming in for the departed Angelo Ogbonna, the Turin based club had their sights set on a new left back. For a few days it appeared that Atletico Madrid’s Guilherme Siqueira would be the man for the job but that would quickly change after Porto’s Alex Sandro was made available. The Brazilian fullback would go on to reject his side’s contract renewal meaning the Portuguese side had to sell him or risk losing him on a free transfer in the upcoming season. Within a moment’s notice, Juventus put an end to their interest in Siqueira and brokered a deal for Alex Sandro. The left back is expected to sign a five year contract with the club worth €2.5M a season. Porto, on other hand, will receive a fee in the region of €22M for the player despite him being in the last year of his contract. The defender has all the makings to develop into one of the best left backs in the world and will likely overtake Patrice Evra in the starting eleven as the season goes by. Outside of the side’s major purchases, Mauricio Isla was brought back from his loan spell while Neto replaces Marco Storari as Gianluigi Buffon’s understudy.
Notable Transfers: Departures
For the first time in four years, Juventus will have to make do without the services of some of their key players. At the end of the season, Carlos Tevez was always expected to join Boca Juniors while the future of Andrea Pirlo was surrounded with uncertainty. After the midfield metronome decided it was time to call it a quits on his Serie A career, Juventus were left without a real regista in the side. Instead of trying to buy an out and out replacement for the player, the club wisely opted to promote one of their own in his place. Despite bringing in Sami Khedira, it will be Claudio Marchisio who is expected to act as the team’s reference point in midfield. In the past, he has shown that he is more than capable to hold his own in Pirlo’s role as seen in the second leg against Borussia Dortmund. While he quite clearly doesn’t possess Pirlo’s range of passing, he has other qualities that make him an ideal candidate for the role.
Then, of course, the bianconeri were rocked with the news that Arturo Vidal would be on his way to Bayern Munich for a reported fee of €37M. The Chilean didn’t have the best of seasons but still remained an integral part to the team’s success. Juventus will now look to reinvest the money from his sale into a quality attacking midfielder which signals a shift in style of play at the club. Tevez, Vidal and Pirlo have been at the heart of all things good at the club for the past few seasons and often proved the difference. Now without them, Juventus will have to turn to new heroes. Moreover, the Serie A giants will be without Angelo Ogbonna and Simone Pepe who moved to West Ham and Chievo respectively. Even if they haven’t been as crucial to the team’s success as the previous three players mentioned, they still represented decent squad depth.
How will they line up next season?
The Juventus team that will feature for the 2015-2016 season will be wholly different to the one that fell at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League final. In defense, Alex Sandro should make the left back position his own in due time while the rest of the defense should remain unchanged. In the middle of the park, on the other hand, there will be significant upheaval. Without Pirlo or Vidal to turn to, the bianconeri will have to redefine their style of play. It remains to be seen who will be consistently lining up next to Marchisio and Pogba as, at the moment, both Khedira and Sturaro are fighting for the role. Despite the German’s experience, there is a good chance that Sturaro will make the spot his own. The former Real Madrid man has displayed glimpses of his injury proneness in his short Juventus career giving Sturaro the window of opportunity required to win the spot. In attack, there is no shortage of options for Allegri. Whoever comes in I fully expect Dybala to keep his spot in the eleven as there is not a player in the team that can do what he does. Next to him will likely be Alvaro Morata and the mystery man trequartista. Until that player arrives, however, both Morata and Dybala will play off Mandzukic, that is of course when they’re all fully fit.
Key Player: Paulo Dybala
With the team undergoing a number of changes in all departments on the field, none are more significant than those in the final third. As a result of this, a large part of the club’s future success will hinge on the ability of their new forwards to gel together. While Juventus will undoubtedly count on Mandzukic to get it done in the final third, the majority of the burden will fall on Dybala. The former Palermo man’s game extends to far more than just goals and for this reason, he will be of paramount importance to the club. If he finds his groove with the Italian champions, it will make Carlos Tevez’ departure that much easier to swallow and will once again give the team a reference point in attack. Over the course of his short career, Dybala has shown at Palermo that he enjoys being thrust into this role. That said, Palermo and Juventus are two completely different animals. With Palermo, the Argentina was given the reigns of the team and the opportunity to grow in a pressure-free environment. At Juventus, on the other hand, results are the only thing that matters. Despite the pressure that he will now face at his new club, I do not expect him to be fazed by it as he looks to be the type of player that rises to the occasion. In fact, he has already gotten off to a great start to his Juventus career by scoring against Lazio in the Supercoppa.
Looking forward to the 2015-2016 season:
A feature of recent Juventus teams has been their great starts to seasons. Under both Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri, the Italian champions have gotten off to quick starts giving them the upper hand in the title race. If they are to win their fifth consecutive title, they will have to continue the trend and come storming out of the gates. Given their first five fixtures, the bianconeri should be able to accomplish this. After opening the season at home against Udinese, Juventus will then travel to the Stadio Olimpico to take on Roma. The giallorossi are expected to be Juventus’ biggest rivals for the Scudetto therefore the game could not come at a better time as it’s always best to get the bigger games out of the way early. Following their away trip to the country’s capital, they will then take on Chievo, Genoa and Frosinone. While their fixtures against Chievo and Frosinone can be seen as mere formalities, the game against Gian Piero Gasperini’s Genoa represents a far trickier test. Should they overcome the grifoni, Juventus will be primed for yet another top start to the season.
Going into the new season, it would be wise for Juventus fans to control their expectations. Let’s face it. Another near treble winning season is highly unlikely as there are a variety of factors that went their way last season. Juventus, however, are still well equipped to have another very good season in Italy that will potentially be topped off with yet another league title. On the European front, it would be foolish to expect to get to another Champions League final. Instead, Juventus should be aiming for another season of consolidation among Europe’s elite by targeting a relatively deep run in the Champions League. As of right now, it’s very difficult to predict where exactly they will finish in the competition since the groups haven’t even been drawn yet but given their roster we can get a general idea. If Juventus perform to their abilities, they should reach the quarter finals comfortably.
League finish: 1st
Champions League: Quarter-finals
Coppa Italia: Semi-finals