“If you want to have fun, you should go to the circus.” These were the words of Massimiliano Allegri after his side dispatched of Monaco by a score of 1-0 in unspectacular fashion in the quarter-finals of the Champions League two seasons back. While the bianconeri left a lot to be desired in the final third that night, their resolute defence allowed them to proceed into the next round of Europe’s elite competition and ultimately push on into the final. For the past five seasons, Juventus have been operating on the basis that their defence will win them titles and have begun resetting the foundations for a strong backline for years to come.
Before Antonio Conte’s arrival, Juventus were a mess defensively and subsequently struggled in the table. Two consecutive seventh place finishes and a combined 103 goals against from the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons later, the bianconeri decided to rectify their problems at the back. In his debut season with the club, Conte shifted out the error-prone likes of a declining Fabio Cannavaro, Nicola Legrottaglie, Cristian Molinaro, Marco Motta and Armand Traore. While his only defensive reinforcement was Stephan Lichtsteiner, the Italian tactician completely reformed Leonardo Bonucci, who was struggling and gave the underrated Andrea Barzagli a more prominent role in the side. Under the manager’s strict guidance and the 3-5-2 system, the BBC (Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini) was born. Over the next four seasons, the BBC established themselves as one of the best defensive units in football and consistently ensured Juventus boasted the best defensive record in Italy. Of course, it always helps having Gianluigi Buffon behind them between the posts. Fun fact: Juve conceded 111 goals over the last five seasons in comparison to the 103 they shipped in the two aforementioned seasons above.
Now with five consecutive titles under their belt and potentially a sixth one on the way, Juventus are looking to ensure they could build another BBC of sorts to maintain their domestic dominance. After all, the team with the best defensive record in Italy has won the last nine league titles. It shouldn’t surprise many that Marotta and co. have tried to secure the league’s best defensive talents in recent times.
Last Thursday, Juventus completed the signing of Mattia Caldara from Atalanta for 15 million euros plus an additional six in bonuses. The young defender will remain on loan with gli Orobici until 2018 before returning to the Italian champions. Along with many other young talents at Atalanta, Caldara has taken the league by storm this season and is a major reason Gasperini’s side find themselves in the hunt for European places. At the tender age of 22, Juventus have found a defender they can likely rely on for the next decade, should he pan out. When he returns to the club in 2018, Andrea Barzagli will be 37 years old while Chiellini will be nearing the age of 34, therefore it will be as good a time as any for Caldara to come in. Even the most optimistic Juve fan will tell you that, as good as they are, both Barzagli and Chiellini will not be the same by then, especially considering the fact that the latter heavily relies on his physicality to get the better of his man.
But Caldara alone is not enough to build a defensive dynasty, is he? Well, luckily for Juventus they have a young defender by the name of Daniele Rugani. Since breaking out with Empoli in his debut season in Serie A, Rugani has been pegged as Italy’s brightest hope at the back alongside Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli. In his year and a half with Juventus, the 22-year-old has made 24 appearances and has consistently improved, learning from his world class peers. The best part? Like Caldara, he is only 22. As the BBC’s forces began to wane as a unit, Rugani and Caldara will begin their ascent to stardom.
Rugani and Caldara are Italy’s current defensive darlings with Romagnoli but we cannot discount Filippo Romagna. The 19-year-old has impressed immensely since joining Juventus’ primavera, where he is now the captain. In the past, both Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri have called the player up to the first team, highlighting their belief in the young man. If Romagna is able to maintain his development, there is no reason why he won’t make the step up to the first team in the near future. Alongside Caldara and Rugani, Juve’s central defence is set for years to come.
But what about at fullback? Out wide, the bianconeri currently have two phenomenal options on their books in the form of Alex Sandro and Pol Lirola. I do understand that the former is an established world class player and is perhaps only behind Marcelo in the world. However, the point remains that he will be tormenting his flank for years and years to come. Pol Lirola, on the other hand, is playing in his first ever season of top flight football at Sassuolo and has made the transition look seamless. Like Rugani, Caldara and Romagna, the Spaniard has to keep progressing as a player because he has demonstrated all the tools to be a world class right-back in the future. With Pol Lirola and Alex Sandro, Juve will be more than happy with their future defensive prospects on the flank.
When looking at the bianconeri’s defensive options across the board, it’s hard to find a team in the world with similar young talents. All that’s missing is a phenom goalkeeper to replace the ageless wonder Gigi Buffon and they’re set. This mentality has allowed them to dominate domestically and it is a formula that they are familiar with. While BBC may no longer be a thing in a few years time, fret not Juventini because Rugani, Romagna and Caldara (RRC) will come together to form a mouth-watering defensive unit for years to come. Whether it’s BBC or RRC for the Italian giants, one thing’s certain: Juventus are well on their way to building a defensive dynasty and you should take note.
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