Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Juventus continue to paper over the cracks of their rebuilding programme – and we are not talking about the new stadium, which by all accounts will look amazing and put those who are meant to be performing there to shame.
Being nine points off leaders AC Milan is one thing, but being in a real scrap to qualify for the Champions League - the target set out by the club at the start of the season - is quite another.
Currently, Luigi Delneri’s side are joint-fifth with Inter and two points off fourth-placed Lazio. But with the defending champions rediscovering their form under new boss Leonardo, and Palermo and Udinese - both in the chasing pack - looking particularly impressive, Juventus are likely to have to battle hard to even qualify for the Europa League.
Investment in the first team squad is required, and President Andrea Agnelli’s new regime are at risk of deluding themselves that the current squad will be strong enough to be playing Champions League football in the new stadium some time in the near future.
The UEFA financial fair play regulations are playing their part, or so the club claims, but wasn’t this “project” to restructure the whole organisation on and off the pitch meant to have started back in 2006?
There have been some false starts along the way and patience even amongst the most fervent Juve follower is beginning to wear thin. There are only a few days left in the January transfer window, but there are still gaping holes right through the squad.
And yet it seems the only arrival will be defender Andrea Barzagli from Wolfsburg – another hero of Berlin ’06 to reminisce about the glory days with Luca Toni, Fabio Grosso, Alex Del Piero and Gigi Buffon.
Barzagli (left) looks likely to be Juve's sole winter purchase
Cover in the centre of defence should probably have been one of Juve’s lowest priorities, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini on the whole remaining free of injuries and slowly developing a partnership that will bear dividends in the future.
That stability has been sadly lacking in the full-back positions: Armand Traorè limped into the club from Arsenal and after just three starts, the left-back set the record for quickest ever substitution in Italian football on Sunday when he pulled a thigh muscle 52 seconds into the stalemate at Sampdoria.
This is of little significance when compared to the problems in attack, where needless to say a goalscorer will always make the difference – and that is something Juve just do not possess.
AC Milan have Zlatan Ibrahimovic on 12 goals and despite his own injury problems Alexandre Pato has netted eight so far, Napoli’s Edinson Cavani is on 14, Samuel Eto’o has 12 for Inter and AS Roma’s Marco Borriello who turned down a switch to Turin in the summer, is on nine goals.
Antonio Di Natale also snubbed the Old Lady and is currently leading the goalscoring charts at Udinese on 15 goals.
Fabio Quagliarella had found the net nine times until his season was ended and the key to finding a decent replacement came down to whether the club could sufficiently cash in on Amauri and Mohamed Sissoko.
The former has rarely hit the high notes since his arrival in Turin from Palermo and there have been no takers for the Brazilian-born Italian national, perhaps unsurprising given he has also had his fair share of injury problems. The same goes for Sissoko who has been punted to clubs in France and Germany only to be rebuffed at every turn.
The names of Luis Fabiano, Diego Forlan and even Klaas Jan Huntelaar have been bandied about but if no one moves on then, as Juve transfer chief Beppe Marotta lamented: “What can be done?”
There just isn’t €10 to €12 million in the transfer kitty so Delneri will have to make do with whatever he can scrape together from the fit players currently at the club for what is likely to be a testing month ahead. This could be as good a time as any for the coach to start thinking outside the box somewhat and jettison his rigid ’four in the middle and two up top’ approach.
With Milos Krasic being run into the ground having not had a break for over a year after playing for CSKA Moscow through August immediately after the World Cup, perhaps now might be time to rest the Serbian. Jorge Martinez could actually be fit again and could be brought in on the right side of a two in support of a lone striker, be it Amauri, Toni or another injury victim Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Simone Pepe has provided one of the rare positive notes of late and should continue on the left flank; behind those three there is room for a solid three of Alberto Aquilani, Felipe Melo (or Sissoko if the Brazilian cannot stay on the pitch) and Claudio Marchisio who would feel more at home in a narrow midfield role.
Next up on Thursday are AS Roma in the Italian Cup followed by in-form Udinese on Sunday, a midweek trip to Palermo and then a visit to Cagliari before Inter arrive at the Olympic stadium. It is crucial Juve get their act together over these coming weeks if they are to salvage something from this season.
Diego Forlan's inclusion as a possible Juventus transfer is funny. Nobody wants to buy Forlan, Atletico Madrid even offered him on the cheap to Real Madrid via a bizarre loan payment system yet Real doesn't want him.
Forlan scores nice goals, but pay attention to the way he plays midfield, he consistantly disrupts the flow of a play by dumping the ball back to midfield. Too many bad habits, the last thing Juventus needs is another striker thinking he can play midfield (see the Brazilian Diego) --- the best thing to do is stay the course, see where the season takes you, risk the Champions League berth or settle for a Europa League berth at the very worst.
Sad to say but Forlan with or without the World Cup Balon D'Oro is a horrible buy for any team.
The attack at Juve wasn't good enough even when Quagliarella was fit. And he was carrying them. Toni and Amauri just aren't good enough anymore, while Iaquinta and Del Piero are not up to it either.
Getting Fabiano, Forlan or any proven striker in, even on loan, before the window shuts, is vital. If not, Krasic and others at his level will soon be wondering what the point is. The fullback positions are nearly as bad, yet they sign an average centre back. Braindead.
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