- Good news for Juventus fans, Paul Pogba is 99% certain to stay at Juve, according to his agent. All this despite bids from “Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Bayern, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea.”
- Antonio Conte was named the top coach in Italy for his time with Juventus last season. The ex-Juve coach now handles the reigns of the Italian National Team.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) March 9, 2015
- While Pogba likely staying is a major possitive, there is a negative, defender Martin Caceres will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his ankle in training over the weekend.
- Juve take on Sassuolo later today.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) March 9, 2015
Over the summer, it was obvious that Juventus were in the market for another attacker to bolster the incumbent duo of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The club was linked to Radamel Falcao and nearly signed him, but in the end brought in Real Madrid youngster Alvaro Morata.
While not nearly at the level of Falcao, Morata is only 22-years-old and possess about as much potential as a young striker can have. A knee injury prevented him from integrating himself immediately, but as the season has progressed, the Spaniard has become a crucial member of the squad. So crucial in fact that he is pushing countryman Fernando Llorente out of the starting lineup. Llorente has struggled with form and Morata has seized the opportunity to pass the towering hit-man with some superb displays.
On the surface, the two Spanish strikers’ numbers are very similar.
Appearances (All Competitions) 28 28
Goals 9 6
Assists 4 2
Pass Success Percentage 75.1 72
Shots Per Game 1.8 1.8
Average WhoScored Rating 6.78 6.77
Despite the similarities, there are differences. Llorente is skilled in the air (mainly due to the fact that he towers over defenders at 6’5”) and averages 2.3 aerials won per match. Morata (who’s no slouch at 6’3”) only averages a singular aerial win per game. Morata takes the cake in terms of assists with four compared to Llorente’s one. Despite all this, the biggest difference may come in minutes played. Morata has logged 1,065 minutes on the year while Llorente clocks in at 1,728. That’s a difference of 663 minutes, or seven full games and change.
It’s pretty clear that Morata has been more efficient with his times.
His goal against Borussia Dortmund in this week’s Champions League knockout round first leg insured Juve had a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg in Germany.
With the exception of a yellow card against Atalanta, Morata has been on fire. He had a hand in both goals in a 2-2 draw with Cesena, scoring one and setting up another. He also tallied a goal and an assist in a 3-1 over Milan, earning Man of the Match honors. Before that he netted the only goal in a 1-0 Coppa Italia victory for the Bianconeri against Parma. Other recent conquests include an assist each in blowout wins over Napoli (3-1) and Verona (4-0). Morata also scored in a separate demolition of Verona, this one finishing 6-1. That’s five goals and four assists in his last 10 matches, six of which he played the full 90. Llorente only managed two goals and two assists in his last 10 games. He played the full 90 minutes only twice in that span.
Throw in the fact that Morata is a full eight years younger than Llorente and it makes sense that the former Real Madrid man is making Llorente expendable.
Given Llorente’s play and age, and the fact that Carlos Tevez will return to Argentina when his contract expires, Juve will need some new attackers.
Sassuolo duo Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza are both forwards who have been heavily mentioned as possibilities to move to Turin in the near future.
Berardi is actually owned by Juve and is spending the year on loan with the Neroverdi. He has seven goals and six assists in 19 appearances for Sassuolo and provides tactical flexibility thanks to his ability to play on the right wing. Zaza is actually Neroverdi property, but Juventus has a $15 million buy-back option on the forward’s contract this summer. Zaza has nine goals and an assist in 21 appearances for his club and has already opened his scoring account for the Italian National Team with a goal in the Azzurri’s 2-0 win over Norway in a Euro 2016 qualifying match.
Llorente has been linked with moves to Tottenham, Marseille, Liverpool and Arsenal, so there are suitors. Should a sale occur, their will clearly be funds for Juve to get a new striker to replace the struggling Llorente in the team. The Old Lady don’t necessarily need a replacement for Llorente, but a long-term one for Tevez. They already have Llorente’s replacement in-house—Alvaro Morata
All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.
(Disclaimer: I don’t profess to know a ton about football. I just love the beautiful game.)
- Andrea Pirlo’s genius, pace and the fouls/free kicks he draws. Some people play on a whole other physical level, or a whole other level in terms of speed. The latter is Pirlo. (Also, isn’t it nice that in football/soccer, wherever you’re from, a players is simplified to just one name? Even if he hasn’t shortened his name to one name. Messi is called Messi when his full name is Lionel Messi, etc. Anyways, it lends itself to lazy typers like me, and the rest of the world for that matter.) Pirlo plays the game almost methodically. You know when basketball gurus say that the game has “slowed down” for some players? That’s Pirlo. He slows it down. While the tempo killing can sometimes be hard to watch, the Italian midfield maestro always makes the right pass, even if he has to slow down to do it. Expanding on that, especially in the match against the Dutch, everyone else was going 110 miles an hour (if you will) while Pirlo was cruising at a comfortable 85. The result of this is that a lot of hand checks and fouls that might go un-noticed were noticed as Pirlo drew multiple free kicks by simply playing at the speed he feels comfortable playing. I should also point out his genius. Which he is, by the way. Every game there are about three to four plays where he makes a pass that could open up the defense. If your defense gives Pirlo milk and curds he turns it into Swiss cheese. (Especially if he’s playing against the Swiss.)
- Buffon does it again. Where Pirlo makes three or four passes that unlock the defense, Gigi Buffon makes three or four saves that the average Joe keeper wouldn’t make every game. He did this again on multiple occasions against the Dutchmen.
- Sub Par? Not to say that the starters were lacking, but the substitutions of Pablo Osvaldo, Alessandro Diamanti, Alberto Gilardino and Marco Verratti certainly changed the game in a positive way.
- Slick Whats? The field was very slick in case you didn’t notice. At least half a dozen players hit the turf, one of which quelled a promising Italian attack.
- Friendly Strategy. (That faux headline didn’t work, but stick with me.) Cesare Prandelli certainly isn’t using friendlies to get results. The Italy head-man consistently uses friendly games to test younger players and tinker with different pairings and lineups ahead of major tournaments. He’s using this strategy for the upcoming Confederations Cup as well as the Azzurri’s likely World Cup spot in Brazil in 2014.
- It’ll Work. Eventually. Italy’s spearheaded attack of Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaaraway seemed to be a bit stagnant in the first half. While the Osvaldo/Diamanti/Gilardino trident worked, the former group will likely be the long and short-term options up front. They’ll figure it out eventually, playing together that is. After all they both play for AC Milan. They’ll be tested and ready by Brazil.
If I missed anything from the game that you thought was mention-worthy, tell me in the comments section.