It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to move Juventus from the top spot in the Serie A and deny them a third consecutive championship in Italy. However, the ‘Old Lady’ has bigger things in mind than just local domination, but for that to change some decisions have to be made.
It comes down to money spent and quality of players. This core group has helped Juventus dominate in Italy since late 2011, with Andrea Pirlo arriving considered to be the biggest addition, although Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Mirko Vucinic and the return of Sebastian Giovinco have all helped bring back the most successful club in Italian history to where it thinks it belongs.
But what about the Champions League? Juventus played in the competition last season for the first time since 2009-2010. They finished first in a tough group that included Chelsea and Shakhtar, and ended up in the quarterfinals. They lost 2-0 twice to Bayern Munich, but no one made too much of it. Bayern were (and probably still are) the best team in Europe, and it was hard not to tell the differences.
But a day after that loss everyone, from the players to the manager to the front office talked about Juve’s future. About wanting to be part of Europe’s elite once more, which means being in the top 4 more often than not, and winning the Champions League for the first time since 1996. For that, more than what’s been done so far is recommended.
Where do Juventus improve? Italian teams, unless they’re purchased by billionaires like the ones Manchester City, PSG, Monaco and Chelsea have, are in something of a bind. It’s hard to compete financially at the moment with the top Premier League clubs, Barcelona-Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the two rich French sides for the best players, not when it comes to a battle of salaries. It has to be a combination of finding the diamonds in the rough and tactics. Juventus have a fine manager, and their tactical system isn’t the issue. It’s the players, or some of them, that need to change.
In Italian/Serie A terms, they’ve a very deep squad. Mirko Vucinic, Giovinco and Quagliarella are their replacemnt strikers. Juventus have Claudio Marchisio looking from the outside on the midfield threesome. Players like Simone Padoin and Mauricio Isla have no place in their starting lineup. Their second XI could be one of the best teams in Italy. But not everyone in the lineup is good enough to count on for future success, especially on the European front.
Gianluigi Buffon might be the greatest goalkeeper of all time, but the time for change is soon, maybe sooner than anyone would like to admit. Assuming that Marco Storari isn’t the one who takes his place, the search (and find needs to be done soon). The same goes for Barzagli (32). Bonucci? He’s young, and the amount of foolish mistakes is on a decline. There’s a good chance he’ll cut them out completely soon enough.
The left back position, which right now is usually filled by Kwadwo Asamoah, is an issue. The Ghanaian is very versatile and can play in quite a few positions, but he doesn’t do any of them at the necessary level for Juventus to look at Bayern and other European clubs at an eyeball level. The same goes for their strikers – Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente have combined to score 19 league goals this season, better than Juventus had before. But is this the tandem to bring them back into Europe’s elite? Probably not, not when they’re the two best forwards they have.
The midfield is the safest place. If Juventus can hang on to Pogba and Vidal for more than just this season, they’re in great hands. Andrea Pirlo doesn’t have too much time left and Marchisio is great in certain situations, but never as a leading man. The three-midfield trend in its current form is running wild in Europe partially due to Juventus rising, but even they need to tweak it out in order to make it about more than just local titles, and turning their success into something a bit more continental.