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Better Now? How Juventus Could Line Up After Impending De Ligt Transfer

Big names have come and gone this summer, but is Juventus better off now?

Nine successive Serie A titles followed by two campaigns where Champions League qualification seemed a shallow silver lining, Juventus’ fall from grace has been clear to see in recent years. This summer has seen several big names depart Turin, and the Bianconeri will be hard-pressed to find adequate replacements in order to once again fight for the Scudetto.

At the time of writing, it looks all but confirmed that Matthijs de Ligt will leave Juventus for Bayern Munich, where he and Dayot Upamecano will presumably form a tremendous defensive partnership that should last for many years to come. In addition, veteran and club icon Giorgio Chiellini left for MLS side LAFC.

This leaves Leonardo Bonucci and Daniele Rugani as the most likely starting central defenders, with no other center backs playing more than 90 minutes over the entire 2021-22 season. 

Although rumors have suggested Juventus has a shortlist of replacements, the idea of adequately replacing Chiellini and de Ligt seems farcical. The young Dutchman played the most minutes of anyone in the Juventus squad last season while Chiellini currently has the third most all-time appearances for La Vecchia Signora.

Massimiliano Allegri notoriously uses his outside backs in a more attacking role, putting the defensive burden squarely on the shoulders of his center backs. New signings will need to be made and fast as Juventus could be in for a rough season without adequate backup for his main Italian duo.

In midfield, Juventus has made some strides as the immensely popular American Weston McKennie has become a regular fixture in the side with only Adrien Rabiot and Manuel Locatelli playing more minutes among central midfielders. The return of Paul Pogba on a free transfer will add a new attacking threat that has been absent for some time. Following his disappointing second stint at Manchester United, questions will be asked whether Pogba is past his prime and if the club would have been better off pursuing a player on the younger side instead. 

While on the topic of disappointing stints, it seems Arthur Melo could be allowed to leave Turin with Barcelona and Arsenal looking to be the most likely options. Injuries have plagued his time at Juventus, and he has unfortunately failed to live up to the expectations set forth by his $83 million transfer fee. Former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey could also leave and it seems the Juventus faithful would not mind at all after a video emerged of a fan asking Ramsey to sign a piece of paper that read “contract termination” went viral on social media. Following his loan to Rangers, he is being linked with a move back to England in an effort to be closer to home ahead of the World Cup. 

A midfield three of McKennie and Locatelli with Pogba in front of them would help cover for the club’s defensive shortcoming while also having a creative outlet to make things happen in possession. The aforementioned Rabiot and Swiss international, Denis Zakaria are both great alternatives, and, unless the group as a whole does not mesh, the midfield should once again be the club’s pride and joy as it was in the days of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and a much younger Paul Pogba.

Following the departure of the perpetually offside Álvaro Morata, the responsibility of scoring belongs to winter signing Dušan Vlahović and Euro 2020 star Federico Chiesa. Vlahović ranks among the best in the world in goals per 90 with 0.72, and, paired with Chiesa’s 0.75 goal-creating actions per 90, this duo could prove disastrous for opponent defenses. 

They will be joined by 34-year-old Ángel Di María, who brings a wealth of experience and success to Juventus. He will serve as the replacement for new Roma signing Paulo Dybala, who was deemed surplus to requirement by Allegri after spending the last seven seasons in Turin, scoring 115 goals in all competitions.

Regardless of how Di Maria’s Juventus spell turns out, there will be a lot of questions asked about why the club did what it did, but it does seem like terrible business to offload a 28-year-old fan favorite and bring in a player six years his senior in his place.

Juventus begins its preseason campaign Friday, July 22, in Las Vegas, against Chivas. Assuming Allegri puts in his best 11 at some point, a reasonable assumption would suggest something like a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.

Potential Juventus Lineup 2022-23 With Pogba

From back to front, Wojciech Szczęsny will most likely start with Mattia Perin seeing possible minutes as a backup. The South American duo of Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro will likely feature outside with Bonucci and Rugani between them. 

Ahead of the center backs, look for McKennie and Zakaria or Locatelli with Pogba imposing his will through the middle. Out wide, Di María will look to make his debut while an injured Chiesa means Moise Kean could feature as a winger with Vlahović up top. Cuadrado is more than capable of playing on the wing, so if he were to move up instead of Kean, Danilo or Mattia De Sciglio could both feature in his spot. 

As of now, this squad is lacking in several key departments and, outside of the midfield, depth is not its strong suit. As other sides in Italy have strengthened, Juventus seems to have taken a step back. Champions League qualification will be the goal from the off unless something is done to help the defense. Another winger or two would be helpful in case of injury, but with the financial situation the club has found itself in following the pandemic, it seems that this may be all it can afford.

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