Despite defensive solidity in Serie A, Juve have struggled to break down the best Europe has to offer. Can this classic big man / little man change that?
Juventus’ renaissance in the last two years under Antonio Conte has been nothing short of remarkable. Back-to-back Serie A titles and a new stadium have seen the Bianconeri retain its status as Italy’s top club. With ambitions of conquering Europe next season, the Old Lady have been proactive in the transfer market, and now finally have a strike force to fire them into Champions League contention.
Juve’s return to the upper echelons of the game in Italy has been based around a miserly defence, supreme midfield and outstanding team ethos. The Bianconeri’s rearguard typifies the stereotypical Italian defence, with uncompromising characters such as Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon ensuring that the club only conceded 20 and 24 goals in the past two campaigns.
The presence of the likes of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and the evergreen Andrea Pirlo mean that Juve win the midfield battle, and the game, more often than not. However, Conte has not had an out-and-out top-quality goalscorer to call upon in tough European fixtures. This is something that needed fixing, especially given the calibre of forwards that have led the line for Juve in the past.
Last season, despite scoring 71 Serie A goals and being crowned as champions, Juventus did not have a player in the top 15 goalscorers in the division. Midfielder Vidal and Mirko Vucinic top scored with 10 each. The other forwards shared the burden, with Fabio Quagliarella netting nine times, Alessandro Matri eight and Sebastian Giovinco seven.
Although Juve have a team providing goals from different players, a top-notch strike force is needed to maintain momentum and challenge on the continent. In a wonderful piece of summer business, the Italian champions have managed to forge a potentially world-class strike partnership in the form of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez, for the modest total transfer cost of around £10m.
For both of Juve’s new strikers, the arrival in Turin marks the start of a much-needed new challenge. Llorente has been the figurehead of Athletic Bilbao’s attack for the entirety of his career, and has shown loyalty to stay with the San Mames outfit when a move to a bigger club has repeatedly been on the cards.
Llorente has proven himself consistently in La Liga and has played his part in the Basque club’s Europa League campaigns under Marcelo Bielsa. The 28-year-old has amassed 21 caps for Spain in his career to date, and will hope that playing for a top club and in the Champions League can convince Vicente Del Bosque to take him to next year’s World Cup.
The Spaniard will bring Juve something that they do not have with their current attacking options. Llorente’s physicality and aerial ability will give opposition defences another headache to deal with, and for a burly forward the new man has excellent link-up play and the ability to score consistently for the Bianconeri.
Tevez will look to reignite his career in Italy after a forgettable final season at Manchester City. The Argentina international’s time in England was distinctly up and down. Tevez won three Premier League titles, and played an inspirational role in City’s rise to become one of the nation’s top sides. When he was on form and in the mood, Tevez showed that he is fitting of world-class status.
The problem however was that Tevez was never too far away from controversy. His constant fascination with returning to Argentina resulted in numerous transfer requests, while his exploits in going AWOL were well publicised.
How Juventus manage Tevez will determine the success of the player’s time in Turin. It has the potential to be fantastic piece of business by the Italians, or a complete failure. Tevez’s ability is not the issue, and it will be a major surprise if the South American doesn’t surpass the ten goals that last season’s top scorer managed.
Handing Tevez Alessandro Del Piero’s legendary no.10 shirt is a good start, and if the forward feels the love from the Bianconeri, he has the ability to fire them to domestic and potentially European glory.
Despite the competence of Vucinic, Matri, Giovinco and Quagliarella, Juventus now have a strike force that will really threaten in every game the team play. Working together, Llorente and Tevez have the ability to continue the Juventus revolution in years to come.