A brilliantly busy end to the January mercato means Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus will be looking a little different in the second half of the 2021/22 campaign.
Dejan Kuluseveki, Rodrigo Bentancur and Aaron Ramsey are now ancient history with Denis Zakaria and Dusan Vlahovic the manifestation of a Juventus that is ready to begin the process of re-establishing themselves among the continent’s top dogs. Not even Allegri’s prehistoric method of winning football matches will temper the palpable excitement felt across the Bianconeri side of Turin.
Juventini simply can’t wait for Serie A to make its return following a two-week break.
Nevertheless, Juve’s season won’t be defined by the upcoming domestic clash with Igor Tudor’s Hellas Verona. In this piece, we’re looking at the bigger picture. All of us are wondering what Allegri’s Old Lady could look like throughout the second half of the season.
How Juventus could line up after the January transfer window
A multitude of Italian outlets have offered their opinion and now, it’s time for Old Juve to dish theirs out. Thus, here’s what we think would be Juventus’ optimal set-up with the new personnel for the remainder of the 2021/22 campaign. We’re going 4-2-3-1.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny has recovered from a disastrous start to the season to emerge as one of Juve’s most steady performers. The Polish international has rediscovered his best form in Turin and while Mattia Perin is a fine number two, Szczesny will start the majority of the games between the sticks for the remainder of the season.
Danilo (RB) – The full-back returned from a lengthy injury lay-off in the 4-1 Coppa Italia triumph over Sampdoria last month. Danilo’s return is a timely one for Allegri, who’ll likely use Juan Cuadrado in a more advanced position following Federico Chiesa’s injury and Dejan Kulusevski’s departure. The Brazilian provides a steady head in defence and aids Juve’s build-up considerably.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – The Dutchman’s future beyond the summer is up for debate thanks to the influence of Mino Raiola, but he’ll undoubtedly play a key part in Juve’s run-in this term. De Ligt’s quietly enjoying a stellar season and Allegri will almost always use him when fit.
Giorgio Chiellini (CB) – Despite Daniele Rugani putting together his best month of football since his precocious years in Turin, the veterans are still likely to be favoured by the boss during the second half of the season. Nevertheless, Rugani has proved to be a more than reliable option when called upon. Out of the timeless duo, I prefer the dynamic between Chiellini and De Ligt compared to Bonucci. Although, the latter’s passing range could sway Allegri the other way.
Luca Pellegrini (LB) – Left-back is a position the club will likely evaluate in the summer. Alex Sandro is over the hill and it remains to be seen whether Pellegrini can be the Brazilian’s long-term successor. Mattia De Sciglio has also proved to be a reliable and productive option this season. Nevertheless, I like the dynamism that Pellegrini provides down the left. He adds some much-needed unpredictability and excitement.
Denis Zakaria (CM) – Does the recently signed Swiss international hold the key to unlocking Manuel Locatelli? Zakaria may not quite be the same powerhouse he was before the knee injury he sustained in 2020, but he remains a shrewd defender capable of playing at the base of midfield. He has shone in a double pivot throughout his career.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – While Locatelli has impressed in a regista function, he’s been nothing short of mesmeric in the small sample size we’ve seen of him in a more advanced role. In a 4-2-3-1 alongside Zakaria, Locatelli could perform a role akin to his Sassuolo days under Roberto De Zerbi. At the Mapei, either metronome Maxime Lopez or the physical Pedro Obiang were the anchors that let the Italian off the leash. Hopefully, Zakaria can facilitate something similar in Turin.
Juan Cuadrado (RM) – Cuadrado’s handy versatility has been on full display this term and following a spell at right-back following Danilo’s injury, the Colombian should return to the wing with Allegri’s options thin. With potentially two big men in the side, his crossing ability should be a primary method of chance creation. He also adds tremendous value as an outlet.
Paulo Dybala (AM) – The profile of Juve’s wide players in this side means that Dybala will likely have free rein between the lines. La Joya may have been playing under a cloud of ambiguity this season but he’s still been Juve’s most productive performer. His ten goal contributions in Serie A this season leads the Bianconeri squad and he’ll now be tasked with serving the club’s new marksman.
Alvaro Morata (LM) – I’m getting Mario Mandzukic vibes from Morata. Allegri values him and I think he’ll try to get him in the side as much as he can. However, he could play off the left as opposed to up top. Here, he could perform a multi-faceted function. The Spaniard may well be Allegri’s next wide target-man – a role Mandzukic performed superbly during his time at the club. However, Morata is also a runner so he himself will be tasked with making bursts in behind opposing defences.
Dusan Vlahovic (ST) – The name on the tip of everyone’s tongues. Juventini cannot wait to see this guy in action after Juventus forked out cash no one thought they had to secure his services in January. The current co-leader of the Serie A goalscoring charts is determined to win Capocannoniere this season and playing with the listed personnel in this system gives Vlahovic the best chance of persistently adding to his goal tally during the second half of the campaign.
The 22-year-old Serb is the new focal point in attack and his indefatigable mindset means he’ll thrive in Turin no matter the circumstances – even if it takes some time to settle.