Injuries are a part of football, and Juventus knows this all too well
For The Old Lady, however, this year has seen a spate of injuries the likes of which would make many footballing supporters faint. The team has played without names like Kaio Jorge, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Rugani, Alex Sandro, Leonardo Bonucci and, of course, Federico Chiesa, while other names have missed matches across this season as well.
Yet losing Weston McKennie and Denis Zakaria are difficult and unforgiving losses for this squad and Max Allegri to be sure. The young American McKennie, who has shown such promise in the middle of the pitch as well as on the wings creating width and wonderful crosses, broke his foot against Villarreal and will be out for some time.
Zakaria’s absence, meanwhile, will only weaken the middle of the pitch in almost every sense of the word. McKennie, in particular, will be out for some time, and will not be able to contribute to Juventus’ UCL second leg, their Coppa Italia second leg, as well as the majority of the end of this Serie A campaign.
Who will step up into their places? Max and The Old Lady have names to choose from, but whether they will respond accordingly remains a different matter entirely.
Arthur, Rabiot & even Locatelli must step up in the meantime
Arthur Melo, Adrien Rabiot and Manuel Locatelli must not only step up for Denis Zakaria – from both the defensive and offensive perspectives – but also, at times, Weston McKennie too. They must both protect the backline and goalkeeper, while at the same time, they must look to bring imagination and creativity to the pitch when in advance.
Now, it is true that Dybala might also be able to take pressure off of these players by playing in the middle of the pitch while a player like Bernardeschi takes the right side, but Arthur, Rabiot and Locatelli must give Juventus even more than they have given to the club already this season. While Arthur was rumoured to be on the way out of Turin over the winter window, he now has a great opportunity to show his ability and versatility for a team with great expectations.
Rabiot, who has tried his best to remake himself in many ways since escaping from PSG, and who is a consistent contributor for Juventus, must give more as well; he might not be on the team much longer without further professional progression.
Meanwhile, Manuel Locatelli is certainly a good, young player who can play both defensively and offensively quite well in the middle of the pitch. For this team to be as dangerous as they might be, however, he must contribute more across each match they play, as he does for the Italian national team.
With matches against Spezia and Sampdoria in advance of the crucial reverse fixture against Villarreal, there will be plenty of chances for all of the players mentioned to prove themselves to their teammates and supporters. Massimiliano Allegri and company will need all of them to bring their focus, intent and execution to an entirely new level to finish this season as they are capable of.
Until the summer window and whatever innovations can be made during it, Juventus is stuck as they are regarding their player selection. While injuries haven’t been kind to this team – especially in recent weeks – some players can make the same type of impact as those names the club are now missing out on. The next test will be on Sunday evening against Spezia, and it will simply have to be passed.