A season like no Juve fan has experienced since the Calciopoli days. Before the final ratings for the players is unveiled, I will provide further context to the season that was.
Juventus finishes the season, in all competitions, with 33 wins, 10 draws and 8 losses, 4th place in Serie A (Champions League spot secured, on the final day with the help of Napoli drawing Hellas Verona), Round of 16 exits in the Champions League at the hands of Porto, Coppa Italia winners, Super Coppa Italiana winners.
The season started with a first-year coach, who started his career without his official coaching badges. He was thrust into training an incomplete squad, of which, was expected to win a treble. By appointing Andrea Pirlo, who was a legendary player, I thought it could work. Much of the issues with Maurizio Sarri was his rocky relationship with the players and Pirlo appeared to instantly change that. However, like anyone first starting something completely new, there were many issues with the rookie manager. His insistence on an archaic 4-4-2 formation and his extremely, ‘patient’, we’ll call it, substitutions were two qualms I had. However, I do not solely blame ‘Il Maestro’ for the season. Andrea Agnelli, Pavel Nedved, and Fabio Paratici (the big cheeses of Juve) set this squad up for failure. We do not have a world-class central midfielder, a world-class playmaking midfielder, a competent left-back, or a top-class striker. All things considered, with two trophies, a top 4 finish, and a matching round of 16 losses like Pirlo’s predecessor, Sarri, Andrea Pirlo should not take all the blame on this tumultuous season.
For whatever reason, Juventus players love visiting J Medical consistently every year. Paulo Dybala, Serie A Player of the Year was only fit for the last couple of weeks of the season. Aaron Ramsey continued to be a bandaid, not to mention the 72 million Arthur bandaid. Demiral, Bonucci, Chiellini, and De Ligt all took their turns on the sidelines. The team wasn’t really ever at full strength for any stretch of time during the season to gain consistency.
Players were being brought in on fixed loan deals without any input from the manager which is always a concern. Arthur was brought in to balance the books and apparently for Sarri, who was canned. Weston McKennie was randomly brought in, Alvaro Morata was brought back as a stop-gap and our crown jewel was getting Federico Chiesa. McKennie showed glimpses of being a proper box-to-box midfielder but a playmaking central midfielder was never addressed nor was a world-class left-back.
Reflection of Season:
At the very start of the season, as always, the expectation was to win the treble. Shortly after a couple of games, the expectations started to shift. This continued right until the last month of the season as expectations went from winning the treble to winning two trophies and securing Champions League qualification. This season will be defined by Juventus getting within reaching distance of the leaders and then ultimately dropping points against the likes of Hellas Verona, Fiorentina, and Benevento. The players and coaches made too many simple mistakes and had too many mental breakdowns. This was the root cause of the disappointment. We continuously shot ourselves in the foot. The first goal against Porto perfectly epitomizes our season. I think most of the squad underperformed barring 3-4 players and there was no real consistency throughout the season. Only a handful of matches can be regarded as Juventus performing well - Juventus v Barcelona (Match Day 6), v Milan (Match Day 15), v Lazio (Match Day 25), v Atalanta (Coppa Italia - second half) and v Bologna (match Day 38). This has to change if Juventus want to become a top club in world football.
Top 5 Highlights of the Season:
1. Coppa Italia Final - Gigi Buffon’s Final Farewell
2. Super Coppa Final - Pirlo’s First Trophy
3. Federico Chiesa against Milan (3-1) - Becoming a Star
4. Weston McKennie goal against Barcelona (3-0) - An American Special
5. Securing Champions League football in the final day of the season
Matthjis De Ligt
2020/2021 Season Player Ratings:
The following player ratings are based on the eye test (5) and with advanced analytics (5). I will also address the player’s situation for next season.
Wojciech Szczesny 5.5 - At times the Pole was the best player on the pitch and at the second half of the season, his play deteriorated. Unforgivable mistakes against Porto and a gaffe against Milan are the sticking points. Had a 71.3 save percentage and a 1.19 Goals Against Average (Both not in the top quarter of Serie A). If someone comes in and buys him and Juventus replaces him with Donnarumma, I say Ciao Tek.
Gianluigi Buffon 8 - The ultimate teammate and warrior. Juventus was 12 wins 2 draws and 0 losses with the legend in goal. This attests to his professionalism and command on the pitch. Stand-out moments this season was, his clean sheet against Barcelona, his penalty save against Sassuolo, his great Semi-Final Coppa Italia against Inter, and of course him celebrating the Coppa Italia trophy. Grande Gigi e il buona fortuna.
Carlo Pinsoglio 5 - known for being Ronaldo’s best friend and Juve’s loudest cheerleader. A good man and a perfect third goalie. Got scored in the only 15 mins he played in. I hope he stays. Dai un po eh.
Alex Sandro 4.5 - The wheels have been coming off this wagon for a while now. In my gamely column, I continued to write that we need a new left-back for a reason. We see him attack with conviction and barring a few goal-line interventions his defending has been quite poor. If a bid for 20 million comes in, he must be sold. His saving grace was his brace against Parma or else his score might have been lower.
Leonardo Bonucci 5.5 - He was injured for a chunk of the season. We didn’t really see any of his trademark long balls over the top come off and his 1 on 1 defending is completely useless. However, when he was benched for some games we saw him do it with class and professionalism. He should continue as a backup.
Juan Cuadrado 8 - If football had the PER Usage stat like the NBA has then Panita would be matching Lebron James numbers. Every attack this season seemed to come from the Colombian. He provided the most assists from defenders in Serie A and added more in the Champions League. His brace against Inter will be remembered for a while and his crossing was decent this season. Talks of an extension have begun and I am fine with it.
Giorgio Chiellini 6 - We knew he couldn’t play every game anymore and he really shouldn’t but he’s one of those guys that gives his all and his determination outweighs his actual talent. It’s one of those relationships where if he messes up, you can deal with it. He should also continue for another season as a backup.
Danilo 7 - One player who actually thrived under Andrea Pirlo was the Brazilian. His counting numbers weren’t anything to be in awe of but his on-field performance was good. He played in numerous roles including right-back, center-back, left-back, and even center midfield, and was good in all. He also seems as though he has acquired the Juventus spirit. If a high bid comes in sell, but I’d be happy if he was kept.
Matthjis De Ligt 7.5 - The Dutchman is clearly our best defender and if he wants to stay here he will become the captain. He was as strong as an ox and he always makes good decisions with the ball. He won the ball the most times as a center-back in the opposition half which allows possession higher up the pitch. Being so young, you can only salivate at how good the kid can actually become. He must stay.
Merih Demiral 4.5 - It was disappointing to see how much the Turk was injured this season. I was expecting a career-changing season and a changing of the guard at the back. It never materialized and Demiral was ultimately forced to partake another year in a backup role. If a good offer comes, we should sell.
Radu Dragusin 5 - A strong, growing prospect. Hopefully, he stays or goes on a loan to a Serie A lower table team.
Gianluca Frabotta 5.5 - He scored a great goal against Spal in the Coppa Italia. He is a player that is not of Juventus quality though and should be put in a deal to lower the fee to acquire Manuel Locatelli.
Arthur 5.5 - The Brazilian could just never string any games together through fitness or game style. At this point, his price tag is not justified however, over time we may see the best of Arthur. His ability to wriggle out of pressure is Marco Verratti-esque. Needs to work on his in-game fitness and playing forward when the opportunity arises. I’d like to see him settle and continue playing for the team next year.
Rodrigo Bentancur 4 - The Uruguayan was consistently either Juve’s worst player every or at least bottom three. The mistake against Porto is unforgivable. He doesn’t do enough good things for that enormous error to be rectified. He was stuck as one of the 2 center midfielders but he rarely wanted to go and get the ball and transition defense to attack which is a massive error. There was a graphic illustrating the top 75 percentile in ball retention, ball-winning, and progression of U23 center midfielders playing in Europe going around social media and it depicted Rodrigo as a promising player. That’s all well and good except the game is played with players of all ages. If a swap for Saul or Renan Lodi is on the cards, let’s do it.
Federico Bernardeschi 4.5 - The Italian has been a flop. He tries his best but the reality is, he is not Juventus quality. Deployed mostly at left-back and left midfield he can’t beat his man and his final ball is poor. He had 3 assists this year in 39 games playing a minor role. He’s gotta go but I think he likes making the money he does.
Federico Chiesa 8 - My personal player of the season. The young Italian started off in classic Juventus fashion, getting a good assist and then a straight red card. People were skeptical, including me, to see if he’d be worth the money. As long as he stays long-term, the money spent was worth it. He added the pace that this team sorely lacks. He became a big game player and scoring/providing goals when we needed them. He finished the season with 14 goals and 10 assists from a midfield position. The only critique that can be made is his composure but that comes with time. It is safe to say I am buying his kit next.
Alessandro Di Pardo 5 - Some substitute appearances for the youngster that didn’t really impress. He should stay with the u23 team or go on loan to a Serie A team.
Nicolo Fagioli 6 - The Italian looks to be a decent player. Played with tenacity and has a love for the jersey. Likes to play the ball forward which is nice. If he is part of a potential Locatelli deal I can accept it but if he is used strictly for plusvalenza, I will be peeved.
Dejan Kulusevski 6 - ‘The Curious Case of Kulusevski’ was something I wrote about just before the season began. I mentioned his potential attacking promise and where I could see him doing damage. Pirlo used him mostly as a right striker or right midfielder. We saw glimpses of his world-class ability and his wand of left and everyone must remember he is 20 years old in only his second full season in a professional league, his first with a massive club. He ended up with 7 goals and 6 assists in 46 games. He definitely needs to work on and master his final third decision-making and his weak foot. He’ll be a dynamite player in the years to come. The more he trains with great players, the better he will be. He better be staying this summer.
Weston McKennie 6 - This was a weird season for the American. It started pretty well, he put in great performances and showed that Juventus grinta. His season will be remembered for his ability to score from midfield (See the goal against Barcelona) and unfortunately that hip injury that derailed his season. He can play in many roles and he seemed like a squad favorite. Juventus fully purchased him a couple of months ago and I thought that was the right choice.
Adrien Rabiot 6.5 - The Frenchman had a weird season as well. You can see that he has the quality to be a world-beater. However, a good portion of the games, he just doesn’t bring it. He doesn’t bring consistency. I saw enough quality from him to believe he can be a good player for Juventus, whether that’s in a starting role or sub role. If he can make runs into the box more regularly I can see him scoring 10 goals a season with the occasional banger. I would like to see him stay and have a proper center-midfield partner.
Hamza Rafia 6 - Purely a 6 for scoring the goal that allowed us to continue our Coppa Italia winning journey. Seems like a perfect loan candidate.
Aaron Ramsey 4 - Can’t stay fit, can’t quite grasp what is needed in Serie A and Juventus. It is sad to see as I was expecting him to at least ignite the midfield in the opposition area but that hasn’t really happened barring a couple of moments. The Welshman should go back to the Premier League, preferably West Ham because they can afford him and would want that type of player.
Paulo Dybala 5.5 - The former Serie A Player of the Year only played in 26 matches this season and mostly playing unfit. That’s including all of his substitute appearances. It wasn’t a nice season for Dybala but toward the end, you could see glimpses of his former self. If there was another month to the season I believe Juventus would finish 2nd and closer to Inter. He finished with 5 goals and 3 assists. His contract renewal should still be a priority this summer.
Alvaro Morata 6 - The Spaniard had an up and down return season in black and white. Morata was deployed as the central figure in the attack for most of the season. His counting stats are a bit inflated as he did a lot of damage to lower-tier teams. His performances in big games were a part of the reason why there was no real sustained attacking football. He had 20 goals and 11 assists playing in a team where all the attacking play heads towards Ronaldo. It is a good return for Morata but the type of contribution must have context. It is cheap to redeem his loan for next season so I think that should be triggered.
Cristiano Ronaldo 7.5 - I stopped giving my reasoning for my gamely column of ‘Pre Match Ratings’ because Ronaldo FC would come from everywhere discrediting an opinion. Get ready for this one. Yes Ronaldo scored plenty of goals, yes he scored 36 goals and provided 5 assists. It is understood he contributed to 38% of Juve’s goals this year (Compared to Morata who was average this season who contributed 29% of Juve’s goals). I am still going to say he wasn’t our best player (even though the club gave it to him) this season. He had the most big chances missed this season in Serie A with 27 and had less actual goals than his expected amount. His three years of service are much appreciated and I think it is time we separate. The timeline of the club and Ronaldo’s lofty expectations have not aligned. Thank you legend.
MVP of the Season: Federico Chiesa
Strictly speaking in terms of expectations, Freddie Church was our MVP. I was pleasantly surprised with his mentality, his ability to score, create and come up big in big matches. All of this as a young, wide midfielder in his first year at a big club. Forza Fede!
The 2020/2021 Juventus season was a roller coaster ride. With all things being considered, the season was not a complete failure. A legend of Juventus turned into our rookie coach and everything escalated from that moment. There were many ups and downs throughout the season. From Covid outbreaks to team inconsistency, to some great individual performances, this season will leave many questions unanswered, until this summer that is... Look for my next piece on the blueprint to make Juventus rise to the top again.