Juventus won the domestic double again in 2017, but who is their Player of the Season? The Calcio Consultant takes a look.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie
Okay so maybe this is not a Juventus roster of “common players.” Still, three successive domestic doubles is nothing to take lightly.
Especially this season, when the Old Lady were pushed into match week 37 to clinch their 6 consecutive scudetto by the likes of Roma and Napoli.
In a Serie A season that was loaded with goals, and in the midst of a renaissance of attacking football, Juventus remained true to what has worked for them.
In particular, just 26 goals conceded through 37 matches. Pretty impressive for a champion of a league that has seen 1,079 goals scored through 370 games (an average of 2.91 goals per game).
And while they scored 75 goals this season, three and four goal margins were few and far between by the rest of the league’s standards.
In just 10 of their 37 Serie A games, they scored three or four goals. Their formula is a simple one for all their talent; get comfortably ahead, see the game out, rinse, repeat.
A two-goal cushion is enough for The Old Lady.
So what about the individual accomplishments directed toward those organisational objectives? Is there really a player of the season for this Juventus team?
While it is obvious to appreciate the collective effort, let’s make the case for and against each of Juventus’ starting eleven.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
- The case for: He is the captain and leader of a team of leaders. His timely saves, organisation of his defence, and reading of opponent’s attacks were key to why Juventus are double-winners again and have an excellent chance of securing the treble.Further, he’s the starting goalkeeper in a defence that went 690 minutes without conceding a goal in the Champions League. 180 of those against arguably the greatest attack ever assembled (Barcelona), and another 150+ against a dangerous Monaco.
- The case against: 90 of those minutes in that goalless run were Neto’s, in their last Champions League group match. That might be splitting hairs, but Neto also only conceded twice in 675 minutes this season. While that’s a small sample size, maybe anybody can play in goal for Juve with all those world class defenders.
Defender: Dani Alves
- The case for: You could say, without him, there is no Champions League final for Juventus. His goals and assists in the semifinals against Monaco lifted the Old Lady.Don’t underestimate his role in the win over Barcelona either; he made a street fight out of defending Neymar and mentally took his compatriot out of the tie. Also scored at Porto, and netted the winner in the Coppa Italia final. I can’t think of a better free signing in the last 10 years.
- The case against: Was he only brought on for Champions League? He made just 15 Serie A starts where Stephan Lichtsteiner made 21. Others in the starting in eleven could offer quality and quantity.
Defender: Leonardo Bonucci
- The case for: As steady as they get when it comes to the best defenders in the world. His passing from the centre back position is his most underrated attribute. Scored some timely goals this season as well.
- The case against: His understudy, Daniele Rugani, stepped in when Bonucci missed time through injury. Rugani performed admirably, and Juventus didn’t really miss a beat.
Defender: Giorgio Chiellini
- The case for: Tireless work ethic, especially over the two legs against Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinal. His ability to tackle, cover, and support his fellow defenders were vital in every appearance he made.
- The case against: Again, is it the system? Medhi Benatia deputised enough for Chiellini, and Barcelona tie aside, you could argue was better this season when given the chances.
Defender: Alex Sandro
- The case for: There might not have been a better left back in World Football this season, and that includes Marcelo at Real Madrid. He contributed from his position with goals and assists, but also was significant in winning multiple tackles and intercepting multiple passes.
- The case against: This could be nit-picking, but would Alex Sandro take as many risks in ball-winning if he didn’t have the likes of Chiellini, Bonucci, Benatia, and Barzagli working in support behind him? It becomes a comparison game with him, were his contributions as significant as Gonzalo Higuain’s goals? More so? Less so?
Midfielder: Sami Khedira
- The case for: The German international quietly went about his business. Took on the box to box role with great effect. Protected the defenders behind him, and contributed going forward with 5 goals and 4 assists. Max Allegri leaned on him heavily as Khedira made 43 appearances in all competitions.
- The case against: Hard to make one. Again, another player that making a case against him means having to compare his efforts with those around him. Not easy to do. Was Miralem Pjanic better at the role he was given than Khedira was at his?
Midfielder: Miralem Pjanic
- The case for: Strong link in possession from the defenders to the attackers. Created quality chances with his passing. During Paulo Dybala’s injury, Pjanic took on an advanced midfield role and handled it well.Another player Allegri leaned on, 45 appearances in all competitions. 8 goals and 11 assists in those games. Handled the deeper midfield role well, with good numbers in the ball-winning categories.
- The case against: It’s a recurring theme with these last few players. Pjanic or Khedira in midfield? Pjanic or Dybala for the creative spark? When you look at it, there is not much of a case against Pjanic, especially when others who played his role where more serviceable by comparison (Claudio Marchisio, Stefano Sturaro).
Wide Midfielder: Juan Cuadrado
- The case for: Provided quality service for the goal scorers in the team. Scored a cracker in the 1-0 win over Inter. His work rate in defending was a much underrated attribute. Tireless work ethic on the right flank.
- The case against: Couldn’t Dani Alves play the same role? In fact he did in some games. Cuadrado didn’t start making more appearances until the second half of the season, when Allegri shifted to a 4-2-3-1 setup.
Wide Midfielder: Mario Mandzukic
- The case for: The willingness to play on the left side in Allegri’s new 4-2-3-1 should be enough. Mandzukic just wanted to get on the pitch and this was his opportunity. Allegri leaned on him heavily too, as the Croatian international made 47 appearances.10 goals show up on the stat sheet, but what doesn’t show up is the commitment he made and the pride he took in his new role. Very much a reason why Juventus have a shot at the Treble.
- The case against: I’m getting picky, but 9 yellow cards in all competitions for Juventus this season suggests that maybe the defending and the tackling wasn’t always clean (yes his yellow against Barcelona was not warranted). While he won his share of balls, he also committed his share of fouls.
Attacker: Paulo Dybala
- The case for: The young, creative revelation of a veteran Juventus. Dybala broke through this season and the World took notice with his brace against Barcelona. 18 goals, 7 assists across 45 appearances in all competitions. However………
- The case against: He likes the home cooking, as 16 of those goals and 4 of those assists were at the Juventus Stadium. Can he take his act on the road? Or a neutral site like Cardiff?
Attacker: Gonazlo Higuain
- The case for: Not often can a summer signing be made and most say that the following season’s Scudetto race is already over. That was the case when Juve bought Higuain, and he has delivered. 32 goals in all competitions, with 24 in Serie A and again toward the top of the Capocannoniere chart. He’s paying off that hefty transfer fee already.
- The case against: He set the single season scoring record with Napoli a season ago. Most (including me) thought he could’ve broken his own record this season with the new team he was joining. And the question, does the team win more because of their defending or because of their attack?
As you can see from each player, they all made positive contributions. The 2016-2017 Juventus is the epitome of a team, in its simplest definition.
Though going through the pros and cons of each player, The Calcio Consultant nominates the following for Juventus’ player of the season:
- Alex Sandro
- Gianluigi Buffon
- Leonardo Bonucci
- Mario Mandzukic
- Miralem Pjanic
- Paulo Dybala
And The Calcio Consultant’s Player of the Season for Juventus is…………
In a season where Serie A is littered with goals, and where the Champions League always is, Bonucci is the constant in a Juventus defence that was the most stubborn.
He played the most out of this defence which only conceded 26 goals in 37 Serie A games, and just 3 goals in 12 Champions League games.
As I mentioned, his passing from his position in incredibly underrated. While Daniele Rugani did deputise well for Bonucci, the young defender wasn’t in the big games like Bonucci was.
You could make a case for just about anyone in this starting eleven, as I tried to. However, the veteran defender for me was Juventus’ Player of the Season.