Dušan Vlahović could be on his way to Paris Saint-Germain soon, which means Juventus will have a vacant spot up top. Romelu Lukaku seems in pole position to replace the Serbian if he departs, but Max Statman takes a look at five other names that could replace Vlahović.
Juventus have already signed an American player this window, Timothy Weah from Lille, but there’s an even bigger talent from the States out there at the moment. Folarin Balogun had a great season on loan Reims in the French top flight last season. The 22-year-old managed 21 goals and 2 assists in 37 appearances, with only Kylian Mbappé and Alexandre Lacazette managing to score more. What makes this even more impressive is the fact that Reims finished only 11th in Ligue 1.
In this graph we see the comparison between Vlahović (blue) and Balogun (pink). The current Juventus striker only surpasses the American in the aerial area and received passes. Judging from the data, Balogun seems like a more active kind of striker than Vlahović.
Balogun has returned to Arsenal from loan, but it seems like he’ll soon leave the Gunners again. The 22-year-old is valued at €30M by Transfermarkt and has a contract until June 2025.
When moving a little up north in France, we’ll find another striker with a perhaps quite similar profile to Balogun. Jonathan David of Lille is a dream option of many Juventini, which is not suprising when seeing his numbers. The Canadian has been managing excellent numbers at Lille for years and is definetly ready for the next step. In that regard, he is probably more ready than Balogun, who has a little less experience on the big stage. David has played in the Champions League and World Cup, which probably makes him more expensive as well. Transfermarkt values the 23-year-old €60M and he too has a contract until the summer of 2025.
When you compare David (yellow) with Vlahović, you see a familiar pattern. Just like Balogun, David is better in most aspects, except for the aerial department and non-penalty expected goals. Note: Vlahović is definetly not the best penalty taker in the world and has missed a few. Again, David seems to be a striker more active and involved, and not just a pure goalscorer.
It’s been too long since we spoke about Italy, so we head back to the peninsula. Bergamo, to be exact. Rasmus Højlund only joined Atalanta last summer from Sturm Graz, but he has already confirmed himself as one of the biggest talents in Serie A. Højlund is quick, technical, and has excellent hold-up play, however, he is still quite raw. Many teams are after him, so a deal would be far from easy to make. The 20-year-old Dane needed some time to get used to Italy, but when he found his feet, the goals came. He scored 9 goals and assited 2 in his debut season.
Højlund is the youngest of the five names we’re suggesting, but arguably has the highest ceiling. In the graph we can see that, like Balogun, Højlund (purple) only gets beaten by Vlahović in aerials and passes received. A personal feeling, however, is that Højlund fits the description of a tradiotnal number 9 a little bit better than David, for example. Perhaps he would be a more one on one replacement of Vlahović.
Transfermarkt values the Danish sensation at €45M, who has a contract until the summer of 2027. It seems safe to say Juventus would have to splash the cash for Højlund, which makes a deal unlikely.
The name of Gianluca Scamacca must ring some bells for Serie A lovers. The 24-year-old has a rich history in the Italian top flight, playing for both Genoa and Sassuolo. At the latter, he really developed himself well. During his last season in Serie A, he netted 16 goals in 36 games for the Neroverdi. These excellent numbers made him a target for many clubs last summer, including some interest from Juventus, but West Ham would go on to secure the services of the Italian. His first season for the Hammers is reminiscent of Vlahović second season at Juventus. Injuries and disappointing performances marked Scamacca’s first year abroad.
Scamacca featured 27 times for West Ham in both the Premier League and Conference League, finding the net only 8 times. Scamacca had to accept the role of second fiddle for parts of the season, even though he had a price tag of €36M. However, Scamacca has shown what he’s got in the past, and remains one of the better Italian strikers out there. He’s technical and has rocket right foot.
Via DataMB / Note: Vlahović has more than double the amount of minutes than Scamacca managed.
Like noted before, the seasons of Vlahović and Scamacca (orange) share similar trajectories. The graph confirms this. Scamacca, with his 1.95M height, is the only one in the list to beat Vlahović in the air. However, the Serbian has more expected goals and assists than the Italian.
Scamacca could be an easier deal for the Bianconeri, since he is only valued at €22M by Transfermarkt after that disappointing season abroad. He has a contract until 2027, but if the Hammers would want to lose him, Juventus could offer a solution. Scamacca has talked about how he’d like to return to Roma, where he played in the youth, but we know what the words of football players mean these days. Spoiler: not a lot.
What would a list like this be without one big suprise no one saw coming? Juventini certainly haven’t experienced enough shock yet these days, so here’s a crazy suggestion: Gent’s Gift Orban. In his first season at Gent, the 20-year-old Nigerian managed 20 goals in 22 appearances in both the Belgian and Conference League. Gift joined Gent from Stabæk, a Norwegian team, for only €3.3M in January. He has blown away many people in Belgium and his rise hasn’t gone unnoticed. Lille seem to be very interested in securing the signature of Orban, so teams have to swoop in quickly if they want to have a chance.
Of course, Orban (green) plays in the Belgium league, which is obviously weaker than Serie A, where Vlahović makes his minutes. However, judging also from the graph, Orban has massive talent and potential. The Nigerian striker beats Vlahović on all aspects, except the aerial area. Transfermarkt has valued Orban at €20M and he has a contract until 2027. He’s definetly the wildcard option amongst the other’s on the list, but without question has a massive future ahead of him.
Paul Pogba’s return: A complex conundrum for Juventus
The return of Paul Pogba to Juventus has left both fans and football analysts puzzled and disappointed.
What was meant to be a revitalizing comeback for Pogba has turned into a financial and tactical setback, raising questions about the decision-making behind this move.
The Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport sheds light on this enigma, revealing the significant cost incurred by Juventus and the unexpected absence of the French midfielder from the pitch.
The financial quandary
The excitement surrounding Pogba’s return was quickly overshadowed by the staggering financial implications it brought.
At an astonishing cost of 50,000 euros per minute, Juventus’ decision to welcome back the charismatic midfielder has proven to be a costly gamble.
This hefty price tag not only intensifies the scrutiny on Pogba’s performance but also prompts reflection on whether such a significant investment was justified.
A season marred by injury
Pogba’s previous season at Juventus was marred by a series of unfortunate injuries, resulting in minimal playing time.
Throughout the season, he managed to accumulate less than 400 minutes on the field, a far cry from the expectations set upon his return.
This persistent struggle with injuries casts doubt on Pogba’s ability to contribute effectively, leaving fans concerned about his overall impact on the team.
As the anticipation for the new Serie A season builds, Pogba’s notable absence during matches has become a topic of intrigue.
His inexplicable non-appearance on the field has prompted speculation and confusion among football enthusiasts.
Is his absence due to strategic considerations, lingering fitness issues, or something entirely different?
Paul Pogba’s conspicuous absence has triggered significant uncertainty regarding his potential contributions to Juventus.
While his return was initially anticipated to bolster the team’s midfield and rekindle the brilliance he displayed in his previous tenure with the club, it has instead raised skepticism.
The question lingers: Can Pogba overcome his injury setbacks and replicate his past successes, or is his return destined to be a misguided endeavor?
Strained relations and missed opportunities
Interestingly, Pogba’s absence has not only puzzled fans but also strained potential relations with other clubs.
Reports suggest that even the prospect of joining Saudi Arabian football, often considered a destination for high-profile players, has been affected by the ambiguity surrounding Pogba’s situation.
The lack of clarity has left potential opportunities hanging in the balance, further complicating the narrative surrounding his return.
The Allegri era at Juventus: From excitement to disappointment, fans call for management change
Massimiliano Allegri’s return to Juventus has been underwhelming, with fans expressing their discontent with the team’s performance under his management.
Despite the Juventus board’s intentions to keep Allegri beyond this season, some fans believe that a change in management may be necessary.
Allegri’s return to Juventus was greeted with much excitement, given his successful stint with the club before leaving in 2019. However, his recent performance has been compared unfavourably with that of his predecessors, Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo.
During his lone season at Juventus, Sarri led the team to their ninth consecutive Serie A title, but he was dismissed after the team’s early exit in the Champions League.
Pirlo, on the other hand, was entrusted with the reins of the team but struggled to replicate Sarri’s success. The former midfielder led Juventus to fourth place in Serie A, narrowly qualifying for the Champions League, but he was sacked at the end of the season.
Allegri’s return was supposed to herald a return to the glory days for Juventus, but his first season back was marred by inconsistency and underperformance. Juventus finished fourth in Serie A and were eliminated in the round of 16 of the Champions League.
The current season has also been challenging for Allegri, with the team struggling to find consistency. Juventus were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage, and they could risk of missing out on the top four in Serie A, with just a handful of games remaining.
Some fans have expressed their frustration with Allegri’s style of play, which they believe is too conservative and defensive. They have also criticised his team selection and substitutions, with some suggesting that he has not been able to get the best out of some of the team’s star players.
Massimiliano Allegri recently reached his 100th game in charge of Juventus since his return, but his statistics during this period have not lived up to the expectations of the club and its fans.
In his 100 games in charge, Allegri has recorded 54 wins, which translates to a 54% win rate. He has also overseen 20 draws and suffered 26 defeats. While 150 goals have been scored by the team under his management, they have also conceded 100 goals.
Another notable statistic is that Allegri has used 100 different lineups during his time in charge, which may reflect his difficulty in finding the right combination of players to deliver consistent results.
These figures reveal a mixed bag of results for Allegri since his return to Juventus, with the team’s performances falling short of expectations.
In-depth analysis on Freiburg: What traps should Allegri’s squad be worried about?
On Thursday, 9th March, Juventus will face Freiburg at the Allianz Stadium in the round of 16 of the Europa League.
The competition is one of the main objectives of Massimiliano Allegri’s team this season, especially since after the -15 penalty in Serie A, this is Juventus’ main chance of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season. But after all, who is Freiburg and what can we expect for the two games against Juventus?
Freiburg is a team from Germany, which despite not having Bundesliga titles in its history, is considered a traditional team in the four-time WC winner country.
Freiburg came from the second division in 2016, gaining access with the 2. Bundesliga title. Since then, the team has achieved rankings above the top 10 in 4 out of 6 seasons in the Bundesliga and has surprised much of the German media with the great results achieved.
In the current season, Freiburg is obtaining, so far, its best position in its history in the Bundesliga, in addition to not losing at home since August 12 . Occupying the 5th place and collecting great games also in the Europe League, the team is living one of the great seasons in their history.
An important curiosity of Freiburg is that the coach of the team, Christian Streich, has been coaching the team for about 12 years and has the longest work of a manager in the 5 big European leagues, in addition to being widely considered the greatest coach in the history of the German team.
How does Freiburg play?
Well, to understand Freiburg’s style we must understand Christian Streich’s main characteristic: adaptability. Throughout his 12 years at Freiburg, Streich has the clear idea of adapting according to the players and the opponent, being very elastic when it comes to the team’s formations and playing style. As we can see in the article below that shows how Freiburg adapted to the match against Leverkusen:
In what was one of the games of the weekend, both Leverkusen and Freiburg changed systems mid-match, trying to change the match around in their favour. We discuss the tactical tweaks, and the advantages of changing systems mid-match when all is failing. https://t.co/RDEEYd555E
— TheMastermindSite (@mastermindsite) September 5, 2022
With the ball
However, adaptability is not the only characteristic of this Freiburg team… With the ball, Streich’s team seeks to play vertically, using a lot of quick passes or long balls that look for the wings of the field and the depth in the back of the opponent’s defense, this is because players like Doan, Gregoristsch and especially the Italian Griffo, the team’s main player, attack very well in 1vs1 situations.
In addition, another factor that makes the vertical style even more suitable for the team is that the team’s starting center-backs, Lienhart and Ginter, have a lot of quality with the ball at their feet, which makes Freiburg even more lethal in long balls and speed passes, in the game against Bayern Leverkusen for example, Lienhart and Ginter had 11 and 7 long ball attempts respectively.
To get an idea even more accurate of how the team behaves with the ball, Freiburg has 48% of ball possession per game in the current Bundesliga, a number considered the third lowest among the top 10 in the competition, which exemplifies how Streich has never really been one for possession.
Positioning of the forwards
Another important characteristic of this team is that the attackers play close each other, it means that if Freiburg are unable to get on the end of a longer pass, they have more than two or three players in a good position to press right away, especially in the central corridors and to win it back. The midfield (Höfler and Eggestein) also try to be close to their forward men, allowing Freiburg several players around the ball when the team is attacking or pressing post-loss.
One final benefit to the forwards’ low amplitude is that a wingback who goes on the attack to seek a cross has more than one option, always having 2 or three players inside the opponent’s box. With Freiburg completing more than fifteen crosses per game, it is important to get the most out of this type of play and populating the area really is a very interesting strategy.
Best player of the team
Another important statistic of the team is that 34% of the team’s goals in the Bundesliga in the current season were scored by Vicenzo Griffo. The Italian midfielder is without a doubt the most important and dangerous player in the Freiburg team…
With great versatility, Griffo has already played in several positions during the season (winger, central striker, central midfielder, left midfielder and wingerback) and has a reliable defensive work . However, his main characteristic is his excellent handling of the ball and his technical quality, which has earned him 16 participations in goals in the current season. Below is his heatmap in the current Bundesliga season and a map that shows the player’s main areas of action and which paths lead Griffo to be such an important player for Freiburg:
Without the ball
Without the ball, the Freiburg team usually seeks to carry out post-loss pressure in strategic areas. However, this is only for the team to return so that they hold their shape and manage to organize themselves defensively, making it difficult for the opponent to break into Freiburg’s compact lines.
One important characteristic of the Freiburg team’s pressure is that the opposing defenders try to make long shots for the attack, because the team generates an advantage in these situations thanks to their great aerial presence. One final defensive characteristic of the team is try to block the central corridors, because the compactness that Streich asks the team is precisely to prevent the plays from circulating through the middle, which forces the opponents to play on the wings.
As we have seen, the main characteristic of Freiburg de Streich is adaptability, so Freiburg over the course of 11 years has varied formations a lot and this season was no different. Despite having played the last few games in a 4-4-2 that can vary to a 3-5-2, depending on Griffo’s position, the team has also played in 4-2-3-1, 3-4- 2-1 and 5-3-2.
At the moment without the ball, Freiburg’s main idea is to play in a formation that maintains the team’s defensive solidity but also numerically outmatch or match the opposing defenders. Precisely based on this idea, the formation without the ball that Streich has been using the most this season is a 5-2-3, using strategic pressing triggers. The change from a 4-4-2 to a 5-2-3 usually happens with Höffler dropping into the center-backs or one of the wingers comes back to close the defensive line while the other goes up to press and form the offensive trident without the ball.
Precisely based on the idea of match or outmatch the opponent when you are under pressure, I believe that against Juventus we will see a Freiburg in 4-2-3-1 or in 3-5-2, since both systems are the most suitable to fit the pressure in the midfield of Allegri’s team. That’s because without a doubt Streich will try at all times not to make room in the central corridor for players with the quality of Locatelli, Pogba and Di Maria, so I see Freiburg opting for schemes that facilitate this pressure fit.
. Excessive reliance on Grifo to score the team’s goals
. Difficulties building on slower transitions
. Excess of goals scored inside the area, the team does not have much quality in long-distance kicks
. Only 25% success rate crossing
. 65% success in passes in the opponent’s field, a number that shows the difficulty of the team to build by exchanging passes and not vertically
. Very fast and high quality counterattacks
. Team with a lot of physical aptitude and very organized defensively
. Wingers are very fast and have a lot of quality, especially Griffo
. Ability to adapt to the opponent and the situation that the game asks
. Wide range of plays on set-pieces, both offensively and defensively
. Good mental strength thanks to the time of several players and the coach at the club
Freiburg will not be an easy opponent, in addition to being an extremely defensively organized and adaptable team, many of their players are at the club for quite a good time, which makes them very well adapted to Streich’s ideas for the team.
Juventus must play a game that prioritizes defensive attention on the flanks, breaking the first line of pressure with the center-backs and good management of possession in the middle and forward, patiently seeking to break the defensive lines, especially using the talented of players like Pogba and Di Maria (which will definitely not be easy).
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