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A Point to Prove: The Juventus Strikeforce

After the miserable results of the latest campaigns, there has been no end to the blame games played in Turin and among the diaspora of Juventini on the web. Fingers have been pointed in almost every direction, and it’s fair to say that very few involved with the club since 2006 can be said to be completely guilt-free. ‘A Point to Prove‘ is a new series where we will focus solely on the PLAYERS. In the end, they are the ones who need to perform to get us out of this mess – and quite a lot of them have… something to prove.


Step forward, Juventus Strikers!

Although defense has been Juve’s Achilles heel (or rather, a really nasty case of Athlete’s foot) for quite some time, there’s still plenty to prove as well for the Bianconeri forwards this coming season. For this edition of A Point to Prove we have chosen to evaluate our current crop of strikers, one by one.

Alessandro Matri

Matri was one of few beacons of light to shine for the Juve faithful this Spring, and if he is able to replicate that sort of form in the Fall despite the personnel changes in the squad, he should have no problem proving the point he is a great centre forward. From his place as nigh on guaranteed starting prima punta, he has every possibility to do well and definitively shake off the ‘provinciale’ tag attributed to him by some upon his arrival in January.

Signs from Matri have been mixed in pre-season, but if he links up well with the host of wide attackers in the squad and receives decent service from the flanks, it is quite possible he could actually go a long way in filling that void left by… dare I say it? Yes, David Trezeguet.

What Matri must do at this point – and this cannot be emphasised enough – is to study the case of Amauri and make sure that he does the exact opposite of what the Brazilian did after his brilliant start to his career in Black & White!

Mirko Vucinic

Magical Mirko seems to be relishing his move to Turin so far, his trickery and feistiness being a key ingredient in our pre-season offensive play. His versatility alone (he can basically play anywhere in a front two or three) should assure him lots of playing time regardless of formation. Furthermore, he is the only starting alternative to Matri as prima punta in my book, should that be necessary.

That said, we all know that Vucinic will need to shed his reputation as a moody, big game-only player if he is to succeed at Juve (this isn’t Roma after all), a point I’m sure he’ll be as eager to prove as the fans expect him to..

Fabio Quagliarella

One can’t help but feel for Quags, who before his injury against Parma in January was a striker born anew, adding consistency to hist vast repertoire of wonder-goals and thriving in the role of the deadly seconda punta that he was finally allowed to continually occupy under Del Neri.

I would love nothing more than to see him slot right back in there, completing the much dreamt-of partnership with Matri this season. However, with the addition of Vucinic he may have a hard time claiming a starting berth. What Quagliarella needs to prove is that he can provide the goals asked of him – even if thrown on from the bench in the last 20. Or, that he is simply the better player of him, Vucinic and…

Alessandro Del Piero

Volumes have been written on Il Capitano and his contributions to Juventus over the years, and I am sure at least one more is yet to be chronicled. Still, before every season his age and lack of pace is brought up and questions regarding his value for the squad are raised.

While Pinturicchio isn’t getting any younger or faster, of course, I find it a bit tedious that people – especially after his very obvious impact in these later stages of his career – doubt his ability too add creativity, experience, and grinta to this team.

Not that he should stand in the way of younger teammates or be fielded for his status alone, but his sheer quality will see him given many minutes of action this coming season. Or so I believe, at least. Not as an assured starter, but certainly as an occasional one (and most certainly as a super sub).

Of course we will need the Captain this season – and of course he will not let us down. No points left to prove, only quality to bring. On the pitch or off it. No club in the world can boast a bandiera like ours. ‘Nuff said.

Luca Toni

Probably the second most maligned Juventus striker in recent years, Toni has lots to prove this season. But unlike many Juventini, I actually rate Toni quite highly. Not to say that I expect him to perform as he did in his prime, and certainly not to say that I would prefer him as a starter in this team. As an auxiliary striker however he has things to offer that few of his teammates can. If you will pardon the cliché he is a seasoned veteran, a soldier who will gladly accept his role of ‘game killer’ more than ‘game changer’.

Toni is the archetypal target man who will allow you to rid yourself of the ball in a critical situation; holding on to it, earning a free kick (or, as Marco would have it, “flopping to the ground at every opportunity”), and even once in a while providing an assist or a goal. His presence at set-pieces is guaranteed to make opposition defenses nervous too – a trait much needed in the current Juventus side.

If Big Luca provides these underrated but crucial qualities in what will hopefully be his select few moments on the pitch, he could prove to to be a marginal but important option for Juve this season. And, of course, he is the original *Numero Uno*, lest we forget… Who here isn’t just dying to hear that song again?

Vincenzo Iaquinta

Do you remember Iaquinta? He’s that lanky, awkward guy who used to work his ass off and have quite a good scoring average too. No? Well, he’s still here, lingering about the Fornaca somewhere, supposedly…

As much as I appreciate the previous contributions of “Vincenzone” to the Juventus cause (and as much as I obviously appreciate experience and work rate in general), I really hope that he will be somewhere else come September 1st. Hopefully ending his career graciously as an important player at a club in need of his services, or (sadly more likely at this point) troubling the medical staff at a some provincial club who took the gamble…

Amauri

Yeah, HE is still here.

Wait a minute… he did actually prove a few points at Parma. What is left for him to prove is that he can get out of Turin for good, preferably faster than a cannonball.

So, Amauri Carvalho de Oliveira, please do the right thing: take a wage cut, enjoy the provinces, end your career on a high(er) note. Good luck and cheers for the one good half-season you gave us (we’ll forget about the rest – in time). I believe your middle name means horse, and you do know what owners of horses usually do to them when they prove incapable of fulfilling their job, right?

(here, take example from a horse that can kick; do we have to cut your hair too to produce this result?)

Conclusion

Juventus presently boasts five strikers of real quality (and two that are surplus to requirement, given the fact that the club can focus solely on the Serie A and Coppa Italia this season – but, let’s face it, they would be anyway). Each with his own unique set of skills that could be very useful to Conte, if applied with prudence. And each with enough of a point to prove to keep them on their toes (bar Del Piero, who will undoubtedly prove himself anyway, as is his way).

Considering Toni as the likely fifth choice, a ‘specialist’ to be deployed only at select points or games, the real test for Conte will be to shuffle his four potential starting attackers the right way – and indeed to match them up with the rest of the squad and hit those perfect combinations that will eventually lead Juventus back to glory.

A lot is riding on Il Mister’s ability to do so: in the end, Conte may be the one with the biggest point to prove of all. But that as they say, is a story for another day.

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