Blog Written by Joseph Pizziferri (@_joepiz):
Well, it has certainly been a busy transfer period in Serie A this summer. Pjanic to Juventus. Higuain to Juventus. Dani Alves to Juventus. Benatia to Juventus. You get the point, Juventus is loaded and expected to win their 6th straight Scudetto with some ease. Even with the loss of Paul Pogba, who mercifully ended the #Pogback saga this week, and Real Madrid's shrewd buy-back of Morata, many experts see this squad as better equipped to win the Champions League this campaign. However, is this reality?
I'll grant you the Scudetto should be wrapped up. The Bianconeri weakened both their closest rivals from a year ago in poaching Pjanic from Roma and Higuain from Napoli. Inter has made some positive changes, but coaching turmoil just weeks before the season doesn't make closing the huge gap with Juve very likely. Fiorentina was another team in contention last year while Juve started off slow. Unfortunately, La Viola has not made any additions of note to make them anything more than a Europa League spot qualifier. The Champions League argument is where it gets interesting for the club from Turin.
The fact remains only 11 can play at a time. It is not a given the projected starting XI is better suited for a deep Champions League run than last year, or better than the side who lost, a closer than the scoreboard suggests, 3-1 final to Barcelona a year prior. The backline, with or without Benatia, is very stout as always. Once again, Juventus have a multitude of options at midfield for their preferred 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 formations. Dani Alves probably takes over on the right for Cuadrado while also rotating with Lichtsteiner. If Marchisio and Khedira stay healthy they'll join Pjanic in the central midfield. Now, is this much of an improvement from Lichsteiner/Pirlo/Marchisio/Pogba/Vidal or Lichsteiner/Khedira/Pogba/Marchisio/Cuadrado? Personally, I'll take the 2014/2015 group with Vidal every time.
Now here is probably where you say "but they added Higuain". Yes, acquiring the man who broke the single season goal record in Serie A is undoubtedly a positive. Mandzukic never seemed to fit comfortably, similarly to how he didn't flourish at Atletico either before joining Juventus. Dybala paired with Morata was always the more dangerous attacking option. With that in mind, the addition of Higuain should be looked upon as a Morata replacement. In the biggest games Morata was always one to shine. Whether he received the start or off the bench he delivered when it mattered. Can the same be said for Higuain? Of course Higuain is a fantastic finisher, but his track record in clutch spots leaves a lot to be desired, just ask Messi. Ask yourself this question - with a game on the line which Argentinian would you want taking a penalty - Higuain or Tevez? Tevez never backed down for Juventus on the march to the UCL Final in 2015, not so sure Gonzalo has the same backbone.
When we look back, the 2014/2015 Juventus squad just might be the one we look back on as being their best of the decade.