Just as Juventus fans had begun to lose hope in Beppe Marotta’s eye for talent, labelling his transfer dealings as nothing but average, he pulled off two high profile signings in under a week to earn the fans’ respect and acceptance. Juve’s lack of an apt passer of the ball in midfield, along with a leaky defence, proved to be their downfall last season and their Europa League match against Sturm Graz confirmed the vital need of a player like Alberto Aquilani. But is he the right player for Juve?
Considering Aquilani’s reputation as the ‘glass man’ who has watched his career stagnate due to a ridiculous amount of injuries he has picked up, one worries how many matches the Italian international will manage to play. At Roma, the player suffered a string of injuries that kept him away from action and even arrived at Liverpool with an ankle problem, spending much of the year on the sidelines. Many, including the player himself, vehemently believe that the injuries suffered at Roma were largely due to malpractice of the capital club’s medical staff as opposed to the player’s fragility. It was reported that Roma players often used to refuse treatment from the club’s medics and even then Coach Luciano Spalletti frequently sought medical advice elsewhere. The length of time it took for players to recover coupled with the number of injuries suffered by the players eventually culminated in the dismissal of Mario Brozzi, the head of Roma’s medical staff. As such, perhaps Aquilani is more unlucky than he is fragile.
However, the record number of injuries sustained by the Old Lady last year hardly inspires confidence in the Juve medics and yet not enough has been done to ensure last year’s problems are not repeated. Despite injuries costing them a spot in the Champions League and millions in lost revenue, Luca Stefanini, the senior squad doctor who faced a three month ban for administering cortisone to defender Fabio Cannavaro after he suffered a bee sting, is still very much the main doctor. To make matters worse, Juventus’ training ground Vinovo that Tuttosport reported had contributed to 40 injuries last term due to poor surfaces and a 12% rise in cold temperatures between December and January, is still the main training ground. With such little effort made by the club to find a solution to this injury dilemma, is it not only a matter of time before we witness our first victim?
When it comes to the player’s skills, Aquilani is known for his mobility, his ability to partake in the team’s attack and his dynamic style of play. Realistically, he is better suited to a role that would allow him to ignore his defensive duties and indulge in his attacking flair. His delicate physique and his penchant for surging forward mean he is not much use to the defence and is entirely different to the player Juve have been searching for in the mould of Xabi Alonso. Unfortunately, he does not possess the many characteristics that are vital for the current Bianconeri squad. He is not a player that can bridge the gap between the defence and the attack nor is a midfielder that can dictate tempo or maintain possession. Unlike Alonso, he cannot distribute the ball in the same manner and is not as effective when playing the ball long – he much prefers to keep the ball at his feet as he moves higher up the pitch. Problems will arise if he is played alongside Felipe Melo as the Brazilian also enjoys surging ahead and is not responsible enough to provide cover. Alongside Claudio Marchisio or Momo Sissoko, Aquilani has a better chance of excelling as Marchisio’s tough tackling and Sissoko’s burly physique will benefit il Principe.
However, despite his weaknesses, he possesses many attributes that will benefit Diego and will allow for fluidity in the team. His creativity and accurate passing will breathe new life into a squad that has been left bereft of adept passers in central midfield and inspired players who can unlock defences. Diego will undoubtedly profit from Aquilani’s quick and accurate passes, his tendency to get inside the box and his natural ability to attack passes and long through balls. The Brazilian will finally have a player who will share the workload, speed up play and pull of the defenders away to allow more room for the trequartista to unleash his skill. However, it will all come down to whether Luigi Del Neri will pick the right defensive midfielder to play alongside the ex-Liverpool player to truly exploit the versatile player’s strengths.
Needless to say, he is a welcome addition but only time will tell whether he is the right man for the team. But unless the defence is sufficiently bolstered with at least two more recruits, it is difficult to see Juventus challenging for major honours.