At the end of last season, Juventus were on top of the world. Other than losing in the Champions League Final, the Turin club was coming off of one of their most successful seasons of recent memory as they claimed a fourth consecutive league title and the Coppa Italia. Things were looking pretty bright for Massimiliano Allegri’s squad going into the 2015/16 campaign.
Then the summer happened. During the transfer window, Juve lost three players that were key members in the previous season’s success. Two of their three starting midfielders departed as Andrea Pirlo joined New York City FC, and Arturo Vidal was moved to Bayern Munich. As if those departures weren’t enough, the team’s leading scorer and goal-provider Carlos Tevez returned home to Boca Juniors in Argentina.
These blockbuster summer departures make the team’s current 14-game unbeaten run all the more impressive. This unbelievable run has put them just two points behind league leaders Napoli, and a victory over the leaders on Saturday would push Juve to the top of the table. But how did the Bianconeri manage to get back to the level of title contenders after this tumultuous summer?
The main reason that Juve have been able to bounce back so quickly, in my opinion, was how proactive they were in the summer transfer window. The club reinforced nearly every area of the roster, and signed ample talent to make up for the players that left. At the end of the summer transfer window, Juve had spent just over €133 million and the dividends have already started to show on the field.
In the attack, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado were brought into the fold. Dybala has quickly become one of the most exciting strikers in the league and currently leads the team with 13 goals. The team’s second highest scorer is also a summer signing as Mandzukic has found the back of the net six times. Don’t forget about the Chelsea-loanee Cuadrado who’s provided three goals of his own and added another four assists to his name.
While none of these signings fit the same mold as Tevez, they have done a great job of making Juve fans forget all about the Argentine. Their offensive production has also taken some of the weight off of Álvaro Morata’s shoulders and has lessened the impact of the Spaniard’s less than stellar season so far (three goals through 22 appearances).
In the midfield, the additions of Hernanes and Sami Khedira have been completely overshadowed by the magisterial form of Paul Pogba. The former Manchester United player (it really pains me to type that) has been one of the best midfielders in the world and even earned himself a spot in FIFA’s Team of the Year for 2015. Even with the departure of Vidal and Pirlo, the Frenchman has continued to orchestrate Juve’s attack and terrorize opposing defenses.
From his attacking midfield position, Pogba has scored five goals and assisted another five. While statistically those numbers might not be overwhelming, the 22-year-old does things on the pitch that others wouldn’t even try in training. He has that special something that has so many people considering him a potential legend. His play in the heart of Juve’s attack has been vital to their recent resurgence and he will continue to be a key part in any title challenge that the club puts up the rest of the season.
The only marquee signing for the backline was fullback Alex Sandro. While Sandro has been sharing shifts with veteran Patrice Evra, two club icons have continued to show their class on the pitch. Gigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini have led their club to the best defensive record in Serie A. With a combined age of 69, it’s unclear how much longer these two can deputize the backline, but right now they are playing like they’re in their primes. Clean sheets against the likes of Inter Milan, Roma, AC Milan and Manchester City during this impressive undefeated run highlight the strength that these two aging veterans can still bring to the table.
Right now, it’s hard to see anyone knocking Juventus off of their winning ways. It looks like they have every aspect of their squad covered and any team will be hard pressed to find a weakness. When they host Napoli on Saturday, I fully expect them to show the same type of confidence and composure that has led them to a 14-game unbeaten streak and take three points as well as the top spot in the league.