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Juventus Set Sights on Bayern Munich Winger Arjen Robben

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Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich (Wikimedia Commons)

Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich (Wikimedia Commons)

Juventus are preparing an €18 million bid for Netherlands international Arjen Robben, according to Football-Italia (via Corriere dello Sport). The Dutch winger has been linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena outfit for some time now, after seeing his playing time plummet, making only nine starts this Bundesliga campaign. Though they don’t play exactly the same position, the acquisition of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze could be the final nail in the coffin and spell an end to Robben’s days at Bayern Munich.

Still an amazing player on his day, the 29-year old has to feel hard done with the hand he’s been dealt this season. Bayern have one of the best, if not the best, attacking midfield/forward corps in the world and with the performances of Toni Kroos, the world-class play of Thomas Muller and the continued brilliance of Franck Ribery, Robben has been relegated to a substitute’s role as Jupp Heynckes’s favored 4-2-3-1 doesn’t have room to accommodate the former Real Madrid man.

When he has been given the chance, Robben has sparkled. In nine starts and five substitute appearances in the Bundesliga, he’s scored four goals and contributed five assists. In Bayern Munich’s recent demolition of Barcelona, Robben got off five shots, converted a goal on a very tight angle around keeper Victor Valdes and looked a constant threat throughout the game.

Oft-criticized for being a selfish player, few can argue that Robben makes the right decisions with the ball every time he’s in possession, however, one cannot say that about any player in world football. He’s become infamous for cutting inside, getting the ball on his left foot and launching curling shots from beyond the 18 when there are defenders in front of him. More often than not, the shot will fly over the cross-bar but he has the ability to pull off beautifully placed shots such as this one.

He is capable of winning a match by himself as his pace, passing and skill on the ball make him a nightmare for defenders. He’s an offensive juggernaut but he regularly neglects to uphold his defensive duties, not tracking back nearly as much as he should. Bayern Munich have been able to cope with Robben’s unwillingness to defend because they have the best full-back in world football, Philipp Lahm, playing behind him on the same flank.

Antonio Conte almost exclusively employs a 3-5-2 for La Vecchia Signora. The five midfielders line up as follows: two holding midfielders, one advanced midfielder, a right-sided midfielder and a left-sided midfielder. Robben is best utilized on the flanks because even though he possesses world class passing acumen, he is at his best when he’s cutting inside and wreaking havoc on a defense. Claudio Marchisio has been touted as the future captain of Juventus and doesn’t look ready to lose his advanced midfield spot, though he hasn’t played all that well this season. He is completely unable to play a holding midfield role given his poor defensive ability, not that he would supplant Andrea Pirlo or Arturo Vidal anytime soon.

The two positions that make the most sense are clearly the two winger positions and the right-sided one is the position that most closely parallels with his current role at Bayern Munich. Stephan Lichtsteiner is the man who occupies that role currently and while Robben is the better player, Conte uses Lichtsteiner in that role because he’s a defender by trade and is able to help out Juve’s three-man back-line. The Bianonieri’s three defenders are fielded centrally and while Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are all world-class center backs, they are not well-placed to quell the threat of wing play. This is where Lichsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah on the other side come in as both players have the work rate to get back and defend.

While the addition of Robben could give Juventus that extra push in the attacking third that they have been searching for in order to pair with their world-class defense and midfield, he isn’t the player best suited for the system Antonio Conte has implemented. The Italian tactician has a brilliant footballing mind and would undoubtedly be able to find a role for Robben but I don’t see how he could replicate even a semblance of Lichsteiner’s defensive performances because over the years he’s shown a complete aversion to defending. Robben is a brilliant attacking player, one of the best in the world and will certainly bolster the quality of whatever team he joins, but the system in place at Juventus would expose the talented Dutch winger.

4 Comments on "Juventus Set Sights on Bayern Munich Winger Arjen Robben"

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  1. Juri Gobbini Juri Gobbini says:

    In my opinion I don’t think Robben can fit the actual 3-5-2; As you said in the article, he’s not able to defend but he’s devasting on attacking; Conte prefers players with good pace on the flanks and Lichsteiner and Asamoah have shown so far a good balance between attacking and defending. The only berth he might be employed by Conte is as second forward, probably in a 3-4-2-1 system . I can imagine Juventus with a lone striker (LLorente o Vucinic or someone else) with a couple of quick players behind ; Robben-Vidal behind a striker, o even Robben-Vucinic behind a Llorente for a more offensive display….but this could create problem in midfield as Pirlo needs two men around him to garantee his freedom to get the ball and dictate the play leaving the dirty job to Marchisio, Vidal or Pogba; Recently Juve have even played with only one striker and six midfielders (Pirlo, Marchisio, Vidal and Pogba all together) creating two banks of 2 in midfield (5-2-2-1)alternating a rhombus system with Pirlo the lowest and Vidal the highest; This was the main reason of how Juventus dominated in Italy (less in Europe by the way) with an absolute control of midfield that helped to overcome the lack of a 20-goal-per-season hitman; Putting Robben in this context might mean to alter a winning system …for this reason I have some doubts about….

    • Jason Voss Jason Voss says:

      Thanks for commenting Juri and great points across the board. 3-5-2 really isn’t what he’s best suited for because Lichtsteiner and Asamoah are better fits. The 3-4-2-1 is interesting but like you said, Pirlo needs players around him to be at his best. The 5-2-2-1 I haven’t seen much of (after they took Serie A off Fox Soccer Channel I’m stuck scouring the web for links and it almost always ends unsuccessfully) but that formation would give him multiple spots that Robben could play in. How great of a manager is Antonio Conte though that’s he able to stick with the concept of a three man defense but tinker with the midfield and attack without sacrificing results. Vidal is amazing, I’m really glad Juve rebuffed that offer from Bayern because it’s good for Serie A, though it makes my life as a Milan fan considerably worse for two games out of the season.

      Who I think would be great as a wing-back Juve would be either Leighton Baines or Filipe Luis. Baines will probably leave Everton after another year without Champions League football and while he probably wouldn’t leave England, he has all the tools to excel in that 3-5-2 system. Luis has been fantastic for Atletico Madrid and has that Brazilian fullback tendency to bomb forward but he’s shown he’s able to track back.

  2. Juri Gobbini Juri Gobbini says:

    Conte was such cleaver to build Juve around the talent of Pirlo. With those players the 3-5-2 has been a logic consequence. Big achievements might suggest that Conte will continue with it, but also a 4-3-3 could leave both freedom and protection to Pirlo but it could denature the defence (with the actual one they often defend in 3 pure defenders + 2 wide midfielders that move back+ even 1 central midfielder, Pirlo – although he’s not the strongest in tackle and furthermore he’s very clever in take the right position with his experience);
    Let’s see, probably the next market will see Juve bolster the squad although i don’t think they will spend a lot of money.
    Probably the big deal would be retain Arturo Vidal – another key player in these seasons; I agree with you about Baines, a great player at top of his career who will suit perfectly the Juve system while I haven’t followed too much Filipe therefore i cannot say whether he can cover successfully that role.
    I have also some doubt about Llorente. He will arrive without any fee so the risk to have wasted a lot money (Bilbao demanded €35m last summer) is minimum but I saw him in person playing recently in a La Liga game and he didn’t impress me too much. He’s a proved hitman in Spain and even in Europa League he did well two years ago, however he’s not a champions, such as Ibra, Van Persie, Lewandoswki, or simply Balotelli just to mention someone.
    If Juve wanted a good player, here he is;
    But if Juve wanted a real champion, able to change a game in European context the matter changes….
    Hope i misjudged him and he can show all his best, however…

    • Jason Voss Jason Voss says:

      Like you said Llorente is essentially a no-risk signing. They’re getting him for free and he’s a very talented player. He is 28 years old so he should still have a couple more good years left in him but the positive about Llorente is that he won’t need to adapt to losing pace as he gets older like many players do because he has no pace to begin with. He’s very gifted in the air and is comfortable with the ball at his feet but he won’t beat any defenders off the dribble. He offers the aerial ability of Matri and the finishing of Quagliarella so he is an upgrade at the striker position. However, like you said he is not the world class talent that Juve fans want to lead the line for a team that already has a world class defense and midfield. He’s huge though and at 6’5″ he’ll be major threat on set pieces, along with having the strength to contend with opposing defenders.

      Since striker is by in large the most coveted position in world football, players get outrageously overpriced. That’s why a free for Llorente is so great because he’s talented and comes with no cost. I think it has the potential to be signing of the season when you look at the cost, like Montolivo to Milan this season. I really like the signing and think it was a very shrewd one because there is no real bust potential as he’s coming on a free.

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