Breaking Down Juventus' Striker Conundrum with Llorente

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIISeptember 24, 2013

Breaking Down Juventus' Striker Conundrum with Llorente

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    Fernando Llorente started his first match with Juventus at the weekend, scoring the winning goal against a stubborn, yet somewhat lucky, Hellas Verona.

    The 2-1 scoreline was flattering to the visitors, who were dominated for the majority of the match, yet the Spanish centre-forward's goal will go down as a winning strike and a decisive contribution.

    Having effectively taken a year off with Athletic Club last season, it is only natural to assume that Llorente is some way off the player that dominated La Liga and the Europa League for a season, attracting the Bianconeri to sign him on the pre-contract deal in January.

    Yet Antonio Conte is reluctant to use the 28-year-old from the beginning, or even use him as the first option from the bench, as we saw in the Champions League match with Copenhagen.

    The Old Lady have a plethora of options in the final third and Conte has yet to decide on how to bring the best out of Carlos Tevez.

    The Argentine is so versatile that Juventus can chop and change for the time being, but when the all-important knock-out games in the Champions League arrive, Conte should be sure on the side best equipped to improve on last season's result.

    Here are the options available and the for and against arguments for playing Llorente.

A Dream Partnership of Tevez and Llorente?

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    Positives: It would give Carlos Tevez a free role to operate in the space between the opposition's defence and midfield.

    Carlitos is at his best when he's able to pick the ball up deep and run at the opposition, before working some space to unleash a shot on goal.

    Likewise, El Apache could combine well with the Spaniard who would be adept at returning the ball into the path of an onrushing Tevez.

    If defenders decide to mark Llorente and also track Tevez in the hole, the Old Lady would be able to shift the ball out to the unmarked wide men.

    Llorente is powerful and dominant in the air, so if Juve's midfield, or Tevez, can shift the ball quickly to the wings and the wide men can deliver the ball into the penalty area, Juve will have an additional aerial threat that they did not have before.


    Negatives: By demanding Tevez to play deeper and having Llorente as the most advanced centre-forward, you would lose that threat of spinning into the space behind that the Argentine offers.

    As a consequence you often see teams dropping deeper and giving Juve space further out. This is fine as the Juve midfield are so dangerous at manoeuvring the ball in and around the penalty area, teams are often too static to react to the Bianconeri's movement.

    With Llorente leading the line, I would expect the opposition to step up, knowing that Llorente is unable to hurt them so far out from goal.

    This in turn would hinder the magic trio of midfielders, who would have their space cramped into the middle third of the pitch.

Alternatives to Llorente

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    If Conte continues to not select Llorente from the beginning, there are plenty of other options to consider.

    Once Claudio Marchisio returns from injury, the dilemma of whether or not to maintain Paul Pogba in the starting lineup will present itself.

    Some might argue this is not a dilemma at all, and that Polpo Paul is a certain starter for the Bianconeri now.

    With such an outstanding talent, Juve's hand might be forced here, meaning that there is only room for one striker in the current system.

    Tevez is assured of a place, which could spell bad news for Llorente.

    Mirko Vucinic offers something different, too. 

    The Montenegrin is a threat to Llorente should Conte maintain a formation with two strikers.

    Vucinic better on the ball than Llorente and can link with Tevez both on the ground, as well as aerially with his vision and passing ability.

    By playing Vucinic with Tevez, you expect the former City forward to play further forward, which naturally pushes the opposition back towards their own goal, as mentioned in the previous slide.

    It is most likely at this stage that Conte persists with this partnership, but there is an inevitable problem with this, which Llorente could solve.

    Whether Llorente would be the man to solve this from the beginning, or as a substitute, is another matter.

    But with Vucinic and Tevez, Juve lack that physical presence in the final third and teams who defend tightly and possess strong defenders will naturally sit deeper, forcing the Old Lady to either shoot from distance or move the ball to the wide areas and try their hand with crosses.

    It is still premature to say, but these are all considerations for Conte at this stage and Llorente's performance against Hellas will certainly have made the manager's decision more problematic.

Change of Formation?

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    If Llorente can replicate his previous form with Athletic, there is always the possibility that Conte could consider a change of formation.

    The 3-5-2 is still unproven in the Champions League and Conte could easily field a formation that would require Llorente to spearhead the attack.

    Stephan Lichtsteiner is perfectly capable of switching to right-back in a back four, while the left-back position would be trickier to solve, Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna would be adequate solutions.

    Kwadwo Asamoah would also be an interesting proposition, who would give you more penetration and additional pace, but also less experience defensively in this role.

    With Juve tending to enjoy the majority of possession, a diamond 4-4-2 could make a lot of sense, with the wide options arriving from deeper positions.

    This in turn allows Pogba alongside a healthy Marchisio to start for the Old Lady, with the latter tried in a more advanced role.

    Although not the most natural trequartista, Conte could point to Cesare Prandelli's revolving quartet of midfielders for the Azzurri.

    Riccardo Montolivo often starts as the closest to the strikers, but the most advanced three will take it in turns to drop deep or push into the advanced areas.

    A partnership of Tevez and Llorente could then blossom and give Juventus the option of keeping the passing short and the tempo fast, while also knowing they can switch it up with the presence of the physical striker.

    There would also be less of a burden on Tevez to drop deep with such quality on the ball from the supporting midfielders.

    While it has been a tricky start to life at Juventus, Llorente is certainly not a forgotten man, performances such as the one that he produced on Sunday will force Conte's hand.

    Then it will not be a question of whether Juve accommodate Llorente, but more a question of how.