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Aaron Ramsey: How ex-Arsenal man will turn into next Juventus free agent star

Juventus continued to re-write Italian football history in April when, after defeating rivals Fiorentina, they sealed an eighth successive league title. Their dominance of Serie A is something that has never been seen before, and they already have plans in place to continue it. One of the key moves made ahead of next season is the signature of Aaron Ramsey from Arsenal.

It would be fair to say that the Welshman never quite took off in the way many thought he would after he joined the Gunners as a teenager in 2008. However, while not always a regular starter, he has consistently been a key player for the Premier League club and enjoyed a number of exceptional seasons in London.

In allowing Ramsey to leave, Arsenal have perhaps undervalued the playmaker. His next move, therefore, is unsurprising given Juventus have a history of signing, and then maximising the talents, of such players.

The Italian champions routinely pick up quality on free transfers. Andrea Pirlo and Dani Alves were thought to be past their best before the Bianconeri got the best back out of them, while Sami Khedira and Emre Can had their ability questioned before becoming key men in Turin.

Ramsey, then, is the latest in a long line of high-profile free transfer additions made by Juventus. But just how astute will his purchase be?



ALLEGRI'S APPROACH

As is the case every year, there is uncertainty over whether Massimiliano Allegri will still be in charge of Juventus come next season. In his five years he has won five league titles, four league and cup doubles, and reached two Champions League finals. Despite all of this, he is under pressure to deliver more.

Results, clearly, are not an issue, though some Juve fans are unhappy with the way their side plays. This, in all likelihood, relates to the fact that Allegri does not pride himself on his team dominating ball possession and defending ultra-aggressively the way other elite European clubs do.

On occasion Juventus press high under Allegri, though generally they are quite passive and position-oriented. Their defensive focus is zonal and based around keeping a compact shape. At times it isn't entirely dissimilar to the way Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid play without the ball. Meanwhile, offensively, the strategy involves a mix of gradual build up from the back and more direct play towards aerially strong frontmen such as Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo.



Certain statistics can be used to compare and contrast the Allegri approach with that of his European peers. For instance, Juventus have averaged 54.9 per cent of ball possession this term – Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have averaged 64 per cent; Niko Kovac's Bayern Munich 62.2 per cent; Ernesto Valverde's Barcelona 61.4 per cent; and Thomas Tuchel's Paris Saint-Germain 60.4 per cent.

There is a marked difference in terms of attacking between Juventus and their fellow 'big league' winners. While the others also top their leagues when it comes to possession numbers, Juve sit fourth in Serie A.

Not only is Allegri relatively less interested in having the ball, but he is less interested in pressing the opposition into giving it away. PPDA (passes per defensive action) is a statistic that shows how many passes a team allows their opposition to play, on average, before turning the ball over. The higher the number, the more passes opponents are allowed to play against a team before giving up possession. Juventus' PPDA number of 9.8 is significantly higher than Man City's (8.4), Barcelona's (8.3), Bayern's (8.2) and PSG's (7.1).

What these numbers tell us is that Juventus don't lust after the ball through pressing and controlling possession in the way the other major European league champions do. While some may not admire this of play, it has worked exceptionally for many years. And, if Juventus see the light and allow Allegri to continue after half a decade of success, this is the framework Ramsey will have to adjust to.



RAMSEY AND JUVENTUS: A GOOD FIT

Ramsey has generally played as a forward-thinking central midfielder or a No.10 throughout his career. He is at his best when given license to push on and support the attack in advanced areas, where he can make a telling impact in the final third with his combination of clever touches, superb control, penetrative runs and ability to make the last pass.

Comparing him to Juventus' other midfielders, the primary difference is seen in attacking contribution. Over the last five years, the Welshman has scored 23 goals and set up a further 28 in league action. Of the current Juve midfield options, including Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi, Emre Can, Rodrigo Bentancur, Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado, only Pjanic has scored and assisted more.



The reality is that most of these players are extremely suitable to Allegri's tactics, as they offer hard work, fitness and aggression defensively, and the ability to run forward quickly on the counter. Matuidi, Can and Cuadrado are all about work-rate, energy and dynamism; Pjanic and Bernardeschi offer more guile; while Bentancur is a hybrid of class and bite.

Ramsey falls more into the Pjanic/Bernardeschi category, though he is a different player to both. Pjanic is a deep-lying playmaker who prefers to sit at the base of midfield and dictate possession, while Bernardeschi is adaptable and can play almost anywhere in midfield or attack. Juve's newest addition, however, is more of an advanced creator.

Allegri's preferred systems this season have been a flat 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3. It is possible that Ramsey could play as a central midfielder in the former shape, though it is far more likely that he will operate on the wing, or as a No.8 in the 4-3-3. These positions would give him more license to roam, get between the lines and open up defences.

Attacking quality is undoubtedly the main reason why Juventus have made this move – when discussing the transfer, Allegri stated: "He (Ramsey) is a quality player, who has goals in his legs and is good at timing his runs."



With this in mind, it is easy to imagine the 28-year-old playing just behind Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala or Mandzukic, driving beyond them from deep and distorting opposition back lines or offering a forward passing option and linking attacking moves.

His versatility also means that he can fit into a variety of systems, which will be music to Allegri's ears. The former Milan boss has been known to switch systems regularly depending on the opponent, the game state or the personnel available to him, flitting from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 to 4-3-1-2 to 3-5-2.

A flexible and intelligent midfielder who offers genuine attacking threat from deeper areas, Ramsey has what it takes to thrive at Juventus next season and beyond. Assuming he stays fit, and Allegri stays put, this transfer could be the Italian champions' latest bargain.

Blair Newman
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Blair Newman

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