Mirko Vucinic – The man under the radar

Blog by: Arjun

Mirko Vucinic of FC Juventus in action during the TIM Preseason Tournament between US Sassuolo, FC Juventus and AC Milan at Mapei Stadium – Citta del Tricolore on July 23, 2013 in Reggio nell’Emilia, Italy. (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)

Mirko Vucinic is the man under the radar at the moment. Much criticized for his lack of work rate and consistency in front of goal, Vucinic may well be leaving Juventus this mercato.

Priced at €18 million, there have been a few rumours linking him to Zenit St. Petersburg and Manchester United. With the arrival of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, his departure seems more likely. There is no doubt in the talent Vucinic possesses, but it is the lack of goals that has caused most of the fans to dislike him.

Is there space for Vucinic in an attack that has Tevez, Llorente, Quagliarella and Matri, apart from Giovinco? Do we really need the Montenegrin international? The answer is YES.

Vucinic has been very under-rated in his two-year stint at Turin. Based on facts, in Conte’s first Scudetto winning season, Vucinic scored 9 goals and had 8 assists in 35 games. In his 42 games for us last season, he scored 14 goals and assisted 6. In his time at Juventus, his goal per game ratio is 1:3. Hence, it is safe to conclude that he has misfired as a goal scorer. Statistically, Vucinic should never be allowed to play for a prestigious team like ours. Honestly, let us think for a moment and ask ourselves –

Was Vucinic brought in to be a “goal scorer”?

The answer is NO. Mirko was never in Conte’s plan to average 20 goals a season. If he was ever thought to play as a goal scorer, then it does not make any sense to retain Matri and Quagliarella for two consecutive seasons. What Mirko Vucinic offers to us tactically is far greater than he can ever provide statistically.

The tactical balance he provides in a 3-5-1-1 is never recognized, and he is blamed for consequences that were not in his control. The role that Vucinic has played for us in the past two seasons has been one of the pivotal reasons for Juventus rising from the ashes to secure top spot in Serie A. We have often seen Giovinco being used in this position and being as inconsistent as Vucinic is in front of goal, and it’s tough to find the short Italian even though he is playing.

Why is Vucinic so important?

A 3-5-1-1 system is a very unique and effective system. There are hardly any teams in Europe that are experienced to face such a line-up. What makes it so unique is the integration of the flank system, which performs both defensive and attacking duties! The link between midfield and attack is as important to the team, if not more. It looks simple…play behind the main striker and in front of the triumvirate midfield. In practice, it is a complicated role to fit into.

Vucinic executes this role easily because the attributes that he has is what is required to play in this role. He does not have a hunger for goals, which means he will not wander into the box and make it tougher for us to retain possession in the final third. He lacks work rate, which means he will not be present inside the defensive half on the deployment of a counter-attack.

He uses his physical attributes to the maximum, indicating that it is safer to pass him the ball and not lose out on possession. But what he does most efficiently is that he draws the central defenders higher up the pitch, making it tougher for the full backs to maintain the offside trap. It provides an opportunity for one of the centre midfielders to go in unmarked and score. This is exactly why the number of goals scored by Vidal and Marchisio has dramatically increased. His off-the-ball movement, away from goal and into most of the areas in the final third, disrupts the harmony in the opposition’s defence.

It is often observed that when Vucinic plays well, Juventus play well in attack. He is a part of most of the goals scored by us in the past two seasons. He may or may not score, but will always be a part of most of the goals that Juventus score. He is supremely talented and has a very good technique that is mostly blossomed against tough opposition.

Carlos Tevez has also featured in Vucinic’s position

Who can replace Vucinic in the present squad?

Giovinco has often been used to fit into this role, but because of a lack of physical attributes, he has failed to execute them. Marchisio and Pogba have played in this role and have failed. With the arrival of two new strikers, Conte will be taking a big risk by fielding both of them right from the start of the season.

The pre-season matches have certainly shown that the Tevez-Llorente combination is not working out as expected, but given a certain amount of time, it may produce results. Conte should rotate Vucinic and Llorente in the role behind the main striker, rather than employing Carlos Tevez solely in this role.

Tevez, like Llorente, is a proven goal scorer and he will guarantee a 20 goal season. Llorente, however, will take a certain amount of time to fit into this system. In all of the pre-season games so far, Tevez’s hunger for goals and assists has made his vision while playing seem one–dimensional, and that is to only move forward.

Tevez doesn’t look to move the ball to the flanks or play it backward to the midfielders. His eagerness to provide individual statistics will dampen the system that Juventus have been playing for a couple of years. He will not bring the centre halves higher up the pitch, and Juventus will fail to penetrate through most defences, as it was illustrated against Everton. Tevez needs to be used as a goal scorer and Llorente needs to be trained as a trequartista.

Llorente does possess very good ball control, but his vision for passing is indifferent compared to that of Tevez. He can hold the ball and help us retain possession. The Tevez-Vucinic combination was supreme in the Super Coppa Italia game against Lazio.

Vucinic will never be a proven goal scorer, but he will always be a goal-getter. His departure will force Conte to experiment and start right from the fundamentals. Conte has hardly a week left, and to try a new system now is not what everyone wants. Most of the successful teams in the past have retained their best players and added players in required positions to improve the team. We need to keep our best players and let go of dead weight that is in present in abundance at the attacking front. Vucinic is not replaceable in this team, not now at least.

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