“What a waste!” screamed the front page of Sunday’s Tuttosport, the Turin based sports daily bemoaning the fact an utterly dominant Juventus – the league’s leading scorers – had failed to find a single goal against Lazio the previous evening. La Gazzetta dello Sport went perhaps further still, highlighting that a section of the home crowd had barracked both Sebastian Giovinco’s performance and the substitution of Fabio Quagliarella, scorer of four goals in the two previous matches.
The pink paper went on to discuss the possible arrival of Didier Drogba as the Ivorian appears increasingly unsettled in his new Chinese home at Shanghai Shenhua. Indeed, asked about the prospect of the former Chelsea striker landing in Turin during the next transfer window, Director General Beppe Marotta said he “won’t rule anything out,” although he did say little money will be spent in January.
A lack of a ‘top striker’ has long been a criticism levelled at this Juventus, often used as the metaphorical stick with which to beat Marotta whenever a result fails to materialise. Since he arrived from Sampdoria, the director has been accused of failing to deliver a player of the highest calibre, instead seemingly content to settle on a battery of strikers with less than glowing reputations.
The late addition of Nicklas Bendtner, much like Marco Borriello’s switch last season, was seen as an act of desperation, a panic move once the realisation nobody else could be signed set in. Yet those same fans who jeered Giovinco this weekend were lauding his return this summer, having previously bemoaned his departure to Parma, completely misunderstanding the benefits of the co-ownership system utilised on the peninsula.
That move however changed the player considerably. Gone is the petulant and inconsistent trequartista so despised by this writer, replaced by a dedicated and explosive second striker who registered 23 goals and 19 assists in that year and a half with the Tardini outfit. He has continued that same form since returning to Juventus, already recording four goals and two assists in his first twelve league appearances, as well as finding the net for the first time in the Champions League against FC Nordsjælland last week.
“Maybe he could’ve scored a few more goals, but he is aware of that too. At times it was down to bad luck, others the opposition goalkeeper, but Seba is relaxed.” – Claudio Pasqualin
The common consensus appears to be that the 25 year old has yet to show the same form for the Bianconeri as he did in his two seasons away but, to judge him by the statistics here on WhoScored.com, very little has changed for the man known as the Atomic Ant. Last season was comfortably his best ever since turning professional as he bagged 15 goals and 11 assists for the Ducali and his average rating was 7.51, the sixth highest in the league. Despite his alleged drop off in performance he has actually increased to a 7.54 average this term, better than all but four of his new team-mates; Andrea Pirlo (7.99), Giorgio Chiellini (7.79), Arturo Vidal (7.75) and Kwadwo Asamoah (7.6).
Perhaps before looking deeper into the numbers it is also worth noting that last season he registered eight goals and seven assists after the Winter Break which is remarkably similar to his only other campaign as a first team regular. Following Juve’s promotion from Serie B he spent the 2007-08 season at Empoli and was involved in 11 goals (scoring six and creating five), only two of which came before December. It must also be noted that of his fifteen goals, five came via set pieces – three penalties and two free kicks – and he is, thanks to the presence of Pirlo, unlikely to take on either of those duties for the foreseeable future.
That aside, Giovinco’s attacking production is very similar to last season, taking slightly fewer shots – 3.5 per game as opposed to 3.9 in 2011-12 – and completing a marginally increased number of dribbles, a figure which has risen from 2.1 per game to 2.2. His runs may well have improved as he is caught offside far less, on average seeing just one flag per game this term against 1.4 last term while he is fouled with roughly the same frequency, suffering 1.9 fouls per outing in 2012-13, just above his previous mark of 1.8.
His passing has worsened however, although it has never been a highly lauded part of his play or of the numerous criticisms levelled at him either now or in the past. His completion rate has dropped from 76.5% to 72% but he is making slightly more passes, going from 21.8 to 23.9 per game. The biggest drop off has been in the number of chances he is creating, with his average for key passes falling from 2.5 per game to 1.3, perhaps due in no small part to his more central role in Conte’s 3-5-2, reflected in his crossing falling from 2.3 per game with Parma to 1.2 this season.
Unsurprisingly there has been a slight increase in his defensive contribution, testament to the work ethic Antonio Conte drills into his players and the demands of the pressing game he usually employs. Giovinco averaged 1.1 tackles and 0.6 interceptions in 2011-12 but those figures have increased to 1.2 and 0.8 respectively and, whilst he failed to block a single shot during the previous campaign he has already done so for Juve.
So it is far from a lesser player we now see in the Old Lady’s number 12 shirt, it is in fact a very similar output from the one who had fans and analysts alike singing his praises whilst in the blue and yellow of Parma. His season may well burst into life as Winter once again draws in and, if he replicates the Spring and early Summer of 2012, those fans who chose to boo Sebastian Giovinco on Saturday may be left looking very foolish indeed.