One of the distinctive traits of this record breaking Juventus side is the record breaking defence. Right at the heart of it is Andrea Barzagli, who once again confirmed his status as one of best in the business across Europe in his position.
Since arriving in Turin two and half years ago, the experienced defender has often bordered on perfection and indeed, a large portion of the plaudits for these back-to-back Scudetto titles must be directed towards him and his fellow partners in crime Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
For the second year running, Barzagli was an indispensable pillar of Antonio Conte’s title winning side, as demonstrated by his leading position in the club’s appearance list (tied with Bonucci). The 32-year-old contested 34 of the 38 league matches, nine out of ten in the Champions League, all four in the Coppa Italia and had a starting role in the Italian Super Cup clash against Napoli in Beijing.
While it is true that in Conte’s team the midfielders often create an impregnable barricade in front of the back three, Andrea has proven to be a crucial safety net in this backline and has also managed to chalk up some impressive statistics in the defensive department this season.
First and foremost, he is the undisputed leader in terms of defensive clearances, with 181 to his name (110 of which were with his head) and he also managed to maintain an admirable disciplinary record, committing only 23 fouls in his 34 matches and picking up just five yellow cards in the process.
In addition to the customary defensive duties, the Bianconeri rearguard has also been assigned the vital task of building attacks from the back over the past two years. This fact is clearly backed up by the amazing passing figures achieved by some of the defenders. For example, Barzagli’s 1,800 passes played in the current campaign put him in third place in the squad (behind Pirlo and Bonucci). A staggering 1,627 of these have found their intended target, an accuracy rate of over 90%.
The Juventus philosophy is to always to attack with ten men and although he did not manage to find the back of the net during Serie A 2012/13, Barzagli has still made some important contributions in the opposition half and even in the final third. The Tuscan-born defender has played as many as 851 passes in enemy territory at a success rate of 85%, swung in 14 crosses and created 11 goalscoring chances. He also provided a crucial assist to Giovinco during the 4-1 victory over Roma at Juventus Stadium.
These impressive numbers firmly back up the notion that Juventus made an extremely intelligent investment two and a half years ago when they decided to bring Barzagli back to his homeland following an extended spell with German side Wolfsburg. Who ever said that a top player couldn’t be a defender?