Last week, Goal asked its followers on Twitter where Aaron Ramsey is likely to fit in at Juventus. Amusingly, the first response was, “On the bench next to Emre Can!”
Certainly, there are parallels between the two players: Just like Can, Ramsey plays in midfield; and just like Can, Ramsey will arrive in Turin on a free transfer from a Premier League club.
Worryingly, though, whereas Liverpool tried to persuade Can to extend his stay at Anfield beyond the summer of 2018, Arsenal decided against renewing Ramsey’s contract.
Consequently, many Juventus fans have been underwhelmed by Juve’s decision to hand a €7 million-a-season deal to a player deemed surplus to requirements by the sixth-best team in the Premier League.
Certainly, as already outlined here , signing the injury-prone and inconsistent Ramsey is a risk. Juve, though, believe it is a calculated one.
The 28-year-old also has a better chance of breaking into the Juventus first team for a number of reasons. Unlike, Can he has shown that he can excel at the very highest level in the past while he is not as ill-disciplined as Can and does not make as many poor decisions in possession.
He is also a goal-scoring midfielder, the kind of player Juve do not presently possess.
In that context, it is easy to see Ramsey slotting into a three-man midfield at Juve alongside Miralem Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur or Blaise Matuidi.
Provided Juve retain the services of Pjanic (which is by no means a certainty given mounting interest from elsewhere), the Bosnian will be charged with the playmaking duties.
The reliable Matuidi or the rapidly improving Bentancur will provide the industry, leaving Ramsey to fulfil the box-to-box role that Paul Pogba performed so well for the Bianconeri.
Indeed, a Juve midfielder has not hit double figures in all competitions since the France international racked up 10 goals in his final season in Turin, in 2015-16.
The hope would be that a fully fit Ramsey could belatedly fill that void.
Of course, the player himself prefers to play in the middle rather than closer to the flank and he could be positioned alongside Pjanic at the heart of the 4-4-2 formation that Allegri sometimes utilises against stronger opposition.
With a natural winger like Juan Cuadrado providing width and defensive cover on the right-hand side, and Matuidi offering extra protection is an inverted left-midfielder, Ramsey would still be afforded ample opportunity to get forward.
“That’s my favourite position and where I play my best football,” he has previously stated. “It means I can time my runs into the box better.
“When you’re wide you’re taught to try and get in at the far post so the ball doesn’t go straight across. From that central position you can use your instinct where to go rather than just try and get in at the far post.”
However, the obvious concern is that pairing Pjanic and Ramsey would leave Juve prone to being outmuscled and overrun in the middle of the park.
A more secure option would be to play Ramsey in an attacking midfield role, with three men behind him, thus allowing him to concentrate on doing what he does best.
After all, it was in something akin to a No.10 role that he helped Wales reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
With Joe Allen and Joe Ledley sitting deep, Ramsey was essentially allowed to play off Sam Vokes and Gareth Bale.
The results were spectacular, both for Wales and Ramsey, with the Cardiff City product earning himself inclusion in the team of the tournament by finishing joint-top of the assists chart with Eden Hazard (four apiece), as well as netting one goal himself.
Of course, such is the depth and versatility of the current Juventus squad, coach Massimiliano Allegri could even offer Ramsey an identical role in a 3-4-1-2 formation, particularly given the Bianconeri’s familiarity with a back three, and the offensive excellence of current wing-backs Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro.
All things considered, Ramsey’s versatility should ensure he gets chances to stake a claim for a starting spot at Juventus.
At present, Juve simply do not have another midfielder with his particular attributes.
He could well become a very important player for the Old Lady. If not, there’ll always been room on the bench for him alongside Can.