Nicolas Anelka’s career has seen him sign for 10 different clubs, across 5 countries over 17 years while making 69 appearances for France and scoring a total of 218 goals in the process and he’s not done yet. However, his colourful CV hasn’t helped him gain much playing time with his latest employers, Juventus. But with the side desperately short of firepower, perhaps the Old Lady might want to reconsider and put a little faith in the experienced Frenchman.
The decision to sign Anelka from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua was greeted with plenty of skepticism and the Bianconeri fans weren’t enthusiastic about the move either. At 34, the striker’s fitness was understandably questioned. Indeed, Giuseppe Marotta even addressed the issue when he admitted at the player’s unveiling that his physical condition wasn’t excellent. The club later suggested that the former France international would need “a lengthy period of fitness work” which begs the question, why did they sign him on a 5-month contract in the first place if he’s going to spend most of that time regaining his fitness?
His fitness plummeted in China
With Nicklas Bendtner picking up an injury in December, it seems like Anelka was signed only as the Arsenal loanee’s replacement in the role of a fifth-choice striker; Nicolas to replace Nicklas if you will. If that is the case then Juventus are grossly overpaying Anelka for his miserly contribution while wasting his talent and experience in the process.
Yes, he is terribly short of fitness and probably isn’t the same player who last scored goals for Chelsea in 2011 but class is permanent and perhaps he deserves a chance to prove his worth. Juventus need a goal-scorer and Anelka was a prolific front man in his time. Antonio Conte has had to juggle the striking quartet of Alessandro Matri, Mirko Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella to extract a decent goal return from his strike force.
Decent strike force
All four are decent strikers but none would be categorized as ‘top quality’ goal scorer. For such a successful team who dominate with a system that features two strikers, Juventus are strangely short of quality up front. Anelka isn’t at that level anymore either but he has the distinction of falling into that bracket in the past. He was always known for his link-up play and has even admitted that he prefers “a difficult assist to an easy goal”.
Even if his pace isn’t quite what it was, his dribbling ability still allows him to skip past an opponent while his layoffs would be great for a smaller striker like Giovinco to feed off. On Saturday, Juventus barely edged past Pescara who are rooted to the bottom of the table with a 2-1 victory. They created plenty of chances and had over 30 attempts but managed only 2 goals courtesy of a Vucinic brace, the first strike of which came from the penalty spot. The opposing keeper, Ivan Pelizzoli made some great saves but Juventus didn’t hit the target as much as they should have.
He can still make an impact
In the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash against Bayern Munich, Juventus were outclassed in attack. While the German side racked up 23 efforts at goal, the Italians managed only 8 despite the possession being split evenly. They suffered a 2-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena and looking ahead to the return leg, they need to score goals against a very strong Bayern side. So why not roll the dice and give Anelka a run out?
This is not to say that the Frenchman should start the game but certainly his experience warrants a place on the bench. He could offer something different from the other strikers and definitely has that ‘wildcard’ quality about him. He’s calm under pressure and is a cool finisher. If they are still chasing the game with precious little time remaining, he could be the perfect candidate to make an impact.
The reality of the situation is that Anelka’s acquisition was always simply meant to be a stop-gap measure until the end of the season after which Fernando Llorente can be counted among their ranks following a deal that’s already been agreed over his free transfer from Athlethic Bilbao. However, the former Chelsea striker has been the perfect professional during his time in Italy and failure to reward his demeanour may just be Juventus’ loss.
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