18th November 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
With AS Roma in need of defensive reinforcements in the summer, due to Antonio Rudiger's nasty knee injury, plus the departures of Lucas Digne, Maicon and Leandro Castan, the club turned to Juan Jesus.
Joining from Inter Milan on an initial loan fee of €2 million, with an €8 million obligation to buy if certain parameters are met, the deal seemed reasonably logical, despite his time at Inter being rather mixed. After all, Jesus can play, not only at centre-back, but also at left-back. In addition, once the injured Rudiger returned, he'd be an adequate backup and give Roma some important squad depth.
Upon new signing, Mario Rui, suffering a devastating ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the club would've been additionally grateful they'd signed Jesus, who could now provide vital cover at left-back too. But unfortunately, whether playing in central defense or as a fullback, the Brazilian has largely flattered to deceive.
He just hasn't looked comfortable in the Roma shirt for the most part, as he's made a series of costly mistakes, with the most notable coming against Austria Wien in the Europa League, looking a shadow of the player he's capable of being. Sadly, Jesus even received death threats from a disgruntled group of fans, which no one should have to put up with, but he responded to the situation admirably. "I haven't blocked any social account...I'll fight every second for Roma, to honour the shirt that I have strongly desired, and to give my contribution so that the group remains united," he stated.
However, it hasn't been all bad for the 25-year-old, with him putting in some encouraging showings against Inter, Napoli and in Roma's most recent match, a 3-0 win over Bologna. Luciano Spalletti's decision to deploy him in a hybrid role, that's ostensibly a mix between that of a fullback and a centre-back, has served as a solid platform for him to get some confidence back.
This position has allowed Jesus to act as an extra centre-back in the defensive phase, which has given the side some additional stability and compactness when defending. Furthermore, being able to cover the vital interior corridor, or half spaces, on the left, something he did especially well against Napoli dynamo Jose Callejon, has been another positive attached to his role.
His hulking strength, impressive speed and terrific leap has also seem him hold his own in physical duels, as he's put his athleticism to great use to overwhelm opponents.
Meanwhile, in attack, when Roma are passing out from the back, he'll stay in true left central defensive locations to ensure numerical superiority and assist the Giallorossi to progress the ball forward smoothly. Once past the half way line, when the opportunity presents itself, and if Kevin Strootman is in a position to cover in behind him, he'll push forward and join in offensively to provide essential width.
While his agent, Roberto Calenda, does accept that some of his client's performances have warranted criticism, he's extremely upset the way Jesus' been the target of unfair, exaggerated taunts even when he plays well.
"Ok, he's had some difficulty, that's true," he explained. "There has also been legitimate criticism, we'll accept honest and constructive criticism. I must also say though that he's had some physical problems with his ankle and it's hard to heal 100 per cent when playing every three days.
"Above all though he's gone from a team which plays in a certain way to this Roma that attacks in such a spectacular way and so needs a different style of defending. No excuses, but I wish everything was taken into account when making judgements. He adapts to each location with a great spirit of sacrifice and a great sense of teamwork."
Calenda then went on to note his distain in greater detail, insisting there's a bizarre prejudice the media hold for the powerful stopper, claiming: "When he stops [Antonio] Candreva and [Jose] Callejon, what should be said? Yet after he stopped Napoli down his side, I read the main sports newspapers - one in particular - giving him a 5.5. How can that be?
"The day before Callejon was the dangerman, then the day after Juan was unconvincing - but Callejon was invisible! So excuse me, who was marking him? Or when great praise is given to the 'three-and-a-half-man' defence, but there's no mention of him, when it's his qualities which allow them to play this way."
Although he's sometimes justifiably copped a pummeling for some of his efforts, Jesus has unquestionably warranted credit when he's played well, which is unfortunately something he hasn't received. Indeed, it's as though everything good he does gets lost on the skeptics that are unwilling to give him a fair go.
After all, Jesus is only human and, at the very least, he deserves to be treated with respect and decency.
Juan Jesus Deserves a Fair Chance to Prove Himself at AS Roma
18th November 2016. By Edward Stratmann.