WHAT TO MAKE OF JUVENTUS' EARLY SEASON STRUGGLES AS THE OLD LADY SUFFER ANOTHER CRUSHING DEFEAT TO NAPOLI?
Juventus have made an abysmal start to the new season after losing 2-1 to Napoli. The Old Lady are now winless after the first three games of the campaign. Having lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United, the squad is now without their best player. The returning Massimiliano Allegri now has a massive rebuild on his hands. With the rest of the league getting better, Juventus needs to recuperate quickly to recover their Scudetto. Is this is a crisis brewing at Juventus or a small blip?
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 11, 2021
Juventus have been dethroned by Inter last season. Antonio Conte inspired his charges to prevent Juventus from winning a tenth consecutive league title. Bianconeri paid a heavy price for a slow start to the campaign under Andrea Pirlo. Juventus had to put on a late-season rally to finish fourth and secure Champions League football. The young Italian manager was out of his depth managing Juve and paid his price this summer.
The effect of last season rubbed on for Juventus. Max Allegri’s return was supposed to rejuvenate the team, but instead, they are still searching for the first victory of the campaign. With Champions League kick-starting this midweek, Juventus don’t have much time to turn around.
We take a closer look at what has gone wrong for Juventus as they dwindle between a crisis and a blip.
THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD
Juventus have seen a host of stars retire in the last decade. Besides, the defensive core of Girogio Chiellini and Leanardo Bonucci is growing old. Naturally, a rebuild was inevitable. Max Allegri took care of the rebuild midway through the decade. He managed well to keep the machine running by winning consecutive league titles. But failure in the Champions League was hurting them time and time again.
The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be a game-changer in this regard. Ronaldo, dubbed as Mr Champions League is the record goalscorer in the competition and won the trophy five times. He promised he would deliver the Champions League to the Turin faithful. It is worth noting that, Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli said that Ronaldo wasn’t only signed for onfield success. The Bianconeri fell behind the European elite in terms of revenue and needed a boost in the form of Ronaldo.
Juventus says goodbye to @Cristiano.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) August 31, 2021
Ronaldo delivered two league titles in his first two years. He also fought endlessly in the Champions League as he scored all their knockout goals for two seasons running. Yet, the inability to surround him with winners cost them gruesomely. Allegri felt the heat and was sacked in 2019. Maurizio Sarri came and went and the reins were handed to Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo was clearly overwhelmed by the task and didn’t have a proper identity to manage his squad to success.
Despite Ronaldo finishing the season as the league’s highest scorer, they weren’t able to win the league or the Champions League.
Unable to invest further in this project, Ronaldo sought an exit this summer in the final days of the window. Max Allegri who returned was content to let their best player leave. Ronaldo might not have delivered on the field, but he certainly did it off the field as Juve’s stock value rose tenfolds during his spell.
BACK TO SQUARE ONE
With Pirlo gone, there were only a few managerial choices for Juventus. Max Allegri was on a hiatus since his sacking in 2019. The Italian was again back at the Juventus Stadium to finish the rebuild. As he let Ronaldo leave, he had to choose who would be the face of the team. Juventus’ improving finances due to the Ronaldo effect, took a considerable hit. The Covid 19 pandemic hurt all the clubs in the world and Serie-A felt its effect in full swing. The Italian clubs entered the market with their hands tied.
Keep improving ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/TqXm0EmS8c
— Paulo Dybala (@PauDybala_JR) July 19, 2021
Juventus though did their best to build a solid squad in the last two years. They have bought potential superstars like Federico Chiesa, Dejan Kulusevski and Manuel Locatelli in the last two years. Despite the marquee signings, there are few holes in the squad to be filled. Juventus’ midfield is devoid of a genuine creator. They have midfield workhorses and box to box midfielders in Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie but not a man with an eye for goal.
Also, the squad depth is a matter of concern for them. Behind the first team players in few positions, there is a considerable drop in quality. Besides, Allegri has the special task of resurrecting Paulo Dybala. The Argentine international, dubbed as the Jewel of Juventus failed to carry his momentum in the last two years. He also missed out on the Copa America triumph with Argentina as a result of this slump. If Allegri can use Dybala correctly, he can be the goal creator that they have been crying out for. Dybala and Chiesa could be the new pillars on which the rebuild is focused for the future.
A TRUE CAUSE FOR WORRY? OR NOT?
Juventus had a mixed pre-season. They were comprehensively beaten by Barcelona in the Joan Gamper trophy. Then they picked up victories with Italian oppositions in friendlies. They travelled away to Udinese for the season opener. Dybala opened the scoring before full-back Juan Cuadrado doubled their lead. Instead of building on a solid half, they imploded in the second half in a casual manner.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny gifted two goals to Udinese as Juventus settled for a point. Then a horrible home display saw them lose to newly-promoted Empoli. An international break gave them time to work on the slump but also took their key South American stars away. Juan Cuadrado and Dybala just set foot on the Italian soil after playing World Cup qualifiers halfway across the world when Juve visited the Diego Maradona Stadium to face Napoli.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 11, 2021
The visitors took the lead through Alvaro Morata after a Kostas Manolas error. They failed to hang onto it as another second-half implosion kicked in. Matteo Politano squeezed in from a tight angle after Szczesny parried Insigne’s curling effort. Then Kalidou Koulibaly was on hand to tap in Szczesny’s poor parry from a horrible Moise Kean header. It marked a second consecutive loss in as many games.
The Old Lady are winless in the first three games for the second time this century. Allegri wouldn’t mind much as he knows they won the league by nine points when it happened last time under his management only. Besides he has immense confidence in his troops that they would turn it around. He said “I have ample trust in this group. I know they will make up the lost ground.”
Juventus needs to raise their level collectively to cover the lost ground mentioned by Allegri. Their rivals like Inter, Roma and Napoli and Milan are all in solid form. The Scudetto race won’t be an easy one this time and to prove that this is just a blip and not a full blown crisis, Juventus must start winning and keep it up consistently.