There has been two sides to Juventus this season. One is confident in defence and threatening in attack, always looking to score. The other IS passionless and toothless, happy to sit back and absorb pressure and not chase goals. For loyal Bianconeri, it’s like a game of roulette. A QUESTION OF Which Juve wiill show up?
The players in the team are of a high calibre, and Max Allegri as a coach has reached two Champions League finals in three years. On first inspection this side should be comfortably brushing aside the majority of its opposition. Yet that’s not been the case at all. The team consistently starts poorly, slowly moving up the gears before hitting their stride.
Against weaker opposition like Chievo Verona and Cagliari you can get away with that but in the Champions League you’ll get punished for it. Barcelona comfortably dispatched Juve in the first group stage game and both Olympiakos and Sporting gave Buffon and co trouble for large periods of time, with the Portuguese side even holding Juve to a draw. As well as that, Lazio have beaten Juve twice this season and Atalanta snatched a point against the Bianconeri.
The similarities in these matches are easy to see. Juventus start slow, allow the opposition to take possession and pressure, before, with luck, a late goal or two arrive to save the day. On the other hand there’s the aforementioned “good” Juve. This is the Juve that won 4-0 against Torino, or 2-0 in the San Siro against AC Milan. In these games, Juve stepped up and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, never looking fearful. When Juve are in sync, they are a lovely side to watch. Both Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic are able to slice defences open while Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain bury the ball into the back of the net. Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado provide pinpoint crosses into the box.
The question is: why don’t these performances always happen?
VARYING SELECTIONS IN central DEFENCE:
The departure of Leonardo Bonucci in the summer left a hole in the Juventus defence and the young Italian Daniele Rugani has proven himself up to the task of filling it. Well, to the fans at least. Allegri seems to have a different opinion, consistently selecting an error prone Benatia and aging Barzagli ahead of him to partner the ever-present Giorgo Chiellini.
This constant circle of change hasn’t allowed any of the central defenders to grow accustomed to or develop a connection with their partner. This has lead to the dysfunctional defence seen in the majority of games this season. In fact, most of the games where Juve appear most stable are those involving Rugani.
Perhaps Allegri doesn’t believe Rugani is ready, but then one must ask, when will he be ready? A superb performance in Milan right after a goal and an assist in Udine seems to suggest he’s ready to take the next step, but he needs to be given an opportunity at the highest level. That’s not to say he’s perfect but as a young defender, there’s nothing better for him than to gain experience playing beside a grizzled veteran like Chiellini. Thus far he’s proved to be the best option to provide stability in the back-line.
I’m confident that giving Rugani a sustained spell in the team would help shore up the defence. He just needs to be given the chance.
inconsistent performances from players:
The next problem is the wild inconsistency from certain players. Juan Cuadrado is a name that will draw groans from some fans, and cheers from the next. The Colombian is a polarising figure in Turin. The winger can go from being unbelievably good to unbelievably bad from one half to another. There is no better example than the second tie against Sporting. After 78 underwhelming minutes, a brilliant bit of skill and a threaded pass led to Gonzalo Higuaín’s chipped equalizer. Minutes later he was booked for a reckless foul down the other end of the field.
Whenever Cuadrado is in the starting line-up, fans are left wondering if they will leave them frustrated or amazed. With Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi waiting patiently for an opportunity, maybe Allegri should stop taking the 50-50 chance that Cuadrado will play well and give his new signings a moment to prove their ability.
Paulo Dybala. The new Juve star began the season in a breath-taking fashion with eight goals in the first four league games. When on form, the Argentinian is a joy to watch but now on the back of two missed penalties, the star has faded somewhat. He’s failed to score so far this season in the Champions League, and it’s becoming a rare occurrence to see him perform.
Two great performances against SPAL and Milan got fans believing that this rut was over and La Joya was back, but no. Once more he was non-existent against Sporting. His few opportunities were blazed over the bar, and he rarely received the ball in advanced positions. It’s becoming a common, worrying theme.
It may be hard to stomach for some fans, but if Dybala wants to cement his spot as a world class player, he needs to step it up, bigtime. His speed and agility is a key factor in Juve’s ability to break down defences and if he’s not firing on all cylinders, the Bianconeri struggle, as we’ve seen. Hopefully he’ll exit this spell of form as soon as possible, his team need him at his best.
new signings – where are they?
On paper, Juve had a good transfer window. Sure, a right back didn’t arrive but other areas of the field were reinforced well. Strangely, however, Allegri doesn’t play these new signings. Blaise Matuidi has been relentless when he plays, he runs for ninety minutes and never stops pressing the opposition players. Sami Khedira, bar the game against Udinese, has been disappointing. His first touch is poor and he doesn’t contribute much in attack or defence. Even with this, when everyone is available, Khedira starts over Matuidi.
Another example is Cuadrado. Amidst the Colombian’s inconsistency, Bernardeschi has had the chance to start twice. In those two starts he has two goals and one assist. Douglas Costa made an assist thirteen seconds after coming onto the field against Sporting, a game in which Cuadrado was noticed for all the wrong reasons. Again, Cuadrado starts over the pair of new signings. Why is this the case? Allegri should surely think more logically and play the better performing players. With Juve proving to be lackluster on many occasions, it must be time to give the new signings a run in the team.
Despite all of this, Juve have nine wins from eleven in the league and look set to qualify for the Champions League round of sixteen. While the performances have been dreadful at times, the results keep coming, mostly. So who knows what the future bodes for Juventus…