We’re five games into the new Serie A season and title holders Juventus are languishing in a dismal 15th place. The Bianconeri have only won one game so far, drawn two and lost three and the team has endured their worst start to a season since the 1970s. Their only saving grace so far was two resolute 2-1 wins against Sevilla and Manchester City in the Champions League but despite this the alarm bells are ringing in Serie A, where they have not won a game at home yet…
What have been the causes for this unprecedented decline and can Massimilliano Allegri’s men turn it around?
1. Loss of core squad
Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tévez and Arturo Vidal all bid farewell from Turin for differing reasons. At 36 years of age Pirlo sought a new challenge in the up-and-coming MLS. Tévez was desperate to leave and return to his native Argentina with Boca Juniors and Vidal was sold to Bayern Munich for almost 40 million euros. Those three (especially the latter two) were absolutely key cogs in the Old Lady’s run to the Champions League final. Pirlo provided finesse, whilst the all-conquering midfielder Vidal shielded the defence and linked up attacking play. The Argentinian striker brought explosive pace and an unrelenting attitude; not to mention being the main goal scorer for the team in Serie A and the Champions League. All of these players have not been adequately replaced.
2. Failures in the transfer market
Mario Götze, Julian Draxler, Axel Witsel… these are all players that Juventus were reportedly after in the summer but did not acquire. The lack of a real creative midfielder leaves them a bit stale in the middle of the park.
So what have they done in the transfer market? Well early into the summer Juventus were looking quite good with the signings of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandžukić and Sami Khedira. Things took a bit of a nosedive after Vidal was sold and deals for Mario Lemina and Hernanes were pushed through at the last minute. The acquisition of the Brazilian in particular will frustrate fans the most as, not only is he an absolute panic buy and will have no re-sale value, but the club paid 11 million euros for him to a direct rival in Inter.
3. The ‘Allegri effect’
Every anti-Juventus fan is jumping on the ‘Allegri Second Season Syndrome’ bandwagon and although it is too soon to tell, the early signs do not make for good reading. Allegri inherited a squad largely used to the successful tactics employed by Antonio Conte. This season however, Juventus have looked devoid of ideas and completely lacklustre. They have failed to produce the goods in the big games in the league so far away to Roma and Napoli and could have also lost to Chievo at home if it weren’t for some questionable refereeing. The Bianconeri are missing that imperious fear factor in 2015-16 and Allegri is partially to blame. In his second season at Milan, the Tuscan managed to lose the title to an inferior Juventus side over relying on the individual brilliance of Zlatan Ibrahimović and not implementing an effective style of play.
An Allegri trademark. We are barely into the first month of the new season and already Juventus’ injury list is growing. At Milan, the number of ‘niggles’ was beyond belief and already this season Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio are yet to play a prominent role. Most worrying for the Bianconeri fans will be Allegri’s habit of rushing players back onto the pitch before they are ready. For example in 2012, Thiago Silva was rushed back into games in Serie A, forcing him to sit out the Champions League Quarter Final against Barcelona and the remainder of the season.
5. Defensive instability
Juventus’s defence has been uncharacteristically brittle this season. In 2014-15 it took until the 6th match for an opponent player to defeat Gianluigi Buffon. This season they have conceded in all bar one game and there has been a lack of defensive concentration, as evidenced by Leonardo Blanchard’s late equaliser for newly promoted Frosinone in a 1-1 draw. However, the 36-year-old has not really been at fault as the back four in front of him have been changed several times and it feels as if Allegri is yet to figure his best formation in defence, juggling between the 3-5-2 and the 4-3-1-2 formations.
Can Juventus turn it around?
Of course they can. We are still very early into the new season and everything is still up for grabs. A 2-0 win against Sevilla tonight is a good starting point and they have a very winnable match against Atalanta on the weekend. Their next games in Serie A will be at home to Bologna and Atalanta and away to Inter. Juventus should look to get maximum points from their next two home games, whilst it will be interesting to see what sort of tactical approach Allegri will opt for against a staunch defensive side like Inter.