What has happened to Juventus?
It is not often that a team that has won the league title four years in a row enters the October month in the 15th spot on the table, but that is just what has happened to Italian giants Juventus. The team that finished second in last season’s Champions League has had a nightmare start, two draws and three losses in six games, compared to last campaign where they finished with only nine draws and three losses the entire season. The Bianconeri sit ten points back from league leaders Fiorentina, a deficit that has almost never been overcome. Despite domestic struggles, the Turin side has managed a victory in both of the first two European matches of the season against Manchester City and Sevilla, and they sit atop their group.
Many football fans who do not follow Juventus or the Serie A would be quick to point to the departures of Tevez, Pirlo and Vidal as the reason for Juve’s troubles, and while it is definitely a big piece, it is certainly far from the full story. Juventus have only managed to net six goals so far this campaign, and it is clear that the presence of Tevez, the man who scored 20 goals in Serie A last year, is dearly missed. However, in the summer window, Juventus managed to sign Dybala, Zaza and Mandzukic to compliment Alvaro Morata in a strong strike force. All four of these strikers have scored in either Serie A or the Champions League, and Morata has even scored in the last 5 Champions League matches, tying Juventus record held by Alessandro Del Piero, so it appears as though striker depth is not the issue.
Few would disagree that Juventus has a world-class defense with Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli always having a strong physical presence both on defense and going forward and rarely misplacing a ball. The addition of Rugani, and Alex Sandro to compliment the likes of Evra and Lichtsteiner make it clear that defense is the thorn in the paw of Juventus. The midfield has been overhauled with the departure of Vidal and Pirlo, and the arrival of Lemina, Hernanes, Cuadrado and Sami Khedira. Marchisio and Pogba remain as key players but it’s clear that the squad looks very different on paper from the squad that was so close to a treble last season.
The departure of Vidal has had a serious impact on the success of Juventus this season so far as he was one of the most key players over the past years for the Bianconeri. In his 124 appearances in black and white he scored 35 goals, and made countless tackles. He was an unparalleled box-to-box midfielder who contributed constantly on both defense and offense and his disappearance from the midfield is very apparent when watching Juventus this season. However, Andrea Pirlo, although very experienced and a great presence in the locker room is not so dearly missed on the pitch this season. His play had started to deteriorate last season and he made significantly less appearances than in previous seasons. Pirlo was not fast enough and became a defensive liability so he was often benched in favor of Claudio Marchisio starting in the Regista position. While Marchisio lacks the exceptional vision of Pirlo he proved vital to Juventus last season as he linked the defense to the forwards perfectly.
One serious issue for the team is a lack of cohesion, and too little experience playing together. The formation has varied from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 and the same eleven have yet to start two matches in a row. Against Sevilla, only six of the eleven players who played against Barcelona in May were in the lineup. Another reason this occurred is the plague of injuries that Juventus have been struck with so far this season. Claudio Marchisio, Alvaro Morata, Sami Khedira, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mario Mandzukic and Stephan Lichtsteiner have all spent time in recovery, all of whom, excluding Asamoah, are likely to find themselves in the favorite eleven to start every match. The absence of Marchisio has proved to be a huge issue as the lack of an experienced midfielder has caused many struggles both defensively and in linking the team together through the middle.
Despite all these struggles, Juventus has managed to perform exceptionally in the Champions League, and once they return to full strength it appears as though they will truly be a force to be reckoned with. Once the favorite eleven is decided, and the new arrivals have begun to mesh and fit together into a cohesive unit it is unlikely that Juventus will struggle much longer and they will return to dominance. However, there is still the question of whether or not the domestic deficit is too large to overcome, and whether the younger inexperienced squad has what it takes to go far in Europe. Only time will tell.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Alex Schmitt.
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