Club Features, Features

All in the Mind…?

September 17, 2017 - 10:20 am

Welcome back, Juventini. First a warning, if you’re of a nervous disposition please stop reading now. I’m here to talk about a problem, I’m lay prostrate on a psychiatrist’s couch, staring blankly into the mid-distance as I pour out details of an ever increasing problem….Juve are simply so fragile in big games.

Confidence is a huge part of competitive sport and Juve seem to suffer from the same inferiority complex which was supposed to affecting Barcelona recently (more on them soon). I had noticed it during the Roma game at the Olimpico last season, the focus was on qualifying for the Champions League final, but the team went missing in that game, overrun and out muscled (remember a win would’ve clinched the Scudetto against our nearest rivals, a week early). During the Supercoppa game in August the same thing happened. A nothing game in terms of competitiveness but a big game as the world’s eyes were on us after Bonucci left. At the time I thought nothing of it put it down to just playing poorly, however after Tuesday’s Barca game I noticed a tweet which mentioned how ‘scared’ Juve looked in big games. I pondered this theory and a another article was born. So whoever you are, you started this article, thank you.

The seed had been planted several months earlier and was now fully grown, creeping up the walls and poisonous to the core. Juve are turning this into a phobia. It’s not because of a lack of quality on the pitch. Is it a a fear of failure? More likely. It has been mentioned before when trying to explain England’s failures; players are too scared to take a chance, to put their foot on the ball, to make a last ditch challenge and we are seeing this more and more from Juve on the big stage.

ROME, ITALY – MAY 14: Radja Nainggolan of AS Roma celebrates after scoring the team’s third goal during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Juventus FC at Stadio Olimpico on May 14, 2017 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images )

Take the last three big games; Real Madrid, Lazio and Barcelona. The Lazio game, as mentioned above, was significant as it was the first competitive game since the egotistic mercenary left and the BBBC had been reduced by one. A seminal moment in the history of calcio. The other two games speak for themselves, a Champions League Final and a could-do-without-losing away game to a team we had so comprehensively beaten in the same competition last season.

If you take a look at the starting line up versus Real – Barzagli at right back, Alves on the right wing and Mandzukic opposite him, it’s hardly the most fluent line up ever. We were faced with a bizarre and frankly embarrassing situation of playing Sturaro on the left wing when it became apparent Mandzukic was playing with an injury. That being said the first half was impressive, the players were a determined union of spirit and organisation, in fact I would say we were the better team and very much in place to lift the trophy. What happened next is well documented, the reasons (rumours) why it happened are debatable. Simply put, Juve froze, choked, bottled it. From a position of relative comfort we contrived to throw it all away. The team which ‘played’ the second half were a shadow of the team of the first half. A thoroughly nondescript, lifeless and nervous performance. The 4-1 scoreline may have flattered Real somewhat but only in terms of goals, we allowed them to dictate the play and completely dominate us.

Juventus’ Colombian midfielder Juan Cuadrado (L) and Juventus’ Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain react after Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League final football match between Juventus and Real Madrid at The Principality Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on June 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Against Lazio the nerves returned as Benatia and co looked like a bunch of strangers hand picked from the crowd 10 minutes before the game. I attribute this to a degree of uncertainty of how Bonucci’s departure would affect us as a curious Serie A watched on. A truly dreadful performance, as soon as Immobile scored their first the team’s confidence drained away and we were left to limit the damage. On this occasion the scoreline flattered us.

In both games we were left in absolutely no doubt the midfield was the problem area, Pjanic’s threat nullified by the lack of a defensive partner was cruelly highlighted. I’m afraid Khedira, Marchisio and Sturaro for varying reasons do not play that role well. Khedira in particular, a World Cup winner of vast experience, was made to look unbelievably average and slow.

The forward line doesn’t escape the beady eye of shame, on a few occasions we have seen Dybala and Higuain go missing in the big games. Against Real, Dybala was poor, to the point where the ball just kept coming back when it was played forward. He became a timid shadow of the spirited, dynamic player we’re used to. Higuain too, a player who thrives on service, has more times than Dybala, simply not turned up and just been left plodding around the half way line as we desperately defend. On these occasions some may question the effort of the forwards, but the viscous cycle of effort/failure/fear is already well under way by then so they cannot be completely blamed for a lack of effort.

Barcelona away is always a big test, no matter how their fortunes have perceived to have changed over the last couple of years. The line up raised a few questions, but Allegri’s hand was forced for a few of the decisions (Khedira, Chiellini, Marchisio and Mandzukic all injured), but the baffling brain fart which meant Benatia started over Rugani is still confusing me. Rugani has played well over the first few games of the season and it’s clear to everyone watching Juve recently that Benatia just isn’t consistent enough to play in a game like this. I’m certainly not pointing the finger at full débutantes Mattia de Sciligo and Rodrigo Bentancur, both played admirably (I’m claiming a little snobbish, moral high ground after talking up MdS and Rodrigo in pre season, this flew in the face of the common opinion of Juve supporters). However it really doesn’t excuse another second half meltdown.

In a similar vein to the Champions League Final we played well in the first half, creating a few chances and keeping them at arms length at the back. Then it happened, everyone stood still and allowed Messi to score from the edge of the area. Game over. Just before half time. Heads dropped, confidence seeped away into the Catalonian night sky and we saw a very familiar turgid, insipid second half. The type where nothing happens, no spark, no urgency. Nothing. As if our fate has been accepted. The second and third goals were merely incidental.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 12: Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou on September 12, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Putting things into perspective, as I don’t want you to think I’m in serious need of a huge dose of Prozac, there are five Champions League games left and arguably our most difficult one is out of the way. Yes we lost, but not many fancied us to win there. The Supercoppa is just that, a glorified friendly, a time for some semi-competitive action. Maybe Lazio took it more seriously than we did, not to be too arrogant here, but we have bigger fish to fry and injuries that close to the start of the season are an unnecessary nuisance. The Champions League Final pitted us against a side who are almost unbeatable, the best team in the world by far. To have matched them for 45 minutes is an achievement considering the square-pegs-in-round-holes team Allegri fielded that evening.

Over the summer Allegri and co have worked to increase our quality in depth, imagine if Matuidi and Costa had been playing for the Bianconceri against Real. It’s pleasing to see those investments already paying off. Mid-table deadwood like Lemina and Rincon have gone (although I have a soft spot for Rincon so maybe I’m being a little harsh) and have been replaced with genuine quality.

We’re a massive confidence-based team. Our play and demeanour is hugely linked to our confidence, when we’re on form we’re simply unplayable – Barca and Monaco spring to mind – however once that first goal goes against us, I have seen us completely change. Of course it’s entirely psychological and something only a combination of management and results on the pitch can resolve, but we’re also a top team, one of the few teams who can genuinely be considered a winner of the Scudetto and Champions League. A team in the spotlight. The resurgence of the Milanese hasn’t gone unnoticed and so the domestic pressure has been ramped up somewhat. The world is looking on as we continue to fail when it matters most.

We’re not just losing these games because of superior tactics, players or just plain bad luck. We’re actually our own worst enemy; losing these games is our fault, all three were very winnable and we were in a position to do so.

Just imagine for a moment if we had…

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  • Avatar
    Dar Black September 17, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Juve aura / reputation = huge size domestically in Italy, large size in Turin, medium size continentally.

    Juve physical size = large in Turin, medium in Italy, small continentally.

    We have an inferiority complex Dave because we are not physically a large team in terms of lical support or stadium size. I’ve long believed that whilst we do punch above our weight we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we are a huge team when only 35k fans turn out on matchday. Previously tge Agnelli money and power made us huge. Now that is gone.

    • Avatar
      Dave Long September 19, 2017 at 8:14 am

      I tend to agree, mate. Big fish domestically, not so in the CL. I believe it’ll take a while to rebuild our European reputation, but the more the oil rich spend and the more this complex lasts, the longer that will take.

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        E.Micallef September 19, 2017 at 8:07 pm

        The only three sides that has a European reputation are Real and Barca and maybe Bayern. We had two finals in three years. Maybe the Spanish teams we are mentioning have the greatest most technical players right now. I bet you go and buy Kross a give him a 10m wage. Also against Bayern last year controversial refereeing saw them through. Therfore all relates. Champions league is a cup which is dictated by form condition and luck. That’s a fact.

        • Avatar
          Niko Belic September 29, 2017 at 1:39 pm

          “The only three sides that has a European reputation are Real and Barca and maybe Bayern.”

          Speaking of recent years perhaps. Historically, Milan, Ajax and Liverpool are all clubs with valid claims to European excellence. Juve sadly fall in the category right behind, lumped alongside Manchester United, Inter, Porto… big names that have been far less successful than the bigger sides.

          It wasn’t always like this. But the 5 lost finals of the last 20 years have ensured Juventus get an image of European underachievers rather than that of a superpower.

    • Avatar
      E.Micallef September 19, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      We are also the only side who has thrown out real Madrid in the last three years

      • Avatar
        Dar Black September 19, 2017 at 9:07 pm

        Yes, but that is irrelevant. Somewhere along the path to the winners podium we are now always beaten, usually by one of the giants, although it matters not who it is. I say now because even before our last victory in UCL we had lost a lot of finals.

        Stadium size is small by standard of other famous teams, where we once set new transfer fee records as a buyer we now set them as a seller. We have lost a sense of scale and grandeur that promotes confidence and arrogance. We may not have a UCL winning manager at the helm right now, time will tell. But I am starting to think that it would not be any different if we had Pep or Jose…..

        • Avatar
          E.Micallef September 19, 2017 at 9:13 pm

          Sponsorships my friend. We are sponsored by family owned jeep. Others take millions more both from Adidas and main sponsors. Also they are the main actors right now. A child with a mere idea of football is given a Messi or Ronaldo gear. They are everywhere. In advertisements video games clothing airways everywhere.

          • Avatar
            Dar Black September 19, 2017 at 9:41 pm

            Yes, but why? Because they have that draw. We don’t. You have to believe in fairies to think that 7 final defeats is just coincidental bad luck. In fact with Liverpool players saying publicly that after incident before match at Heysal none of them wanted to play that match, that their hearts and minds were simply not in it we have really only really won 1 proper normal final. Even then it went to penalties against Ajax….

            That swagger I was talking about, it gives a team belief in their abilities and the right to be champions. It’s not usually luck good or bad that determines the champions. Atletico can and do sonetimes beat Real in La Liga, but look what happens in the UCL finals…. Arrogance seems to win out.

          • Avatar
            E.Micallef September 20, 2017 at 6:27 am

            I don’t know why. We always seem to miss the final. Even when we were superior.

          • Avatar
            Niko Belic September 21, 2017 at 8:43 am

            Good points. I feel roughly the same when I compare Juve’s attitude in European finals with that of the other big Italian club, Milan.

            You can laugh at them all you want for the 2005 final, but fact is Milan always head into their finals with great confidence – that swagger which you mention. In fact they were breathtakingly good in the first 45 minutes of that final, a better performance than Juventus have ever managed in that kind of game. It doesn’t matter that the opponent is Barcelona, Juventus or Liverpool: Milan are in it to win and to impose their game on the opposition. That doesn’t mean they will attack for 90 minutes, but you can sense by the way they play that they’re out to win it.

            On the other hand, Juventus always seem to take to those finals with fear, with a ‘wait and see’ attitude. There is no willingness to take the game to the opposition, and each final lost seems to reinforce that fearful, passive disposition. We’ve conceded the first goal in SIX of the 7 lost finals… the odd one out being 2003 which went to penalties!

            I do agree with you that Juventus may suffer from a complex which stems from the fact that the club doesn’t have a tradition of European success like Real Madrid, Milan or Bayern do. A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy if you wish.

  • Avatar
    Sebastián Quiceno September 17, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Spot on! Truly great great article. This has been the reality since the return from serie B and has not been addressed properly. We have been sold the bull shit thesis we lack quality. We don´t need any more freaking quality, we need winner mentality, grinta, and desire to win, thats all. We don´t need white glove ballet footballers, we need warriors and champions hungry for glory. We are an incoherent team trying to play italian football with a soft as hell team, we need to man up and rough up to truly be Juve. this european version of Juve is sub par, we need the roughed up Italian Juve of old and we will regain not only respect but instill fear, and by the way finally WIN.

    • Avatar
      Dave Long September 19, 2017 at 8:12 am

      Thank you. I agree, we are severely lacking the necessary grinta. TGP mentioned Vidal above, we are crying out for that type of player. Gigi is our captain and I love him immensely, but we need a similar type of player in amongst the thick of it.

  • thegutterpoet
    thegutterpoet September 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Building team spirit is not, I believe, Max’s forte. Very much the opposite of Conte, who still has much to learn tactically, but is a world class motivator. Which is why it will be interesting when Chelsea face some elite opposition. City in the PL are looking extremely powerful…

    Max is very old school when it comes to the divide between management and players. He shows emotion, but as an Overseer, as removed emotionally from the team. They are his charges and he is not one of them, in the way that Conte is. It is rare to see him jump with joy when we do something good, and common to see him angry when we do something poor. He is separate from the team, and what this means is that he needs leaders on the field. It also creates distance emotionally between him and the players, which can be fine if that emotional gap is filled with respect, but it can also be bad, precisely in the situation where we lack natural leaders on the field.

    Add to this, well, more of a part of the same, his pragmatism you could say…He rarely praises his players publicly is far more likely to highlight where they ned to improve.

    There might well be something to what DB wrote further down…Big fish in small pond domestically, less so on the continental stage. However, I feel most of our issues with mentality – which has been an issue for a while – is down to a combination of Allegri’s coaching style and the players in the squad.

    When we had Pirlo, Vidal, Tevez…we were brimming with grinta AND an arrogance one cannot help but admire. From a perspective of mentality, it is curious to ponder that both Pirlo and Tevez were far more individually driven than collectively. Especially the former, did things for Pirlo and his love of how the game should be played, not with the team ethic or collective success the most prominent factor in his decision making. He was a master poet who whose feet were the pen and the ball the ink, the field his page…Tevez was far more focused on Tevez than the team. Vidal is the exception, for his zeal was as much for the collective, perhaps more, than solely for him as an individual. Much more a team player. Regardless, all of them were exceptionally driven, in their own particular ways.

    Who do we have now who has the same drive?

    Buffon, for all his dignity and class can only lead a small amount from the back. Other than which I see…only Marchisio with any of the required zeal and until/unless his body comes good, he must be counted as on the sidelines.

    The only outfield player whose head is always held high, whose spirit never falters is Lichsteiner, who even though I defend, for generally good reason, is slowing down.

    The very worst example of a first XI player with a poor mentality is Cuadrado. I do not like how he smiles to himself when he fluffs a great opportunity. I do not like my perception of his head dropping always when dropped or having a poor game. He is more a street footballer, something like Ronaldinho, who wants to do great things, yet unlike the brazilian flair merchant, Juan does them seldom. He seems often a player who needs an arm round his neck to comfort and console. He is no warrior.

    Pjaca also, in what I have seen, has a wonderful mentality, as does Mandzukic, who will fight to the death but again, he is another whose body seems to be fading. No surprise given the way he has monstrously carved out his career.

    In short, I see nobody anywhere near their prime who is a natural born leader of warrior drive or sublime arrogance due to their talent.

    We have lacked leaders for a while. Yet they are hard to find.

    However, Max has a strong squad, and despite the setbacks thus far, which have come earlier than expected but in mitigating circumstances, I do believe he will organise the side to the best of it’s abilities. I am unsure as of yet on Costa who is looking very useful indeed, very quick, direct, capable…Bernardeschi is another, who for one reason of another, is not yet considered near the first XI but he has a very strong mentality. The sooner they are both integrated the better for our fortunes.

    You cannot make men of mice. However talented they are. SO it is a case of Max trying to maximise the talent, and success breeding success. At least for now…We have some interesting, very strong minded youngsters. Pjaca, Bentancur, Lirola, Mandragora, Caldara (who WILL progress more swiftly than Rugani)…

    All I will add is that we are in a period of transition which might last 2-3 seasons, but I firmly believe we are on the right track. Why invest hugely in established class when we have youngsters coming through who could become mainstays in the side in the near to mid term future? Why spend hugely on another CB when we will have La Bestia (Caldara) next Summer? What would we then to do with the established pro embedded in the first XI?

    Just bear in mind the success Max has already found, and understand his management style as well as the mentality of the playing squad. It does lack natural born warriors, but it does possess far more talent than many seem to presently believe. The trick is getting the best of what we have. And through finding that winning formula, confidence will grow.

    • Avatar
      Mixalis Neskis September 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      I consider this to be a second part of our discusion about leaders and Chiellini. It is more than true to say that you really cannot make men out of mice, but you can still make those damn mice bite. The problem is you have hamsters not rats. See Napoli for example, there has been a lack of leadership in the pitch for decades (I do not consider Hamsik that strong of a character) but the take their chances and in their day they demolish anyone on their path. Are they fragile at the back?Sure! Do they look for a decent GK for the last 5 years?Sure but they do not go for the 0-1 1-0 all it matters is the 3 points bullshit you get from Allegri, they score at will, sometimes less than they concede, but mostly more, they get the 3 points and have the spirit to continue.
      I recall Allegri saying ; ” Sometimes you play good and you win, sometimes you play bad, but the important thing is that you win”. Fair enough, they are not robots. My problem is with the definition of bad and good. He does not mange Bari. If you play good in Italy and your teams name is Juve, the score should be at least in the range of 2-4 to nothing. A bad day should be one you scored 2-3 and you conceded 1. Not the lame 2-1 on good days and 1-0 on bad.
      To make my point clear, if you do not have leaders on the pitch, you should play in a fashion that you won’t need the mental aspect of your players to kick in for the team to come out victorious. You rely on pure talent, physicallity, experience or whatever, but you do the job fast and clear. Like the game against Barca last year. 3-5 chances, 3 scored end of story.

    • Avatar
      E.Micallef September 19, 2017 at 8:44 pm

      If Messi did not do anything special against us it would have been a different story. Messi plays and wins games by himself. Technically no one I repeat no one is capable of stopping him. Therefore Barca relies on Messi. Dybala had a one on one situation. He could have centred and tried the one on one. Instead he directed himself to the side and passed the ball to the keeper. Why because he is no Messi. Also Iniesta and Bousquet. On the RM from Kross Mordric and Ronaldo. We don’t have that kind of players. We have the best of what remain.

      • Avatar
        Niko Belic September 21, 2017 at 9:01 am

        “Dybala had a one on one situation.”

        I missed that one. On the other hand I saw a late situation (at 3-0 down already mind you) where Bernardeschi had a clear shot at goal, in his favourite position on the right. Ideal to curl it into the opposite corner, either slotted or with power… yet he fluffs his lines and takes an embarrassing shot (more like a pass!) to Ter Stegen.

        • Avatar
          E.Micallef September 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

          First half still nil nil

    • Avatar
      Praval September 20, 2017 at 6:16 am

      I hope the next crop of Juve players has more collective ego than this lot. Personally, seeing Berna’s demeanor, I have him for the warrior spot. The squad has a lot of flair, talent, which when expressed, leads to poetic football. It does happen in Serie A but seldom against a few top teams. A bit of steel has to be ordered for the team.

  • Avatar
    Cory September 18, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Using players approaching their mid thirties and often playing them out of position is problem #1. I do not want to see Barzagli playing any meaningful minutes, people keep talking about his experience but it doesnt seem to matter if he cant run. Lichtsteiner showed this past match why he was left off the CL list he did not have a particularly strong outing. Sami is done, Marchisio cant stay fit. Stop play Benatia hes not good enough. I would like to see how we perform in big games if we play players approaching their primes or at least just leaving it rather than players who were at the top of their games around the last world cup. Allegri just needs to field the best 11. Start Costa on the right where he is most effective apparently, freaking play Howedes, im tired of it taking players 2 months to see the field or get meaningful minutes. I know im not exactly on topic but I really do no think we have a big game problem, we have beaten 2/3 massive clubs in the past 3 CL campaigns and if it wasn’t for trash subs we should have beaten Bayern. Just stop relying on players who should be thinking about retiring in our biggest matches, let the young players play. Play players in their positions! see what happens then. And the only thing ill say about the last 2 finals. Aginst Barca in 15′ Inesta Xavi Messi Neymar Suarez. We just weren’t as good the better team won. Last June, i dont care what any of these players say the summer moves say it all. Leo and Alves said some shit to some people that obviously were so fucked that they both had to leave during the summer. Maybe if they had kept their dramatic mouths shut things would have been more even in the second half. I really believe we are much closer to the summit than others .

    • Avatar
      Niko Belic September 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

      Agreed. Play the younger, fitter players; use the older ones when you need to protect a result late in the game. I love Barzagli but he was embarrassing in the Cardiff final, playing out of position and exposed to fast, fit opponents. It is cruel of Allegri to force such a great player to go through such ordeals, it is heartbreaking for us to see a player we have loved and admired so much been made to look helpless.

      No CL side winning team of recent years has resorted to many 30+ players. Clearly Juve’s starting line-up tends to be skewed towards an unsuitable age group.

    • Avatar
      Niko Belic September 21, 2017 at 8:56 am

      Benatia is a headache. At 30 he is supposed to be at the peak of his powers. But I see a player who seems to be worsening even as he should be improving! He was immense at Udinese and Roma but unconvincing throughout much of his time with Bayern. Unconvincing, yet generally sound… which is already better than what one may have to say for his Juventus performances up to now! I think Juve would have been much better off extending the contract of Martin Caceres – regardless of his off-field troubles, he was a much superior defender and played his heart out for the club. Would have cost 17 million euros less as well!

      I think Chiellini too tends to have shockers in big games: Real Madrid final, World Cup 2014, Euro 2012 final… I’m afraid that at 33, we can’t expect him to improve much on that aspect. I can’t wait for the era of Rugani, Howedes and Caldara, and hopefully someone like de Vrij would be bought to replace Benatia…

  • Avatar
    Dave Long September 19, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    As a addition to my article I took those three games as a snapshot but it also happened a several other games last season…..both Milan clubs away and Torino at home. You could argue we beat both Barca and Monaco but Barca were a deflated side and Monaco were overrated. Both beaten fairly easily in the end.

    • Avatar
      E.Micallef September 19, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Barca were a deflated side. We had several key players absent from Tuesday match. Key players like Manzu Cuadrado khedira chiellini that know the system well. I take it we see the best of Juventus after Christmas. It will be no exception this year. The only exception was RM final. That was a real exception unfortunately.

  • Avatar
    Moderator September 19, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I set up a new discussion forum – would be great to see more people on it : https://discourse.juvefc.info/

    It’s still early days so we’ll see how it develops

    • thegutterpoet
      thegutterpoet September 22, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Will get writing in there over the coming days, mate. It looks and works very well indeed. Cheers for providing it.

    • Avatar
      Dar Black September 23, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Are you not worried sir that two places just halves the impact and importance of this original great website? And adds another place people have to go to look at stuff? Instead of one place for all comments and such like.

      • Avatar
        Moderator September 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

        I was hoping that i could put an end to it ! the idea was to have one place to keep discussions going without worrying about more and more content being added. What do you think ? I’m looking for feedback

  • Avatar
    Niko Belic September 21, 2017 at 8:28 am

    I totally agree with you! The lack or absence of mental fortitude is in fact something which seems to affect nearly every Italian side (club or national team) competing against international opposition. Italians can play with great confidence, even score, but it only takes 1-2 calls/events going against them and they crumble spectacularly, jeopardising all the hard work done previously.

    Juventus have become the most glaring example of that simply because they tend to go further in European competitions and are more often facing the big guns like Barcelona, Bayern and Real. That should not excuse the mental shortcomings of other Italian sides. Napoli collapsing twice to Real Madrid after scoring first and appearing to control both games; Roma crumbling in Lyon when they had a boulevard ahead to the Europa League final. Italy U21s outplayed by a totally average Czech side at the last UEFA U21 Championship. The previous year, Napoli again stunned by Villarreal after they had breezed past the EL group stages.

    It seems as though Italian sides are so obsessed with preparation and pre-match scenarios, that they can’t seem to adapt whenever the actual game deviates even slightly from their expectations.

  • Avatar
    Niko Belic September 21, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I disagree (respectfully so) with some of the examples you’ve used on the other hand. Dybala playing poorly in the CL final wasn’t a sign of mental weakness, I’d argue. We all know what happened with Bonucci and Alves arguing with their teammates at half time.

    That totally damaged morale, even with players who normally perform with reliability and cope well with pressure, e.g. Alex Sandro, Khedira. You just cannot prepare or protect against the foolishness of arrogant teammates having a go at you at such an important juncture of a final.

    A more appropriate example would have been the 4-2 loss in Munich, when Juventus outplayed Bayern for much of the game, only to crumble as soon as the Germans scored.

    • thegutterpoet
      thegutterpoet September 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      I remain unsure of these rumours. I prefer to believe the words of a player or two who said there was no argument…Bonucci wanted to leave for a while. Alves was always prone to leave for a bigger paypacket, to play with his chum Neymar and to simply enjoy yet another new adventure near the top in the twilight of his starlit career.

      • Avatar
        Niko Belic September 22, 2017 at 1:31 pm

        Indeed we can’t make much of Alves’ departure.

        But regarding Bonucci I disagree. His behaviour stepped beyond the limits of the acceptable many times last season. To me it is rather evident he had reached a point where he cared more about himself than for Juventus.

        I also do not trust what the player(s) said on the issue, simply because it is in their best interests to say nothing happened, we just lost to a better team. It would reflect badly on them to admit they behaved like spoilt brats.

        No smoke without fire, anyway what would the media gain trying to invent such a story? The game has already been played and lost by Juventus, so even media with an anti-Juventus bias have nothing at stake here.

        On the other hand a possible dressing room clash is the most plausible explanation we’ve had so far for the second half meltdown, which was in such contrast to the first half display.

        Worst thing is that we will probably never get to know. Allegri, Buffon and all the events’ witnesses have got strictly no interest in revealing them…