Club News, Features

Just a Little bit of History Repeating…

October 21, 2017 - 6:11 pm

I’m no Shirley Bassey fan, I had to Google the title to see who sang that song, but she was right, we’ve been here before haven’t we? In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s a seasonal occurrence. Juve’s early season form can often be compared to that of a hibernating tortoise who has awoken from its winter-long slumber. Okay maybe not that bad but after some early season promise in the late summer sunshine we’re now experiencing some unwanted deja-vu as autumn approaches.

After routine wins over the league’s also rans we have started to lose a little impetus (not helped by the international break), while others around us have cantered along, barely breaking stride. This started with the Barcelona defeat, but that wasn’t unexpected so it barely registered. We almost imploded in Genoa, but thanks to Dybala’s brilliance we were saved a second humiliating defeat in consecutive seasons. We had a tough time against Olympiakos at home in the Champions League, with the much maligned Higuain netting the winner. This led to the turning point in our early season adventures; Atalanta, away in Bergamo. I devoted an entire article to VAR last time, so I won’t go into it again here, suffice to say we didn’t have the best of luck in that game. After the international break we faced Lazio at home and lost. Yes, we lost. It happens, but the vitriol building since the Olympiakos game towards Max Allegri and the team has now reached ridiculous heights, calls for his resignation stand out as crass and uneducated. The criticism of his team selection has been, in parts, warranted, but singling out players for personal abuse is pathetic and embarrassing. Remember, people, we have only dropped points in consecutive games, one game was robbed from us and the other we failed to take a golden opportunity to win, yes, Dybala’s penalty taking abilities need some work and have ultimately cost us four points from those last two games. I am not, however, solely blaming him.

On to Wednesday and the second Champions League home game against Sporting Lisbon, another hard fought win against decent opposition, the aim with the group matches, much like any cup competition, is winning, and we’ve put ourselves in a good position to qualify relatively easily. As a small digression, qualifying in first place isn’t the golden ticket to an easier Round of 16 tie it might have been in previous years due to the sheer volume of quality teams in each group. Finishing second could just as easily land us an easier draw in the knockout round.

That’s our first few months in a nutshell, six wins from eight games in the league and two wins from three in the Champions League. Hardly relegation form, is it? Yet it feels very familiar. Last season it took an embarrassing defeat away to Fiorentina for Allegri to change the formation and spark a sprint towards the Champions League Final and our sixth successive Scudetto. Many of the pre-Christmas games felt like friendlies with Juve hardly breaking a sweat, not to suggest they didn’t work hard, but we were rarely out of second gear during most of those games. Post-Christmas we lost one game, one. Away to Roma in May. However, the latter months of 2016 were not the most aesthetically pleasing for Juventini. Fresh in the memory though, is a successive domestic double and a second Champions League Final in three years. In the end Allegri’s penchant for cruising through games and playing players out of position were vindicated and the doubters were proved wrong.

Rewind 12 months and we were in familiar territory, only much, much worse. As you know we won one of the first six league games and by the end of October we were plodding around mid-table. After an away draw to Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League the level of criticism was unbelievable. I haven’t ever witnessed anything like it before and I doubt I ever will. In the modern era of social media it allows people of all knowledge levels to give their opinion on any subject (much as I am doing now), whether it be completely spot on or so far off the mark to be considered laughable. It comes with high expectations (more of which soon). That 2015/16 season, you’ll recall saw us complete a domestic double and be unlucky to be knocked out of the Champions League in the first knockout round. Again, Allegri and co. came out of the season unscathed and showered with praise.

Back to this season, as I mentioned earlier we have failed to win our last two league games which have been sandwiched in among an international break (allowing people to marinade in their own peevishness for a week) and a couple of tough going, ground out wins in the Champions League. First world football problems. Our expectations are so high that a home defeat is now met with all sorts of outlandish opinions, talks of a crisis have been levelled at the management. People almost became hysterical when Dybala missed his second injury time penalty in two games. It is the nature of the beast to build expectations even more as each trophy is lofted high by the Bianconeri. We have genuinely been spoiled for the past half a dozen years and we should be grateful for Allegri helping us to reach a domestic pinnacle and be within touching distance of the European summit. There are plenty out there who fail to realise success isn’t a divine right, not to Juve or anyone.

nintchdbpict000324491847

There are plenty of reasons for the apparent slump in form, I feel Allegri has still to decide on his best starting line-up, new signings have played sporadic cameos or have been injured. I can understand the need for settling in and adapting to new surroundings, but I feel Allegri is taking this to the extreme. In the case of Bernardeschi I can only hope Max is saving him for later in the season as Federico must be fuming at being left to kick his heels on the bench at the expense of Juan Cuadrado; a player who has played well once this season and too often leaves fans frustrated at his ineptitude. Douglas Costa has shown flashes of brilliance but Max favours Mandzukic on the left. I don’t want to take anything away from Mario’s performances as he’s been a surprising revelation since his deployment out on the left, but Costa gives the team balance and flair which Mario doesn’t. The midfield, a great cause of debate in pre-season, has been good, but only when Matuidi and Pjanic have played together. As I’ll say to anyone who asks, those two really make a difference to Juve, and as we’ve seen recently Pjanic is sorely missed when he’s not there. That leads me on to injuries, of the midfield, Marchisio, Pjanic and Khedira have all missed significant time and their absence to a greater or lesser extent, has been felt. Calls for signing this player or that player when someone gets injured are annoying. Injuries happen, to every team, it’s just a shame they have happened to our better players in such a short space of time.

The defence is still looking very nervous at times, these times are often masked with a win but cruelly highlighted. Again, Allegri has yet to settle on a consistent starting back four. It should be said that, like Bernardeschi, Daniele Rugani must be sick of the sight of the Juve substitutes bench. Allegri’s insistence on picking an inconsistent Benatia ahead of him is becoming embarrassing. It has gotten to the point, for me, where if Rugani said he wanted to leave in January I wouldn’t be surprised. The departure of Bonucci coupled with Chiellini’s and Barzagli’s ageing limbs should’ve meant he would get more playing time, unfortunately for him it has proved to be the opposite. I feel sorry for him. Ageing limbs and inconsistent play (Alex Sandro doesn’t escape notice there) have seen opponents attack with greater verve knowing we can actually be beaten, relatively soft goals versus Atalanta, Genoa, Sassuolo, Lazio and Sporting could have all been prevented with a greater show of confidence and understanding from the back line. Confidence is bred by having a settled, consistent defence not by uncertainty. Definite improvements must be made before long.
The front two, usually Higuain and Dybala, despite their mostly consistent and dominating play have too often become ineffective recently. It’s worrying to see such a potent attack become lifeless when the team in general isn’t playing well. Their respective styles of play rely heavily on the team in the form of support from midfield and the wings, when we’re not playing well collectively this highlights Pjanic missing games through injury and Cuadrado and Costa just going missing during games!

ciro-immobile1

Having said all this, we are a shade over two months into the season. Allegri has proved in the past that Juve do not reach the peak of their powers until much later, given our record over recent seasons it’s not such a reach to expect the same this year. A settled starting line-up would be a start and increased playing time for Bernardeschi, Rugani and Costa. Remember we have only lost one league game and one Champions League game so far, so please calm down, support the team in a positive way and roar them on to another league title. Who knows, we may go one step further than last season.

You Might Also Like

  • Avatar
    ascherith October 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    but still bad managements on subs, playing favoritism to some players doesn’t help the boss cases.
    he has to play benatia because he insisted and asking personally for benatia and juve paid big sums of money for him, 17M for a CB at 30years old with 5M wages is not a cheap player that could just sitting around in the bench.
    today juventus is almost like the juventus in zac/ferrara/del nerri era, heavily invested on foreign players. and what we called them back then? mercenaries. and they did played like mercenaries, enjoying their big wages without showing on the grinta, lo spirito, their head facing downward and their eyes fill with disbelief when smaller teams like atalanta and lazio got their goals.
    fede and rugani needs to learned big team mentality? but dybala, cuadrado and higuain needs to learn from small team players too, not giving up until it end. that what juventus has been when they won the last UCL vs ajax.
    today juventus just to busy scouting foreign players, they want to buy germany and spain youngster who already making 5goals in 11matches but they never send their scouts to look at pellegri or chiesa and after that the management asking why the stadium can’t sold out the tickets! lol

    who want to go to juventus arena and sitting there watching 9 foreign players playing??
    its only weaken azzuri and make other european national teams getting stronger LoL how stupid.. it just boggles my mind watching today juventus.
    the best italian team that used to be the nazionale strength, now become like internazionale turin.
    maybe they should change the names too not only the logo.
    juventus means young, yet the club always favored older players.
    the coach fave CB is 36yo who has been beaten by messi twice, by morata, and run out by immobile twice, yet he can rest assured the coach will pick him as starting eleven or subs because he needs more playing times to gains new skillls and experiences at 36years old. it just stupid.

    welcome gasperini or inzaghi. far better and more competence and as far as i saw they didn’t playing favoritism and gasperini loves young italian players and he successfully making them into great players with atalanta. allegri just never learned anything from his past mistakes.

  • Avatar
    Dar Black October 21, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    No we haven’t been here before Dave, at least not since early Conte era. What has changed? We no longer have a full world class defensive unit to protect our goal and it’s aging goalie, to provide that rock like shield that enabled us to hold out and nick a slim victory even when the players in front of them were not firing on all cylinders. Before we were below par but still solid. Now we are below par and vulnerable.

    • Avatar
      Dave Long October 23, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Very succinctly put. I agree to a certain extent, however I believe this is part of Allegri’s team management and settling in to the new season. We’ve seen it a few times before, hence the reason for this article. You’ll see a change once the defensive line is more consistent and settled.

  • Avatar
    RAC October 22, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Mandzukic has been our best player this season, yet we still try to push him out for costa or bernardeschi.. unbelievable. Neither of those players is as good as mario. It is as simple as that. Cuadrado will be seeing less game time soon enough, most likely with costa entering the first 11. Bernardeschi is FAR from deserving a starting 11 spot. This isn’t fiorentina, and he isn’t mario mandzukic.. i agree with the rest of the article though. Come january, the team will be stronger than last year’s. We have had the bad luck of going through our usual growing pains combined with numerous injuries. Bonucci was our post-pirlo regista; this is the biggest change in our playing style since the architect packed his bags. Once all our midfielders (of which we now have a wealth of options) are back and playing regularly, pjanic will thrive in that role and we will be stronger than ever.

    • Avatar
      Dave Long October 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      I haven’t seen enough of either Costa or Bernardeschi in a Juve shirt to make a decision yet. Mandzukic is the most familiar face and given his performances (yesterday apart) I think he is an automatic choice, no matter how bizarre playing a striker on the wing seems.
      I completely agree with your view the shake up of the defence post-Bonucci, it has led to an almost overnight change in how we defend and ultimately attack, as he was a huge part of our play. Given this change I think we have done okay so far, with obvious room for improvement.

  • Avatar
    Dani_Juventino October 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    My view here is that Alegri does not have anything more to offer to this Juve team. He won few scudetti, 2 Champions League finals and,as we can all see, does not have anything more to offer to Juve. This season team is all but consistent, there is no any strategy in our game, and.,as someone mentioned in the comments, Mandzukic is still forced to play out of his position, which to be honest limits his abilities and us as a team. We bought Costa to play on the wing and exactly where Mario currently plays. The only game where Mario played forward was when we played against Torino and Costa played winger. That was our best performance of the season with clearly understanding why was that. Mario and Gonzalo are playing same position, therefore, they should compete for the starting 11. As for the wingers Costa should definitely play on the left, and on the right Cuadrado and Bernadeski should rotate. Also, Kedira is not anymore player for any serious club, he can only play nowdays in MSL or China. Therefore Pjanic and Matuidi should be picked for starters and Marchisio and Betancur as alternatives. As for the defense it is clear that Chielini and Rugani are our 2 strongest defenders but obviously Alegri does not think the same. Generally I don’t expect nothing out of this season as we are seriously lacking strategy in our game, identity and consistency. We should fire Alegri, and start building on something new for the next season. And get rid of some players who are not able to provide us with some extra quality such as Asamoa, Kedira, Sturaro…

  • Avatar
    JuveAllDay October 24, 2017 at 1:07 am

    While I am admittedly confused at some of Allegri’s decisions, I am disheartened by the comments that he should be sent packing. I can’t help but look back at the past three seasons with reverence for the way he came in (when most didn’t want him), and outperformed all expectation. This is particularly true when he took Juventus to the two Champions League finals with a squad that was obviously not talented enough to be one of the top two in the world. I don’t consider it his fault that the whiner Bonucci decided to leave, and we have had unfortunate circumstances regarding the injuries in defense so far this term. My expectation is that we will still be challenging for the Scudetto at season’s end, and when the knockout stages of Champion’s League arrive I don’t think there will be more than 5 teams in the world that will be capable of beating us. There is still everything to play for, and for the time being I think we should all still put our trust in Allegri to right the ship based on past performance. Every season is a new one, and it may not play out the way we are used to, but I think it should be considered that part of the reason our expectations are so high are due to all the squad has achieved in Allegri’s time as manager. IMO there isn’t a ready made replacement who would accept the position that could do any better