As stated by Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus threw away the work of six weeks in the span of three games. In retrospect, the wasted opportunity in the Inter clash caused things to unravel because all the feeble certainties built up until that point collapsed. And the Bianconeri fell back into their old habits against Sassuolo and Verona, from terrible approaches to shoddy defending to wasteful attacking.
The performance against the Scaligeri represented a low point in recent years. The Old Lady had some stumbles with Andrea Pirlo and Maurizio Sarri at the helm, even resounding ones, but it had never been so manifestly played off the park by a minnow for a good hour. On the other hand, the final push in that game was solid, and the display versus Zenit spectacular on offense. The inconsistency is just maddening.
Allegri now needs to make such level of aggression the building block going forward, rather than revert to his old ways. It is clear that, given their current attackers, Juventus need to play with pace and space in order to flourish. The snail-like rhythm might have facilitated things while having the polar star of Cristiano Ronaldo up front. Now the squad is better suited to run and gun rather than to attack patiently and methodically.
In a bizarre world, the Bianconeri have less pressure in Champions League than in Serie A, and it shows. Moreover, the position was already very advantageous, so the performance versus Zenit has to be taken with a grain of salt, and it shows how much impact the mental elements have. However, the morale and self-confidence of the team have been so fickle that it should help anyway despite the particular circumstances.
Instead, the Verona debacle showed that the issues have little to do with the line-up selection. No one guy will solve everything, nor in the back or in the final third. It is going to take a collective leap to improve things. Big picture-wise, it is a pipe dream to enter the Scudetto race at this point, also because two teams, and not just one, are marching. However, there is a significant drop-off after Inter, with a bunch of sides, each with their own issues, in the running for a Champions League spot. It might not be too hard for Juventus to become the leader of that pack if they got it together in a hurry.
Hopefully, no more physical problems will get in the way, as it is apparent that the attack works well only if Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa are both on the field and in-form. The latter has been phenomenal even amid the struggles, and he deserves major props for that. Alvaro Morata just is not prolific enough to be the focal point of a credible frontline. He is much more useful as a second or third fiddle that hold things together and connects the other pieces.
Weston McKennie has played himself into a more consistent role, while Adrien Rabiot has done the exact opposite, although dealing with COVID is never easy. Allegri properly slammed in the pre-game presser. It looks like the lineup is going to be similar to the Zenit one, with a couple of chances. Giorgio Chiellini could relieve Leonardo Bonucci, who is due for a day off, while Juan Cuadrado could play over Danilo at right-back or Federico Bernardeschi, with Chiesa moving to the left. It is unlikely the coach will abandon Rodrigo Bentancur and Rabiot altogether, even though McKennie and Federico Bernardeschi have severely outplayed them.
Juventus (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Chiesa, McKennie, Locatelli, Bernardeschi; Dybala, Morata.
Ruled Out: Kean (muscle fatigue), De Sciglio (thigh strain).
Fiorentina have had a very weird summer, with some lasting effects. But, in the end, the outcome was neat. The process was messy, but its result put them in a good spot. They have elevated themselves from their blah status of recent seasons, adding a ton of reasons for excitement. It remains to be seen whether they could contend for Europa League this year, but they have certainly started trending in the right direction.
To recap, they had initially hired Gennaro Gattuso. However, things quickly soured with him, and especially his agent Jorge Mendes, due to disagreements over the transfer market strategies. They quickly parted ways. They turned a potential black eye into a positive, as they went out and poached Vincenzo Italiano from Spezia, arguably the most brilliant up-and-coming coach in Italy.
While it was unfortunate for the Aquilotti, which are still reeling, it was a swell choice for the Viola. Italiano is less established than Gattuso, and that removed the pressure of getting strong results right away. But he also has a good-looking style that vibes better with the city. He pulled off a near miracle last season with a ragtag crew in Liguria. While they have not been spotless, his style of football has paid dividends and enhanced their talent.
They have made a huge leap, as they were relegation strugglers for three/thirds of the past campaigns. And they still have significant room for improvements once they find more stability since they have had some rather wild swings. They have never drawn so far: they have picked up six wins and five losses. They fumbled just one game against a minnow, Venezia, while they have defeated, and at times beaten up, Torino, Genoa, Udinese, Cagliari, and Spezia. They went toe-to-toe with the best sides, but they were defeated in all but one instance. They topped Atalanta in their most impressive win of the season. Instead, they came up short versus Roma, Inter, Napoli, and Lazio.
They play a very offensive and demanding style, which at times exposes their defence, opening up room for counter-attacks, or makes them run out of energy too early. While Dusan Vlahovic has lived up to his reputation, they do have some offensive shortcomings. They scored 16 goals, which is a meager haul considering how much they create. The Serbian starlet has done his part, but the contributions of the others has been lacking, and they often leave the center-forward stranded.
It is a little odd because, from Giacomo Bonaventura to Gaetano Castrovilli to José Callejon, they have a few players that are very well-accustomed to filling the box and hitting the net to a decent rate. But Nicolas Gonzalez has been the only one able to do that proficiently so far. Castrovilli missed a lot of time due to a weird injury, while Bonaventura has turned into a hard-hat type of midfielder. He is more essential to the build-up and the passive phase but less threatening in the final third.
Callejon might just be washed up at this point, while Riccardo Saponara, despite never being 100 percent healthy, has shown real flashes of class. Riccardo Sottil provides a ton of dynamism, but he is still a bit raw in terms of decision-making. They will be without Gonzalez and that is a big break for Juventus, because he is head-and-shoulders their best winger, while the others are mostly ancillary players and not go-to-guys.
Their reinforcement campaign was pretty impressive, and they are still fully exploring it. Lucas Torreira has been fine, but not his majestic Sampdoria self. Alvaro Odriozola has great motor and offensive presence, but he has not fully beaten out Lorenzo Venuti.
Keeping Vlahovic was a remarkable show of strength. However, it turned into an unnecessary season-long drama since he did not extend his contract after the summer window to force his way out in the near future. Luckily for them, he has been Teflon mentally, and, after all, it is tough to boo somebody that bags gems like the free-kick versus Cagliari or puts together hat-tricks.
They are not a finished product yet, but they have great potential. If they achieve a decent chunk of it, they will be in the running for a top-seven finish. Every game is complicated for Juventus at this point, but those against high-wattage teams even more so. And Fiorentina are the only Italian side that ransacked the stadium twice. The ingredients for another disappointment are all on the table, and the counter is to cut the feeds to Vlahovic, turn their aggression against them and tire them out through ball possession.
Fiorentina (4-3-3): Terracciano; Odriozola, Milenkovic, Martinez Quarta, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Torreira, Castrovilli; Sottil, Vlahovic, Saponara.
Ruled Out: Gonzalez (COVID), Dragowski (thigh strain).