Despite Ronaldo’s departure, his shadow was still looming over the Allianz Stadium when Juventus hosted Empoli last Saturday. If you don’t believe me, just check out the never-ending disputes on every digital platform between the pro-Ronaldo and anti-Ronaldo camps. Thrilling stuff!
Therefore, Juventus absolutely needed a big win over the Serie A newcomers to shake the dust off and announce the beginning of new era built upon the shoulders of younger stars.
The result? One of the most infertile and spineless performances witnessed in recent memory, as the Bianconeri spent the majority of the match trailing without even showing a genuine sense of urgency or the desire to turn the table on their Tuscan visitors. By the second half, the “team” – if it can be called such – simply gave up and accepted the embarrassing defeat.
With the exception of few like Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Chiesa, the attitude of the players was simply inexcusable, and some of them left the pitch under a rain of whistles coming from their own supporters, whilst the Empoli players were applauded by the same Allianz crowd. An awkward scenery for sure, yet, a fair one based on the circumstances.
However, Massimiliano Allegri’s inexplicably over-cautious tactics crippled his side from the get-go. Facing the Serie B champions, the returning manager decided to overload the middle of the park with four central midfielders in a 4-4-2 diamond formation.
Now had the foursome been Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, none of us would be complaining. But it was quite obvious that Danilo, Adrien Rabiot, Rodrigo Bentancur and Weston McKennie all lacked the vision and creativity needed to unlock the match and weren’t able to maintain possession.
Allegri should have envisioned the occurrence of such scenario, and whilst he tried to add some flair by the introductions of Manuel Locatelli, Federico Bernardeschi and Dejan Kulusevski, it was already a lost cause.
Moreover, Paulo Dybala struggled during the first half while playing as a center forward in Alvaro Morata’s absence. The Spaniard came in the second half, but La Joya was already exhausted after battling the defenders throughout the first half.
Perhaps some last minute additions to the midfield could enhance the squad, and Locatelli’s eventual introduction to the starting lineup will only help, but Allegri appears to be suffering from the rustiness following two years on the shelf.
After the first two rounds, Juventus already find themselves trailing Inter, Milan, Roma, Napoli and Lazio by FIVE points. Although the players must improve as individuals and collective alike, Max has to find his A-game sooner rather than later, or we’ll be enduring another 2020/21 campaign… if not worse.