In a surprising twist, at least one good news arrived at the tail-end of this terrible season, as the legal troubles and the battle with the sports justice ended midweek with a plea bargain on the wages and other charges. Putting an end to the saga with minor ulterior damage was already a satisfying outcome to begin with. The fact that the sanction was just monetary made it even more palatable. Juventus might have been cleared altogether if they fought tooth and nail as, despite the one-sided commentary, the accusations were murkier and not as damning as the plusvalenze case, but it wasn’t worthy of a protracted fight. The new management finally did something noteworthy. If Andrea Agnelli had been ousted earlier, things would have probably gone differently regarding the point deduction too.
Rival fans are complaining about the punishment, which is chump change for Exor, but the trials are all connected and, looking at the big picture, the federal prosecutor took a big scalp by obtaining the exclusion of the Bianconeri from the Champions League, which will have negative ramifications for years to come. The final round will decide which competition the side will qualify for, and then it will be up to UEFA to make the call on a possible ban. Europe League boosted its lure in the past few seasons, but being kicked out of a secondary cup surely stings less. In order to sanitize the relationship with the international body, the Super League should have long been abandoned, and it’s weird that it hasn’t happened yet, considering the team has been putting more and more distance between itself and the disgraced former president. That project was by far his most questionable idea, to put it kindly.
With all that morass finally, in the rearview mirror, the club will be able to focus on less anxiety-inducing but equally pivotal matters like the coach and the transfer market. The buzz about Massimiliano Allegri’s dismissal has vigorously intensified. However, in normal circumstances, the decision should be made by the new sporting director. Everybody is certain Cristiano Giuntoli will eventually get released by Napoli and join. It would be a seismic change, as the Old Lady hasn’t hired apical execs from other outfits since they onboarded Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici from Sampdoria. Plus, he couldn’t come in with a better resume. If option A falls through, the club might wait a year and promote from within, which could be a reasonable sacrifice. The expectations about 2023/2024 should already be low.
The boss has been stressing that they would have reached the objective without the penalty, but, even though that may be true, that’s not enough considering the historical standards. The Bianconeri never competed for the Scudetto this season. Plus, Europa League was a massive opportunity to finally win something continentally, but the two displays versus Sevilla were highly disappointing. If he’s not bringing trophies, things look ugly because his playing style is what it is. After two years without triumphs and with little progress on the pitch, his faith would have already been sealed if ownership didn’t have a weird fascination with him.
While the rumors about departures are flying, the management would have to bring in a few proven champions to raise the quality of the squad and make it work under Allegri, as his strategy surely isn’t additive. The problem is that they already tried to do that last summer, and it didn’t work out, even though with legitimate justifications. Partying ways with him would be financial bloodshed, but that’s not a good enough reason to keep a gaffer.
Adapting the roster to what would be best for him would cost more. The firepower is very uncertain considering the situation and probably not enough to live up to the task. An in-season coaching change would be more hurtful. Considering that the squad is already young-ish, barring a few veterans, and some will leave, the choice should fall on an up-and-coming gaffer, preferably already established and successful enough, that could grow along with the players in the next two or three campaigns. The hierarchy wouldn’t need to look too far to find a few sound candidates.
Finally, even though the economic state of the outfit could force their hands to have some semblance of a budget, the officials shouldn’t do anything crazy in terms of departures. It’d be an easy way out of the mud, but selling players that haven’t performed to their full potential will quickly turn out to be a major regret. There are significantly more recommendable ways to save or raise money. In addition, Juventus are in the enviable position of not needing to spend for depth because they already have a host of prospects good enough to be at least backups. A few of them are more ready to contribute than Nicolò Fagioli was last summer. That frees up cash for two or three select investments necessary to compete at the highest level. Instead, the higher-ups should make it clear from the get-go if the plan is to have a multi-year rebuild with the initial goal of mending the balance sheets.
3-5-2: Szczesny; Gatti, Bonucci, Danilo; Cuadrado, Miretti, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Chiesa, Milik.
Absences: Vlahovic, Bremer, Pogba (thigh injuries), Fagioli (collarbone fracture), De Sciglio (ACL tear), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear).
The Udinese season started with a lot of promise thanks to a fiery winning streak, but that went away pretty quickly. They have been coasting for a few months, as they never dipped too dramatically and got in serious trouble, also because this year’s point tally to avoid relegation is particularly low.
They rolled the dice with Andrea Sottil, who had no previous Serie A experience, and he has panned out enough, although he adapted to their style rather than the other way around. He utilized a four-man defense in his previous stops, but their roster is built for 3-5-2, and they never veered from it. It looks like it will be the choice for the future as well even though some significant departures could make it conceivable to go in a different tactical direction.
While they ultimately remain the gritty and physical team they have been for a few campaigns, no matter who’s in the dugout, the gaffer added some pizzazz, especially once he and the players got more comfortable with each other. Losing Gerard Deulofeu was a big blow, and Florian Thauvin did little to replace him, but they stayed afloat thanks to Isaac Success, who got hurt later on too, and by using a no.10, which allowed them to field both Sandi Lovric and Lazar Samardzic together more consistently, while they used to alternate beforehand. That gives them plenty of technique and playmaking in the midfield.
They have a few youngsters on the brink of superstardom that might need to transfer to a bigger team to fully flourish. Destiny Udogie will do that, as he’ll move to Tottenham. He’s been fine but not dominant like for instance Theo Hernandez or Carlos Augusto in the same role. The same goes for Samardzic, who has a fantastic highlight reel and is a tremendous shooter but not that consistent game-to-game. Lovric is less flashy but more solid. Norberto Beto also falls in the category. He has produced at an adequate clip and always puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his runs, but he will barely crack the double-digit threshold in goals.
They have been better at unearthing players than developing the ones they had. Jaka Bijol was a home-run signing and quickly established himself as an impressive linchpin for a three-man line thanks to his massive muscularity and decent passing skills. Festy Ebosele needed a few months to break through, but he has a ton of raw talent. He’ll be one to watch next season as Kingsley Ehizibue, a fine wingback, will miss months with an ACL tear.
It has been a satisfactory season overall, but uncertainty looms. Rodrigo Becao is on a short-term contract and could be sold, Pereyra’s one expires in June, and he has yet to decide, they have been preparing for Beto’s exit, Udogie is gone, and big teams are eyeing Samardzic. Their coffers will likely be full, but they’ll have to go to work this summer.
3-5-1-1: Silvestri; Abankwah, Walace, Perez; Pereyra, Samardzic, Arslan, Lovric, Udogie; Thauvin; Nestorovski.
Absences: Zeegelaar, Bijol (suspension), Becao, Masina, Success (thigh injuries), Deulofeu (knee injury), Ehizibue, Ebosse (ACL tears).