Thanks to a favorable stretch of the schedule, the fortunes of Juventus are starting to turn for the better. The late Zenit goal was hopefully a positive omen for things to come. Yet, the danger of everything crumbling down is still very present, as it happened between the Verona and Sassuolo matches after the first winning streak.
Five shout-out victories in the last seven tilts are nothing to sneeze at. Obviously, things would look much better without the London debacle, and if the Bianconeri did not drop the most pivotal tilt of such stretch, the Atalanta one. But they might not be the real opponents for a Champions League berth in the long run. And the performance in that clash was acceptable and the result a little fluky.
The product on the pitch has indeed improved in both phases. The defense has become stingier, regardless of who is fielded, and the squad created more chances against Genoa and Zenit than versus Salernitana. The scoring woes have now become the no.1 problem of the team.
It is unlikely that the solution will come from within, although Alvaro Morata tends to be streaky. Moise Kean has maybe the potential to be more consistent, but he has been so frustratingly up-and-down with his decision-making and clutchness in the box. And Kaio Jorge, who is being red-shirted, can not possibly be the savior. Since the depth is there and the money tight, it is tough to imagine that there will be an investment in the role in January. But it would be potentially season-saving if the right guy came to town. Winning a few in a row is hard if you always need an immaculate display to be successful, while a real goal poacher would steal some points here and there.
In the meantime, the best thing coach Massimiliano Allegri could do is carry on with 4-2-3-1, although it will be less offensive-minded than in previous tilts since Dejan Kulusevski is out. Rather than see Adrien Rabiot on the flank again, it would be better to move up Juan Cuadrado, who is in great form, and have either Mattia De Sciglio or Koni De Winter at right-back. The youngster seems reliable enough, especially from the physical standpoint, to handle the spotlight for a game or two if De Sciglio is not ready for full minutes after his injury. The doubts are the usual recent ones, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini competing for a spot in the back and Luca Pellegrini and Alex Sandro in contention at left-back. Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur are battling in the midfield.
Juventus (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; De Sciglio, De Ligt, Chiellini, Pellegrini; Rabiot, Locatelli; Cuadrado, Dybala, Bernardeschi; Morata.
Injuries: Chiesa, Danilo (thigh strains), Ramsey (thigh injury), Arthur (tardiness).
Venezia have been a mild revelation so far, although they have some defects typical of all teams that lack Serie A experience. Like Empoli and Spezia, they play a proactive brand of football, and at times they have been able to reap great benefits from it. On other occasions, it has led to defensive collapses. As abundantly evidenced by what happened versus Verona, they have had issues managing leads, which has often cost them.
It is not exactly stunning since they have a lot of youngsters, mostly foreigners, and very few veterans on the roster. Besides Sergio Romero and Mattia Caldara, the rest of the squad is at their first campaign in the Italian league. They are bound to improve over time. Differently from what pre-season prognostications were, they will have a chance to avoid the drop.
Coach Paolo Zanetti generally alternates between 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2. Regardless of the scheme, the elegant Mattia Aramu is always in the thick of it, and he is a fabulous playmaker, both when setting up teammates and finishing on his, also from long range. They have a lot of pace throughout the squad, from fullbacks Pasquale Mazzocchi, Ridgeciano Haps, and Tyronne Ebuehi to Gianluca Busio and the attackers.
However, David Okereke, one of their leading scorers, is hurt, and therefore they will go with a more physical frontline, with either Thomas Henry or Francesco Forte spearheading it. They can keep up on counters as they are fairly mobile despite their size, but Okereke is an electric speedster.
Still, they will not lack energy up front as Dennis Johnsen is rounding back into form after an ankle injury. He is one of the most perplexing players in the league as he has incredible speed and glides through opponents at will, but his mazing runs often amount to nothing due to poor touch in the box. But he is one to keep an eye on, both in this game and for the future, as he can become a tremendous weapon if he puts it all together.
They have intriguing prospects throughout the squad, starting with Gianluca Busio, who, despite being 19 and coming from a completely different scenario like the MLS, has been their most consistent contributor. He is the total package and has incredible upside. The American teenager can handle the duties as the primary conductor if need be, but they are better with the savvy Antonio Vacca there. However, as it is often the case, he is hurt at the moment. Ethan Ampadu, who used to be a defender in the Premier League but features mostly as a midfielder here, adds a ton of physicality and providing precious balance. They can go in a few directions to fill out the line. Domen Crnigoj, who is a typical box-to-box, has been the better option lately, but also the giant Tanner Tessmann and the technical Sofian Kiyine will be in the mix.
On top of Okereke ad Vacca, they will be without another linchpin in defender Pietro Ceccaroni, who has played every game so far. It will be an issue as he is the clear leader of the rearguard. They have revived Mattia Caldara, which is quite an achievement, while the massive Micheal Svoboda had some decent displays in the early going but looked bad in his first game after back surgery last week. They will be rather slow in the back with such pair, but the other backup Marco Modolo has never played so far.
They generally tone down their aggression a little when going against top teams, but they will still be more courageous than the average minnow. They will be eager to bounce back after the Verona meltdown and the losses to Inter and Atalanta, which tamed them by being patient, as the Lagunari always manage to create good chances no matter the opponent. They will be in a nice spot once they find the right equilibrium between offense and defense.
Venezia (4-3-3): Romero; Mazzocchi, Svoboda, Caldara, Haps; Crnigoj, Busio, Ampadu; Aramu, Henry, Jonhsen.
Injuries: Okereke (thigh strain), Vacca (foot problem), Fiordilino (sports hernia).