“Fino alla fine” has long been the motto of Juventus. Embroidered on shirts and sung by supporters, the phrase – meaning “until the end” – captures the relentless drive of the Bianconeri, a team who never ever give up.
For a few minutes of Sunday’s Supercoppa Italiana, it seemed as if the Old Lady was to once again show the world that she is never beaten, coming back from a two-goal deficit to draw level with Coppa Italia runners-up Lazio. But despite Paulo Dybala’s perfectly struck free kick and penalty double, it would be the Capital club who went on to lift the trophy, substitute Alessandro Murgia slotting home after great work from Jordan Lukaku.
It was a victory that ended a run of 10 consecutive Juve wins against the same opponent, Lazio lifting the trophy after a performance which they should be immensely proud of. Yet for all the effort, tactical awareness and diligent pressing from Simone Inzaghi’s men, this was a result which said much more about the losers than of a triumphant Lazio.
What played out in 95 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico was no different to the stark truths laid bare in Cardiff little over two months ago. A number of shortcomings in the Bianconeri side that have not been addressed over the summer were highlighted once again, while perhaps Max Allegri was also allowed to make a costly point at the expense of the new arrivals in his squad.
The loss in UEFA’s elite competition proved beyond all doubt that Juve lack bite and strength in the middle of the park, and Lazio continually over-ran them in a similar manner. Linked with moves for Liverpool’s Emre Can and Blaise Matuidi of Paris Saint-Germain, director general Beppe Marotta insisted before kick-off that he will bring in a midfielder before the window closes and, as the game unfolded, that looked like a desperate requirement.
Sami Khedira looked sluggish both in terms of covering ground and the speed of his passing, his laboured approach sucking Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain far too deep. It is a problem that has blighted the side for over a year, but Marotta – who memorably tried and failed to sign Axel Witsel in January – has since allowed Mario Lemina and Tomas Rincon to depart while inexplicably bringing in no proven reinforcement.
With his strike force neutralised as a result of the team’s shortcomings in central midfield, Allegri’s decision to leave both Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa on the bench harmed the side even more. The latter was arguably the one bright spark after his introduction and Lazio certainly had no answer for his drive and skilful dribbling, but it appeared that the Juve boss was making a point that a place in the starting XI must be earned by every player.
If that is the case, as it has been in the past with Dybala, Higuain, Alvaro Morata and others, then losing the Supercoppa is an expensive price to pay. But, if defeat here prompts the club to finally seal a deal for a top-class midfielder, then it was arguably worth watching Lazio celebrate and seeing the Bianconeri collect another runners-up medal.
Otherwise, the end of Juve’s dominance might be much closer than the Old Lady expected.