Despite only dropping six points in Serie A this season, the last few results have put the microscope on the Old Lady’s performances.
Having stumbled across the line against Lazio, Juventus lost heavily to Atalanta in the Coppa Italia before surrendering a 3-1 lead late to Parma.
In the scope of the title race the draw means very little as they still lead by nine points, and the loss to Gian Piero Gasperini’s side was only their first in four years in the Coppa Italia. Oh well, no league & cup quintuple-double.
The purported issue is the football they played not only in the last few matches, but across the season.
The squad shakeup in the summer and teething problems settling in Cristiano Ronaldo could excuse their lack of bite. It is difficult to say their claims are unfounded. In a squad with the attacking talents of Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi they haven’t blown teams away in front of goal. The relegation of the latter two rob the side of high-energy, highly-skilled wingers fans might want to see.
Having sold Medhi Benatia, their normally staunch defence looks meek without their starters. Moreover, in midfield Emre Can and Sami Khedira have had a poor few matches.
But in the grand scheme of things, none are problems that may derail the Bianconeri’s season.
Some fans become used to prolonged success and find gripes about minor things, especially when there are greater heights still to hit in Europe.
They then feel vindicated about their complaints despite mistakes out of a manager’s control deciding a match, much like Mandzukic’s on Saturday.
The desire to see entertaining football needs no explanation. It is the reason many of us have fallen in love with the sport and continue to watch week on week. If goals equal entertaining football, then maybe Juventus aren’t the team to watch.
Games involving Atalanta, Roma, Sampdoria, Sassuolo, Sampdoria, Empoli and even Chievo are ‘more entertaining’, with Atalanta the highest at an average 3.5 goals per game. They score a lot, but concede in equal measure.
But fans may have to decide whether that entertainment comes at the compromise of results and the solid defensive base on which they have built several title-winning sides.
Very few Coaches can combine conventionally beautiful football with steely defence and get results. It is the reason Pep Guardiola is heralded as one of the greatest managers ever from his time at Barcelona. Even all that beauty didn’t take him far enough in the Champions League with either Bayern Manchester or Manchester City.
Roman Abramovich dreamt of emulating Barcelona both in their success and style of football. But many of his trophies were earned with tacticians who are the complete antithesis to that football, in the likes of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side only became title contenders after paying record fees for goalkeeper Alisson Becker and centre-back Virgil van Dijk.
Meanwhile, many hailed the football Napoli played under Maurizio Sarri. His system, built on movement and quick short passing won him many fans and a job with Chelsea, but no trophies.
Defence wins titles and Massimiliano Allegri knows this. He’s won several on this principle alone. Allegri is the main reason Juve are ‘boring’, but he won’t change from his philosophies and nor does he have any incentive to.
He said as much in his post-match comments on Saturday, emphasising his belief that: “Beautiful football doesn’t pay off, at the end of the day you’ve got to just kick it away from your goal.”
This is Allegri, not Sam Allardyce. Year on year Juventus are still among the best offensive and defensive sides in Serie A. They are still the only unbeaten team in Europe’s top five leagues. Come March, they will have hit top gear.
Don’t cast out Allegri for the sake of a few more flicks, passes and stepovers, or Juve may come to regret it.
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