Sunday January 26 2020
Sarri: 'Juventus bland and passive'

Maurizio Sarri felt let down by the “passive and extremely bland” Juventus attitude, but confessed if he had to lose to anyone, he’s “glad it was Napoli.”

The Bianconeri had lost only two competitive matches under Sarri, both against Lazio in Serie A and the Italian Supercup, so defeat against a side coming off three consecutive league defeats was unexpected.

It was also Sarri’s first time facing Napoli since leaving the club, as during the 4-3 result in Turin on August 31, he was at home suffering from pneumonia.

“We were passive for the entire match, thought we could play with a slow tempo, taking five touches, always distant between areas, extremely bland,” Sarri told Sky Sport Italia after a 2-1 defeat.

“It was a bad game, we had the wrong approach, intensity and psychological interpretation, which was followed by physical interpretation. This cannot be us, evidently.

“We put Napoli into a situation where they only had to do the bare minimum to beat us. We were always late to every ball. It was as if we were in slow motion and nothing worked, it was all through the team.”

The Bianconeri surprisingly created practically nothing, despite starting with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together.

“I chose this trio because they all seemed to be in good shape, the midfield appeared balanced enough to sustain them, but I don’t see any individuals to blame for this. The whole team was bland.”

Sarri was asked if Juventus miss a leader like Giorgio Chiellini, who has been out since pre-season with a torn ACL.

“Chiellini brings a certain mentality to games and situations, so would certainly raise the aggression level. We really do give off the impression at times that we are passive in our final third. For example, in the Coppa Italia Roma scored because we were passive, allowing a player to run undisturbed from midfield to shoot from the edge of the box.

“When I saw what was happening, I tried to introduce Douglas Costa as a proper winger, trying to give some width to the team. That was the idea, anyway, but it made little difference.”

The only other defeat Juventus suffered in Serie A this season was 3-1 away to Lazio, so were there similarities?

“Just as against Lazio, we had a lack of mental energy. When you aren’t fired up, this sparks a chain reaction with tactical and technical problems, but it all stems from there.”

Sarri was asked if it hurt in particular to lose at the Stadio San Paolo, but he gave a surprising answer.

“I am happy for the lads, as I will always be fond of them. If you have to lose, I guess I’d rather it be here to help Napoli get out of their current problems. I’d rather they started winning next week, of course…”

The Napoli ultras did not seem to feel the same way, as there were insulting banners and chants for the coach.

“Clearly, the game takes over and you have to detach yourself from everything around that. Napoli represented a special moment in my life and it’s always pleasing and emotional to be back here.”

Juve had the chance to go six points clear at the top of the table, as both Inter and Cagliari were held to 1-1 draws, but instead their lead has been cut to three points. Did they feel complacent?

“We should’ve felt more motivated to break away rather than less, otherwise this’ll mean we’re weak. I would hope not. If that situation weighed on us, even unconsciously, it means we aren’t ready yet.”

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