Despite recent glory, Juventus are staring at the prospect of a potential change in the dug-out for the third time in just as many years.
The Bianconeri have gone back ten seasons as they find themselves fighting for a top-four spot after nine Serie A titles in a row. For all the decisions they've made, it seems as if there's now a realisation that Juventus did get things wrong.
The process began when Andrea Agnelli, Fabio Paratici and Pavel Nedved had disagreements about who Massimiliano Allegri's successor would be. In all honesty, the President didn't want to part ways with Allegri in the first place and vetoed a possible return of Antonio Conte.
The former Italy CT was among the candidates to take the Juventus job along with Simone Inzaghi and Maurizio Sarri. Almost like they didn't know what he represented, the ex-Napoli boss was brought in.
He arrived during a window where the focus seemed to be financial and not sporting, despite the €85m signing of Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax. There was an emphasis on selling players in a desperate attempt to lure Mauro Icardi to the club and, at the same time, keep the books in order.
The three most significant sales in the summer of 2019 were Leonardo Spinazzola to Roma, Joao Cancelo to Manchester City, in a swap deal with Danilo, and Moise Kean to Everton for just €30m.
Sarri was handed a stagnated squad that had played a completely different brand of football over the last ten years. He was expected to complete his long-term overhaul within months and get aged players to change their playing style in days. It never happened.
The target was to win the Champions League, something Allegri couldn't do after years at the club and despite having Cristiano Ronaldo in the team, albeit in his last season in Turin. Sarri's relationship with a part of the dressing room was not ideal either and blinded by their short-term approach to fixing problems, Juventus sacked Sarri in August, despite a ninth Scudetto in a row.
Pirlo's appointment was hypocritical in a way not only because the former midfielder had been named head coach of Juventus U23 squad only ten days prior.
Il Maestro was one of the most brilliant players in the history of the game. But, as many of his former teammates had warned, coaching is a whole different thing. Pirlo hadn't even submitted his thesis for the UEFA Pro Coaching Course when he got the job and had to replace someone who had worked his way up the footballing pyramid, struggling through the bottom and grafting his way to the top.
It isn't to say that Pirlo hasn't brought fresh ideas to the plate. He has. The squad has been replenished much more than it was under Sarri. Like there was under Sarri, though, it still seems in a developmental stage. The double-pivot that Pirlo uses seems more suited to a midfield-three.
There have been issues around getting killed on the transition and getting overrun in the heart of the park. Dejan Kulusevski seems more suited to another role than what he's getting. In essence, there's often a lack of balance in the team, and like it was under Sarri, it is robotic multiple times. And it indeed looked robotic in that dreaded night against Porto.
The dynamism has worked well sometimes, especially the reliable trick of dropping Alvaro Morata deeper to pick out a Ronaldo run in-behind. A general front of five when building from the back with a rhombus is an innovation that has caught the eye of many and helped Weston McKennie's development.
But in many ways, it's almost like a first stage of the evolution of this Juve side. There is still a lack of variety, leading to things looking one-dimensional, especially when breaking organised defences down.
However, the word 'process' has long been diminished from the elite European clubs' dictionaries. It begs an ideological question more than a tactical question. It's about the identity as a club (or as a brand). But more than anything, it would be hypocritical to axe a 'development' coach after just one season, when the board had rather unfair expectations in the first place. They've done that before with Sarri and left themselves tied up.
Sacking Pirlo would demand a compensation fee for the Lombardian, and it would mean starting a new project all over from the beginning. It would mean that they'd have to hire a new coach with a different philosophy and different transfer priorities. It'd bring additional financial burden during the pandemic era, and it's something Juve can ill-afford, especially since Pirlo was a low-cost take himself.
It must be said that finishing outside the top four would be difficult to accept, especially for its economic implications. Pirlo has the opportunity to coach the team with the highest wage bill in Serie A and one of the best players in the history of the game, namely Cristiano Ronaldo. The coach hasn't been self-critical and indeed has some responsibility, but maybe expectations on him were a bit too high from the very beginning.
Agnelli picked the former midfielder to bring 'enthusiasm' back to the Continassa but hiring an inexperienced coach for such a predictably chaotic season was a huge gamble that is not paying off.
Pirlo's sacking could easily lead to even more complications. If firing Sarri after a season was unfair, the same applies for Pirlo - irrespective of their backgrounds. It's time for Juve to learn their lessons and stick with Pirlo. Otherwise, one would argue the club's plan over the last three years was not to have a plan at all.