2015-16 SERIE A REVIEW

JUVENTUS

2015-16 review

Serie A Pts P W D L F A
1st 91 38 29 4 5 75 20

Coppa Italia: Final / Team rating: 9.5 / Top scorer: Dybala (19)

Europe: Champions League Round of 16

Juventus overcame a summer of upheaval and numerous challengers to secure a record-equalling fifth consecutive Scudetto, writes Luca Cetta.
 

Five-Star Bianconeri

 
Dreams of a historic fifth consecutive Scudetto looked in tatters as early as October. When Sassuolo’s Nicola Sansone curled in a free-kick to secure a 1-0 win on the 28th of that month, he sentenced Juventus to a fourth defeat in the opening 10 matches, their worst start in decades. It was unbecoming of the four-time defending champions. Rather than look ahead to number five, questions persisted whether Massimiliano Allegri would even make it to Christmas.
 
As Juve stuttered, others pounced. Inter won their first five matches. Fiorentina went to the top of Serie A for the first time since 1999. Napoli got it together under Maurizio Sarri. And when the Bianconeri lost at Sassuolo they were 11 points behind Roma, who looked to build on successive second-placed finishes.
 
That, coupled with Juve’s summer changes, made for a trying period in Turin. Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez had to be replaced. Kingsley Coman departed late in the piece. Juventus brought in Paulo Dybala for big money, plus Mario Mandzukic, Simone Zaza, Juan Cuadrado, Sami Khedira and Alex Sandro. New No 10 Paul Pogba was handed the keys to the midfield. 
 
But it took time to come together. Especially with Claudio Marchisio and Khedira injured in the opening rounds. Thrust into a leadership position, Pogba struggled to cope. The normally assured defence was leaking goals. And critics felt Allegri was holding Dybala back. Had the Bianconeri adequately replaced their stars? As they trudged off in Reggio Emilia, suggestions were the Scudetto dream had vanished, with Juventus down in 12th position.
 
Then came the Turin Derby.
 
 
Cuadrado’s dramatic 94th minute winner proved the catalyst for the revival and eventually, a fifth successive Scudetto. Juve were aided by stern words from Gianluigi Buffon and Patrice Evra, two veterans who assessed the situation after the Sassuolo defeat.
 
“I am stunned, as I am the captain and it hurts my soul to see my team dominated like that, to see my team not realise how important this game is and what attitude to take,” Buffon fired to journalists post-match. Evra added “the message for my team-mates is clear: We must respect this shirt.”
 
When Cuadrado slid in to break Torino hearts, he reignited the Old Lady’s fire. It was the start of an incredible 25-game winning run broken up by just one draw – in mid-February against Bologna. 
 
Buffon had the saves to back up his words. A leader in every sense, the veteran goalkeeper broke the Serie A record for keeping a clean sheet. When Torino’s Andrea Belotti finally ended the streak, it clocked in at 974 minutes. There were times when Buffon’s saves were critical. Think back to the Week 3 clash with Chievo, or in Juve’s February win over Inter. On the weekend they sealed the Scudetto, Buffon denied Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic from the spot in a remarkable finish to the game.
 
Just as Buffon stated after breaking the record, he could not have done it alone. Juve’s BBC defensive unit – Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini – was unshakable. Marchisio became the central midfield fulcrum, making the position once occupied by Pirlo his own, before a season-ending injury. 
 
Having initially felt the weight of his new status, Pogba was firing on all cylinders in the latter months of the campaign. Dybala replaced Argentine compatriot Tevez superbly and ended as Juve’s leading scorer with a collection that included some stunning strikes.
 
Yet Juventus did not take pole position until February 13. Their meeting with winter champions Napoli was billed as the Match of the Year. There was no Valentine’s love between the Scudetto rivals, as Zaza’s late deflected goal put Juve a point clear. They never looked back.
 
Wins over Inter, Torino and Milan confirmed Juve’s dominance. Meanwhile, Napoli’s season unravelled. The Old Lady then went to Florence and triumphed. When Napoli fell at Roma the following day, Juventus were crowned champions – something few expected six months earlier. To win it in April was truly exceptional.
 
“They wrote us off as dead in October, but they forgot that we carry the Juventus Scudetto on our chest,” Bonucci proclaimed.
 
In a five year run which includes an unbeaten season and breaking the 100-point barrier, this may be the sweetest success of all.

The Coach – Massimiliano Allegri

 
Last season Massimiliano Allegri overcame furore to guide Juventus to a domestic double. This term he had to battle back from a turbulent summer and rumblings of the sack to set Juve on course. The boss remained calm, reminding Serie A is a marathon, not a sprint. His side had the legs to roar home.

Player of the Year – Gianluigi Buffon

Leading by example, captain Gianluigi Buffon proved the consummate professional. When his team needing scalding he responded. When he had to show them the path, Buffon let his hands do the talking. His timely and valuable saves guided Juventus towards the crown, in what proved a record-breaking season for the veteran custodian.

Did you know?

- Juventus became the first club to win five successive Scudetti for the second time, after their quintet in the 1930s.
 
- Juventus lost more matches in the opening 10 rounds – four – than in the entire 2014-15 campaign, recording their worst start in decades.
 
- After losing at Sassuolo the Bianconeri were 11 points behind leaders Roma. They ended the season nine clear of second-placed Napoli, enjoying a 20 point swing in 28 matches.

Squad

No Pos Player Apps Gls Assists
1 GK Gianluigi Buffon 35 - -
25 GK Neto 3 - -
15 D Andrea Barzagli 31 1 -
19 D Leonardo Bonucci 35 (1) 3 1
4 D Martin Caceres 5 (1) - -
3 D Giorgio Chiellini 21 (3) 1 -
33 D Patrice Evra 24 (2) 2 3
18 D Mauricio Isla 0 (1) - -
26 D Stephan Lichtsteiner 22 (4) - 1
24 D Daniele Rugani 11 (6) - -
12 D Alex Sandro 15 (7) 2 3
22 M Kwadwo Asamoah 6 (5) - 1
16 M Juan Cuadrado 16 (12) 4 5
11 M Hernanes 10 (4) 1 1
6 M Sami Khedira 20 5 4
18 M Mario Lemina 7 (3) 2 -
8 M Claudio Marchisio 23 - 2
20 M Simone Padoin 6 (6) 1 -
37 M Roberto Pereyra 9 (4) - 1
10 M Paul Pogba 33 (2) 8 12
27 M Stefano Sturaro 11 (8) 1 -
11 A Kingsley Coman 1 - -
21 A Paulo Dybala 29 (5) 19 9
39 A Andrea Favilli 0 (1) - -
14 A Fernando Llorente 0 (1) - -
17 A Mario Mandzukic 24 (3) 10 4
9 A Alvaro Morata 16 (18) 7 7
7 A Simone Zaza 5 (14) 5 -