Juventus is the favorite, but absolutely dismantled. Allegri has a lot to do
A week ago, there were many reasons to consider Juventus as the clear favorite of Serie A. There are two main ones: the weakening of Inter and the return of Massimiliano Allegri to Turin . The champions of Italy have lost their coach and the most valuable player in the championship, although after the end of the season the management of Inter did not plan either one or the other. And Allegri in the last season at Juventus, despite all the playing contradictions and not the best relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo , scored 90 points with an unbalanced team with an age midfield.
Taken together, these two factors add up to a logical picture. Moreover, even last season, the fourth place, which Juventus barely won in the last round, did not quite objectively reflect the alignment of forces: during the entire championship, the Turin players periodically lost points with a clear playing advantage and deserved more due to the difference between created and allowed chances. The favorite is clear.
But a lot has changed in a week.
The same “Inter” at the finish of the transfer window signed Joaquin Correa from “Lazio”. Not the most status player and definitely not a replacement for Romel Lukaku, but Simone Inzaghi’s favorite , and such transitions usually strengthen the team.
And Juventus lost Cristiano Ronaldo. The player who scored 29 goals in an unsuccessful season for himself and won the goal-scoring race. His departure was unexpected and seems to be related to the desire of the player, not the coach or the club. At least this is what Allegri said a couple of days ago: “After three years in Turin, he decided to leave the club. It’s his choice”.
Banality, but it must be said: suddenly losing the leader and top scorer at the start of the season is a strong blow. After that, it would be strange to wait for a drastic restructuring or a streamlined game: whatever Allegri assumed during pre-season preparation, now it does not work.
Of course, Ronaldo’s departure unleashes the team’s hidden potential. The same Dybala under the leadership of Allegri in one of the seasons was included in the list of contenders for the Ballon d’Or , and Federico Chiesa was the most important player of the Italian national team at the victorious Euro 2020. Each of them may play a more important role than anticipated. Moreover, Alvaro Morata is a very useful team player when he adapts to one attacking partner, and not to all at once. This potential is there, and it has to be exploited, but it will take time.
The problem is that at the moment Juventus is not showing signs of the key quality of the team under Allegri, which would seem to be expected by default. During his five years in Turin, Allegri taught that the high quality of the game is a nice addition, but not a prerequisite for winning.
In the 2018/2019 season, Juventus could play annoyingly slowly, allow gaps between the lines and turn on for 5-10 minutes per match, but at the same time consistently scored points in the championship schedule. For five years with Allegri, the Turinians were not only champions of Italy, but also champions of cynicism and practicality, consistently outstripping their competitors in terms of the ratio of results to created / admitted moments. What is called the word “overperformance” – usually referred to as anomalies, but under Allegri it was the rule. According to the statistics portal Understat, Juventus has surpassed expected results only once in five years less than another Serie A team (in the 2016/2017 season). But in 2018 he went over a fantastic 20 points relative to the expected.
The so-called “killer instinct” in football defies counting and some kind of analysis, but there are indirect signs by which one can judge the effectiveness of teams. For example, even without being able to explain the phenomenon, one can accept the fact that Antonio Conte’s teams always do better than expected in terms of created / admitted chances. Allegri has always had this no less.
It is this property that Juventus lost at the start of the season.
In the first round, Juventus were leading 2-0 after the first half – an ideal situation for the favorite. In past years, Turints have already brought countless matches of this kind to victories, slowing the pace of the game to zero. It could be hard to watch, but the result was. Instead, Juventus scored two own goals in the second half, with Wojciech Szczęsny scoring both times . He brought it again, just no goal. This is an absolutely atypical situation.
It might seem that this is an exception. Moreover, Ronaldo scored in the end, the goal was canceled due to offside, but the situation itself turned out to be typical (the favorite woke up and immediately pressed it), and the fate of the goal was decided by the centimeters.
In the second round, Juventus started cheerfully and even against the background of all the game problems could solve everything in the starting 15 minutes. True, in the middle of the first half, “Empoli” (Serie A newcomer) took advantage of the huge gaps between the lines and carried out an attack that reached the goalkeeper’s line, where Leonardo Mancuso finished off the ball into the goal from several meters. It’s a nuisance, but there were 70 minutes of the match ahead – quite enough to turn on three or four more times and break the opponent. Or, in the boring traditions of Allegri, to grind out 2: 1 at the end of the game, spending strictly the minimum necessary effort.
Instead, the owners became nervous and made mistakes in simple situations. Juventus failed the end of the first half (an indicative moment – Chiesa’s panicky discount on the goalkeeper, which ended in a save and a corner) and never got involved in the second. Although Allegri seriously rebuilt the team: he abandoned the risky diamond in midfield and switched to playing flanks with canopies to Morata. Primitive but effective – it should have been. But it wasn’t. After the break, the hosts struck five shots from outside the penalty area, the most dangerous of which happened not after a pass, but after a low cross from Kulushevski to Locatelli.
After this defeat, Juventus can easily be criticized for bad football, but I emphasize again: the transformation of the team after the change of coach and the departure of Ronaldo in any case takes time. It’s not about the quality of football, but about pragmatism and confidence. It was these properties that were not enough to defeat the outsider, who is an order of magnitude lower in class. And this is what is alarming.
Allegri has a lot of work to do. Danilo in the role of regista, Dybala between the lines, a diamond in the center – all this is interesting and difficult, and will require training. But his most important task now is to ensure that Juventus beat outsiders regardless of the formation, form, formation and starting lineup. Without this, it is impossible to win Serie A.