By merely looking at the simplest of stats, one could surmise the difference in success when it comes to Juventus' two main strikers, Carlos Tévez and Fernando Llorente. In one corner, there's Tévez who has eight goals in seven games in all competitions. In the other, Llorente — who trailed only Tévez in the goals scored column last season — is still searching for any kind of consistent and positive form to write home about.
It certainly has been a change of fortune for Llorente in his second season. Once he got consistent playing time last year, the rust from so much inactivity at Athletic Bilbao during his final season in Spain seemingly shook off like a dog after a run through the rain. Instead, this season has been anything but your favorite pooch drenching you while he shakes his fur off. Nah, it's more than just that.
I bring all of this up because we don't know when Llorente will snap out of his funk. We don't know if he will open up his scoring account this weekend or four weeks from now.
And surely, neither does Max Allegri.
How long does Allegri continue to trot out Llorente?
Or, better yet, how much longer should Allegri continue to trot out Llorente before making some kind of move and changing what has been Juventus' starting striker partnership for the last 12 months?
The decision, at least in the short term, is certainly a little easier with Álvaro Morata suspended for the next
two games Sassuolo game because of his little spat with Roma defender Kostas Manolas in the second half of Juve's 3-2 win over their closest competition in Serie A. Between the two of them, I'm pretty sure we can determine who has been the better player, even though the sample size for Morata is much smaller than that of his fellow Spaniard.
But when it comes to Llorente, the simple numbers aren't that pretty. Not one bit.
Llorente has gone nearly 400 minutes this season (WhoScored has him at 402, for what it's worth) without scoring a goal in Serie A. In those 397 minutes played — spanning over six games (five starts, one sub appearance) — he has put just three shots on target. Three, people, three shots. That's it. Just as a comparison, Morata has played over 300 fewer minutes than Llorente and has put four shots on frame, including his first Juventus goal against Atalanta over two weeks ago.
That kind of production is, hmmmm, not what we were expecting coming into this season.
The Llorente projection thread back at the end of July was full of optimism and talk of lots of goals. Not that six games into the season is the be-all, end-all when it comes to evaluating a player's season, but it's nowhere what many of us thought Llorente would do this season. Instead of leading the line and scoring goals like he did a year ago, he's watched Tévez score goals at a frantic pace to begin the season. While, in turn, his form has been nothing close to last year.
The reality of what has happened with Llorente: The complete opposite of what we expected.
It's natural for players to go through ebbs and flows during a season, dealing with patches of struggles and rich veins of form. And maybe that's why when I think about Llorente's starting status I'm a more little hesitant to pull the plug faster than some American television networks with their news shows that have been premiering in the states over these last few weeks. We know what kind of striker Llorente can be when everything is clicking. We've seen it with our own two eyes last season. He not only scores goals, but he makes Tévez — or whomever is playing alongside him — that much better with his hold-up play and ability to pass the ball with flicks and the rest of his diverse arsenal.
But what we have seen this season is nothing close to what we saw in Llorente's first season in bianconero. And at some point, you have to think that the prospect of Morata, a different kind of prima punta to Llorente, starting will cross Allegri's if it hasn't already. He's like the brand new car that has barely had the chance to be driven since being purchased a couple of months ago.
Something is going to change — whether it's Morata in the starting lineup or Llorente finding the back of the net. It's an either/or situation, because it's pretty easy to figure out if one those takes place, the other one won't.
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