The million-dollar question: Will Juventus ever score a goal again this season?
Okay, so maybe it's not as bleak as that, but after two consecutive scoreless and vastly frustrating draws, it's not exactly like Juventus' offensive output of late is inspiring as much confidence as Simone Padoin starting regularly in the center of the midfield would (and did). Or maybe how
The latest stop on the Magic Mystery Tour sees Atalanta — another one of those "There's no way in hell they should be ahead of Juventus in the league standings but they are" teams — roll into Juventus Stadium for what wasn't supposed to be a mid-table clash when we saw the Serie A schedule released a few months ago. But, you know what? It is. This is another chance for Juventus to not be in 14th place come the start of next weekend. Instead,
The unfortunate thing in this season is that logic can't be applied.
Which brings us back to this whole "unable to score goals on a consistent basis" thing.
In their 12 games in all competitions this season, Juventus have scored more than one goal all of six times. You might think that it's not a big deal, but when you only have nine goals total in eight Serie A games, it's pretty noticeable. Juventus averaging one goal per league isn't something we've seen lately. (And maybe that's because we're all spoiled jerks who just want everything handed to us because we're cool.) We've been so used to this team not just creating scoring chances but putting away a solid percentage of them that when they don't do such things, it's rather noticeable.
In regard to the scoring woes as of late, this is what midfielder Claudio Marchisio had to say after Juventus' scoreless draw with Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday:
"We've been creating plenty since the start of the season and now have gained greater consistency at the back. All we're missing is that clarity of mind when picking out the final pass. All of us, not just the strikers, are misfiring in the final third. That's what we need to work on.
"Starting the season on a losing note didn't help the group. It hasn't been easy for the new arrivals, knowing they've joined a team that always wins. We need to try and overcome this moment, because there's a lot of quality in this squad."
In those six sentences above, there is nothing but the truth coming from one of Juventus' trustworthy players. Marchisio speaks the truth, and he also is extremely reasonable. This team has talent — plenty of it, actually.
All there is to do now is actually use it to their benefit, not frustrate the living hell out of us all.
They get a couple goals, I think it will be more of the latter than the former. But that's just me being the eternal optimist. Stupid optimism always messing with my mind.
.@OfficialAllegri: "What the president said was right. Juventus can't allow themselves to be in 14th position, regardless of the changes."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) October 24, 2015
Check the Serie A standings, then get back to me. You'll understand if you don't already.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Will Mister Allegri do some squad rotation?
The short answer: Yeah, he will.
Throw out Juventus' current league standing out the window for a second here. This is the game after a Champions League game and the third game in the matter of eight days. If that doesn't scream some sort of squad rotation, I don't really know what does. But the catch is that Juventus are struggling right now, and the crowd calling for Allegri to stop tinkering with things will undoubtedly grow as the disappointing results continue to pile up. But Allegri made it known at his pre-match press conference on Saturday afternoon that there will be some squad rotation. And, to be perfectly honest, that's the right move. Some players clearly need a game off — be it because of physical tiredness or mental fatigue. And some reserves who haven't played much the last month or so need so game time. Sounds like a pretty good situation to do some squad rotating to me...
.@OfficialAllegri: "I have 22 high quality players and 50 games ahead of us. It's perfectly understandable for me to vary my selection."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) October 24, 2015
2. Does Daniele Rugani get his first Juventus start?
Again, one of the beneficiaries of Allegri's anticipated could be Juventus' young defensive starlet. We haven't seen much of Mr. Rugani this season, with his only appearance in a Juventus jersey being a late-game cameo against Sevilla last month. That's it. Through eight Serie A games this season, Rugani has yet to log one minute of game time. Now, regardless of how highly we and Allegri rate Rugani, we knew it would be pretty tough to get consistent game time with the likes of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini playing in front of him. But in a game that screams out for some kind of squad rotation, it's an opportunity for Allegri to get Rugani on the field for the first time in a league match this season. The kid's gotta play at some point, right? (And I'm not talking about two or three minutes here and there, either.)
.@OfficialAllegri: "@DanieleRugani? I'll need to consider that. He'll definitely put in a good display when his time comes." #JuveAtalanta— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) October 24, 2015
3. Who starts up front?
Squad rotation, schmod schrotation. Juventus need to score goals, and they need to find a strike partnership the will consistently do exactly that. The cries out for Paulo Dybala won't end until he starts 15 games in a row (and probably do well in most of them based on how he's played this season). Álvaro Morata could be the one who rests knowing that Allegri will rotate the squad a bit. Some in Italy are thinking it will be Mario Mandzukic, others are thinking it will be Simone Zaza who steps into the starting lineup for Juve's No. 9. The odd thing in that is Morata has been the only striker we could pretty much pencil into our predicted XI because he's so important to the Juventus lineup. Other than that, it's just a guessing game at this point. So whether it's actually going to be Dybala-Mandzukic, Dybala-Zaza or something completely different, we're basically waiting to find out what will actually happen.
4. Can Juventus actually win back-to-back games in Serie A?
Ha! This season continues to be an absolute impossible one to figure out. And until Juventus finds some kind of consistency, it will only remain that way. We know this much, though: Juventus need consistent victories if they want to have any chance of quickly moving up the table before the winter months in Italy arrive. Can it happen? Sure, but not many things about this team have screamed out that they can be consistent right now. This team can create all the chances or record all the shots it wants to, but until they actually do score goals on a consistent basis, those figures don't really matter at all. Coaches always say that they want to test the goalkeeper. Well, if Juve do anything like what they did against Gladbach midweek, testing the keeper is the last thing they will be doing even though their shot count is in the 20s. And that, on top of just about everything else, is going to need to change — fast.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Simone Padoin, Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Roberto Pereyra, Claudio Marchisio, Mario Lemina; Hernanes; Álvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala