It’s amazing how things can change in the span of a few short months. Juve went from Champions League finalists to possibly missing out on Champions League football altogether after a disastrous start to the season in which Juve collected 5 points out of a possible 18 to start the season.
Many diehard fans will tell you that they always believed the ship would be steered to safety, and the skill and "grinta" of the players would eventually burst out. But, deep down, we were all worried that our reign as the class of Italy was coming to an end and the dark days — see Delneri, Luigi & Ferrara, Ciro Juventus coaching tenures — had returned.
Flash forward to Jan. 10, Juve have just won their ninth straight game and sit in second place trailing Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli by only two points. Since the 10th round of the season, Juve have recuperated 10 points on Fiorentina, nine points on Inter, seven on Napoli, and 16 — yes, 16! — on Roma. Allegri’s men now find themselves in the midst of a Scudetto race that hasn’t been this exciting since the 2011-12 season.
It is definitely a change in mindset for Gigi Buffon & Co., who have shifted from being the hunted to the hunter.
There is no doubt the remaining months of the 2015-16 season will be exciting. If Juventus does manage to win the Serie A title for a fifth consecutive time, it will not be with the relative ease that the past few years have seen fans become comfortable with. When all is done and dusted on this enthralling season a few key moments from this current streak will stand out as colossal turning points:
1. 1-0 loss to Sassuolo
Okay, so this isn't part of the nine-game winning streak, but it definitely sparked something in the Bianconeri. Giorgio Chiellini’s red card, Nicola Sansone’s free kick (continuing the trend of conceding one goal on one shot per game) ... it all seemed to be a carbon copy of other abysmal Juventus performances. Following the game, Juventus decided to enter a "Ritiro" or Retreat in which the players spent the days leading up to the derby against Torino in intensive training. This was when the Old Guard really showed its mettle, and who other than our captain to dig deep and spark what was needed from this team:
"We should begin to complain a bit less with the referees…because even if referees make mistakes, they do so in good faith, as calls go equally against and for. So you cannot use the referee as an alibi or a wrong whistle. Juventus have never been accustomed to this. The first half today was completely wrong and I am shocked because first of all I am the captain of this team and this is something that really hurts my soul to see the team dominated by opponents for an entire half and more than anything else it shows we do not understand the importance of the game with this type of approach." — Gianluigi Buffon
2. Juan Cuadrado’s 93rd-minute Derby della Mole goal
I am still celebrating this goal to this day and I might have re-injured my knee jumping out of my seat when Cuadrado scored. Although we will always hold Andrea Pirlo’s 93rd-minute screamer against Torino in our hearts, Cuadrado’s was much more important to a team that needed a jolt of energy. It helped pave the way for the nine-game winning streak.
3. Paulo Dybala's goal against Milan
This was Juventus’ first victory against the "big" teams of Serie A, and although Milan are in the midst of a lacklustre season, they should still be treated as such. The game lacked any form of flare and tenacity excluding Dybala's, with the help of Alex Sandro, clinical finish. The win moved Juventus into sixth place leapfrogging Milan in the table as we finally saw evidence of a team starting to believe in itself.
4. Giorgio Chiellini's header to prevent late-game Sampdoria equalizer
Prior to this current resurgence, the defence had been under extreme pressure and scrutiny from the public. Quite the difficult situation for four players who are used to being the point of reference for this team and its locker room. The header itself is more than just a defining moment for this Juventus team during its current hot streak, but more importantly, it is a metaphor for the rebirth of this squad and the efficacy of its defence. After such a horrible first quarter to the season, Juventus finds itself second in goals against trailing only Inter in this regard.
There will undoubtedly be more defining moments during the second half of the season but hopefully it will include more ups than downs because frankly, my heart and my knee cannot afford it.