Max Allegri stepped up to the microphone on Saturday afternoon and talked about a handful of topic as he normally does. Some were transfer-related, others had to do with his starting lineup and a few thoughts were dedicated to the month ahead as the midway point of the 2016-17 season arrives. He spoke about the importance of the remaining January fixtures and the impact they will have on the Scudetto race. He spoke about how if Juventus could do well in said January fixtures, the Scudetto race is looking that much better from his team’s point of view.
Yeah, about that...
Juventus once again failed to show up in a big-time game away from home against Serie A opposition. Earlier in the season it was at the San Siro against the Milan twins, Sunday night it was at the Franchi, as a horrid opening 45 minutes paved the way for Allegri’s side to lose 2-1 to Fiorentina. And deservedly so. It was, basically, a Juventus performance that we’ve seen too many times already this season. Fiorentina got the two-goal lead, got the three points and deserved every single bit of it.
Sure, I understand that Gonzalo Higuain was able to cut the deficit in half and Paulo Dybala missed a glorious chance right in front of goal with the clock winding down. But Juventus’ problems, again, were much deeper than one missed scoring opportunity.
I was cool with Allegri going with a 3-5-2 to start the game. The logic was there — no natural right back, playing away from home against a side that was clearly going to attack you because this is one of their biggest rivalry games of the season at the Franchi. But the results were as poor as it could get.
Juventus looked like they’d rather be anywhere but in Florence in the first 45 minutes. Their midfield, clearly with the aim of defending more than attacking because Miralem Pjanic started on the bench, couldn’t even do much of that. Stefano Sturaro, the much-maligned midfielder who has actually been playing well as of late, pretty much defined what Juventus’ first half was all about — there but not really there, struggling in every phase of the game and showing absolutely no sign of improvement. The midfield was non-existent, the defense was just as much of a mess as it was at the end of the Atalanta game a couple of days earlier and the combination of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain barely saw any of the ball as a result of Fiorentina’s domination of the possession numbers in the first half.
Quick summation of Juventus' play in the first half:— BWRAO (@JuventusNation) January 15, 2017
Call it some sort of bugaboo or blame it on the choice to go with the 3-5-2 all you want, but it’s not like Juventus hadn’t already had success against La Viola this season or in years prior and had entered the game having not lost to Fiorentina in all but three of the two teams’ previous 35 meetings. Fiorentina had also been on a run of poor form where they had won all of two league games since the latter days of October when they were up in the top part of the table.
You wouldn’t have known it by the way they played Sunday.
But when you look at it after nearly 98 minutes of game time, Paulo Sousa absolutely schooled Allegri. There was one team that was ready to go from the opening kickoff onward and there was one team that looked like they had no clue how to string five passes together before turning it over again. It was easy to figure out which was which — and the one in black and white wasn’t the team doing the positive aspect of it all.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- In a second half that made absolutely no sense, there were six minutes of stoppage time. I can’t remember ever seeing a Juventus game that had six minutes of stoppage time.
- Juan Cuadrado continues to be one of the most frustrating Juventus players to watch. There is talent there, but he’s so limited with his skillset it’s become so easy to figure out what he’s going to do most of the time.
- Allegri said that Marko Pjaca was going to be an important player for Juventus in 2017 (and beyond), and all I’m gonna say is this: More Marko Pjaca. That’s all I’m saying on that matter.
- Juventus’ defense has only recorded seven shutouts in the first 19 games of the Serie A season. I don’t know about you guys, but that feels so very un-Juventus-like. The defense used to be the backbone of this squad no matter how other areas were playing. Now? It’s starting to become quite the uncertainty, isn it?
- Last season we saw Juventus get better as the season went on following their win over Torino on Halloween. Every aspect improved. The problems that hampered Allegri’s side were seemingly eliminated. This season it has been start-stop, start-stop. Juventus aren’t in a position — be it because they’re the league leaders, competing on three fronts or looking to go deep into the Champions League knockout stages — to have these type of games where they say they need to reset things and go back to the drawing board once again. We’ve been there, we’ve been through that. If Juventus plays anything close to this against Milan later this month in the Coppa Italia or against Porto in the Champions League, they’ll soon be competing on one front, not three.
- Dybala, Higuain, Pjaca and Mario Mandzukic were all on the field from the 78th minute onward. It was like we were watching some redux of Italy-Germany from the 2006 World Cup and Marcello Lippi was suddenly Juventus’ manager again. I liked the end of that game a lot better, though.
- Both Juventus and Real Madrid fielded starting lineups with the 3-5-2. Both of them lost 2-1. I’m not saying, but I’m just saying.
- This whole team needs to get better. Players need to get better. The manager needs to get better. Everybody needs to get better. If they want consistency, it has to happen now or else this team will just continue to have a couple good weeks and then this whole cycle will start over and over and over again.