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Juventus needs to face a new reality

And it is not that bad

Juventus v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

This is not a tactical analysis of the Champions League final game because numerous people have written excellent analyses on it. I cannot add a lot of the new things to it. Here I want to talk about the aftermaths of the game.

Most supporters, even the neutral critics, believed that this was Juventus' year to lift the Champions League trophy. The management made every decision right to improve the team. Core players like Leonardo Bonucci, Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic looked to be playing their best football. Veterans like Gigi Buffon and Dani Alves were still playing at an unbelievable level. They seemed to have accumulated enough experience in this competition. This was the third year Juventus plays under Massimiliano Allegri in the Champions League. Five members of the squad had played in the final two years ago against Barcelona, while Alves and Mandzukic have both lifted the title with other teams. The team looked incredibly strong on the way to the final, especially with the showings against Barcelona and Monaco in the previous two rounds.

All these positive signs before the game made this final loss possibly the most painful final loss for Juventus and its supporters.

Juventini feel dreadful about this final loss. Juventus has dominated Serie A for six years. A loss is rare, let alone the mental collapse they suffered against Real Madrid in the second half. After three years of trying to win this competition, most fans cannot bear to see Buffon disappointed again and to hear him saying "I have one shot left" is a stab to their hearts.

The reality that Juventus will suffer a painful loss like this is new and dreadful to them, and most of Juventus' supporters do not like it.

The losses in Champions League in the previous three years are painful because Juventus were close to a win in all three occasions. Each one hurts more than the previous one because it makes you more emotional, feeling that it is increasing likely that Buffon and co. would not be able to lift this trophy. But these losses are painful because one adds a sentimental value to it. In a broader scope, these losses are normal and are signs of success.

They are evidence of success because they mean that Juventus is relevant in the elite football clubs circle. They are only painful because, on each occasion, Juventus was so strong that you expected them to win. One should feel privileged to have a chance to feel painful about these losses — realistically only 4-6 of all European football clubs every year has a legitimate chance to win the Champions League. Even for the 32 teams in the group stage, most of them are participants but not contenders. These teams don't expect to go far in the tournament. Being in it is already an accomplishment for them.

In the last three years under Allegri, Juventus did not just participate, but contended in the Champions League. Juventus is one of the top five sides in Europe and one of the talking points of football circles. A position like this exposes the club to world audiences, attracts the fans, increases the commercial value and, most importantly, drives the club forward. Painful losses are, in this way, the prices that come along with being relevant. Juventini may feel dreadful about the losses, but hundreds of clubs will die to switch the position with them.

Juventus needs to face this new reality. They need to understand that they will suffer these kinds of painful losses as long as they are competing in Europe. The Champions League is tough. You are playing against the best teams in Europe, and most years you are going to lose — only 26 teams (out of hundreds of teams?) have lifted the trophy in the 63 years of Champions League (or the previous version of it). Losses are normal in Europe, and are more than likely to happen every year as long as Juventus has a legitimate chance to win it.

The collapse in the second half against Real Madrid points to a lack of experience. The management thought that signing champion players like Alves, Mandzukic, Andrea Pirlo and Patrice Evra will inject the team with experience. It turns out that such approach is not sufficient enough. Individual experience cannot substitute for that of the entire group. Juventus need to gain the experience together and one way to gain it is going through these painful losses together. These losses are the lessons for the Champions: Barcelona experienced 15 losses before they won it again in 2006. Real Madrid went through a drought without European success for 12 years. Bayern Munich has endured one painful final loss before each of their last two European triumphs.

All these teams had suffered many dreadful losses before they won it all in Europe, and they have not even been demoted to their country’s second division. Juventus are going through the same lessons these champions went through before.

Once these losses are justified in an objective, it becomes clear that Juventus is on the right path and it is time to look ahead. They obviously need to continue the project, and the contract renewal with Allegri is a sign of that direction. But somethings need to be adjusted. For the transfer market, it is time to stop signing players just for their champion experiences. Such a change of strategy is not to say that players like Dani Alves did not bring values to the team. But Juventus has had enough experiences now. They do not need players in their 30s. They are too old and need young players who can replace the veterans and lead them in the future. For all 98 teams in the big five European leagues this season (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), Juventus was the fifth oldest with the average age of 28.3 years old. For comparison, none of the other quarterfinalists in this year's Champions League are older than 28 years old.

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Tactically, Allegri needs to add more elements to the team. This year, Juventus had a reactive approach in which they read and react to the opponents' tactics. They were successful for most of the matches except that all-important game against Real Madrid in Cardiff. When Real Madrid started to press/counter-press in the second half, Allegri's men were not able to keep a hold of the ball. Granted, Juventus has shown weaknesses in keeping the possession when the opponents aggressively press against them. But they did that part well in the second half of the season, especially their showing against Barcelona's and Monaco's aggressive pressings.

Failure to react to Madrid's tactics was because of Juventus' lack of not only experience but also confidence. To increase Juventus' faith in the build-up, Allegri needs to design a more structured build-up system, such as the one like Borussia Dortmund or Napoli. Moreover, Juventus needs to have a way to pressure the opponents aggressively. They only played a high press sporadically this season. Looking ahead, they will need to play a more aggressive high zonal press like Atalanta or Tottenham because these approaches force the opponents to commit mistakes. If they are not able to return to the preferred zone system, they need to play a stronger man-marking defense immediately. There is a need for smooth transition between zonal and man-marking defensive schemes. All of these tactics do not reject Allegri's principles. They complement the excellent foundation Juventus already has.

Mentally, they need to prepare to play every game like a battle. Juventus has been too dominant domestically that there has not been enough competition to keep them focused. "Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing" is not enough in the league. They need to dominate every game because it is the only way to keep them focused on battling in Europe.

For every Juventus supporter, it is time to wake up and face this new reality. The team is more likely to lose than not because they are playing against the biggest boys in the most relevant games. So stop mourning and feel depressed. Start making fantasy transfer plans, argue endlessly with the fellow fans about every decision that we cannot alter and most importantly, support your team again.