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October’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Stop-Start

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Serie A football, Champions League, international games, and crazy FIFA proposals. October certainly was a thought-provoking month.

Udinese v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

October had a wonderful diversity of football available for us to enjoy. There was Champions League action, domestic league matches, Europa League, and even national team football on display. That said, if you’re on this website, you probably only care about Juventus, so let’s see how La Vecchia Signora fared in the month of October.

Stop-Start

In order to make time and space for the international games, Juventus played two quick-fire games at the start of October. Paulo Dybala’s wonderful hat trick led the team to a casual 3-0 victory against Young Boys in the Champions League, after which they notched up a solid 2-0 win against Udinese in the league. These tidy victories maintained a 100 percent record in all competitions, and it was especially encouraging to see Juventus be so on-form and strong in the Champions League, given how we tend to huff and puff and struggle so much during the group stages of this competition.

It was then all smiles as the players jetted off to various corners of the universe world to represent their respective countries in international games.

Alas, the players didn’t have quite the same joie de vivre on the pitch after returning from their national duties. An irritating and sloppy 1-1 home draw against Genoa put an end to Juve’s 100 percent record in all competitions and allowed Napoli to cut the gap at the top of the table to four points. It was a decent Genoa side, yes, but the result was utterly unnecessary and avoidable given how the game proceeded.

Max Allegri was none too pleased — and rightly so.

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A
“I’m not pleased.”
Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Thankfully, that magical feeling of the iconic Champions League anthem playing across a stadium is always there to lift a person’s spirits. This time, it signaled a match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Juventus on Matchday 3. In the first half, Juventus played truly exhilarating and mesmerizing football that allowed it to completely overrun a United side that was left chasing shadows.

As we all know, however, the Bianconeri has the irritating habit of switching off in the second half of matches (especially after a fruitful first period) and it was the same story at the Theatre of Dreams. Thankfully, though, the team wasn’t punished for this noticeable drop in urgency after half-time and managed to secure a third victory in the group, a victory that puts it comfortably at the top of Group H.

As good as the first half at Old Trafford was, the first half away at Empoli was bad. And I mean ... really, really bad. An appalling first half of football at the Stadio Carlo Castellani saw Empoli take a deserved 1-0 lead into halftime, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to equalize from the penalty spot in the 54th minute and then score arguably his best goal in Bianconeri colors so far in the 70th minute to win the game. It was an extraordinary and truly magnificent goal and, quite frankly, I couldn’t think of a more spectacular way to wrap up the month’s action.

Empoli v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Not quite the good ol’ days

Leonardo Bonucci has been in awkward form lately. Although his impeccable range of passing continues to dazzle his opponents, admirers, and teammates, his defensive form of late hasn’t been quite as commendable.

He has been in a bit of a funk, honestly. He’s not making catastrophic mistakes or downright embarrassing clangers, but he is making positional errors that, sometimes directly and other times indirectly, lead to goals conceded. Is it due to a lack of communication with his partners in defense? Did his brief spell at Milan damage the chemistry he has/had with his teammates at the back? Or am I just looking too much into this?

I’m absolutely not pushing the panic button on Bonucci at this point — his performances away at Empoli in the league and at Old Trafford in the Champions League were very solid — but I am worried that it’s not quite as smooth sailing for the elegant Italian defender as it was back in the good ol’ days.

But then again, I tend to worry too much about things.

Supercoppa: A change of venue?

A brief, but interesting newsflash regarding the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan just came in recently. The match is scheduled to be played in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, sometime between Jan. 12 and Jan. 19, 2019, but in the wake of the controversial death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Amnesty International has urged the Italian teams to change the location of the venue away from Riyadh:

“We’d urge these Italian clubs to think twice about the signal this sends out to sports fans across the world and the activists who stand up for human rights in Saudi Arabia.” — (Link)

Since it’s a very sensitive and serious topic, I won’t add any additional comments. Nevertheless, if there does happen to be a change in venue, at least we’ll know why.

Juventus Women

Unfortunately, Juventus Women missed the opportunity to lift the Italian Super Cup after losing 1-0 to Fiorentina at the Stadio Alberto Picco. The team bounced back with a bang though, after Eni Aluko’s hattrick inspired the Bianconere to a 4-0 away victory against Roma. Aluko continued her goalscoring exploits with the equalizing goal in the home game against Atalanta, but this unfortunately wasn’t enough to lead the team to victory as the game ended 1-1. They saved the best for last though, as goals from Benedetta Glionna, Cristina Girelli, Arianna Caruso and a double from Barbara Bonansea led the Bianconere to a cracking 5-0 home victory against Orobica.

The result put the team back level with leaders Milan at the top of the table, so it looks like it’s going to be another thrilling title race this season!

Juventus v Fimauto Valpolicella - Women Serie A Photo by Giorgio Perottino/Getty Images

Greed

Last month, I talked about how the ECA put forward a proposal for a third continental club competition in Europe, a proposal that has been given “the green light” to be put into action. I was slightly wary about it at first, but when I saw that the idea originated and was driven by the clubs I felt more optimistic about it.

I’m definitely not optimistic about FIFA’s latest questionable idea though:

The Club World Cup would be played in June or July every four years and have 12 European teams, including the Champions League finalists and Europa League winners from the previous four seasons. If a club qualified on merit multiple times, entries would be allocated according to the Uefa ranking system.

South American clubs would have four guaranteed places for Copa Libertadores winners. Two places each would go to clubs from Africa, Asia and the North American region, one from the host country and the final place in a play-off involving clubs from South America and Oceania. — The Guardian

Look, I understand. The Club World Cup is experiencing something of a marketing crisis at the moment. Most of Europe couldn’t care less about it, but European clubs basically always win the competition. The rest of the world — especially South America — has a far greater emotional stake in the event, but can rarely produce clubs good enough to win it.

So the competition is in a very awkward place and I absolutely agree with the notion that something has to change. The suggestion to stage it every four years is actually quite reasonable and it seems like some of the big clubs would be open to that:

Individual clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as those from the Premier League, emerged from Fifa presentations supporting the idea of a new Club World Cup every four years, which promised an average of more than £100m to each participating club. — The Guardian

But expanding it to 24 clubs as well is not the way. We’ve already heard multiple complaints from FIFPro arguing that professional players are playing far too many games per season — with insufficient recovery time between each game — and that this is a serious health hazard for them. Increasing players’ workload by demanding them to play even more games, even if just once every 4 years, is simply not the solution.

This proposal to change the event to every four years (good!) but expand it to 24 clubs (terrible) is like telling someone you can heal their broken wrist by chopping off their entire arm. No more pain from a broken wrist but, ehm, there goes your arm. It’s only slightly less cynical than Javier Tebas’ nonsensical idea to play Spanish domestic league games in the USA and Canada.

So why go propose such a seemingly problematic idea then? Well, you know what they say, the devil’s in the details:

The plans were backed by investors prepared to pay $25bn for four of the tournaments to take place every four years from 2021.

Well that explains things, doesn’t it? Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure does buy... basically everything else.

I wrote a book!

A few people asked me about it a while ago, and now it’s officially-official: I self-published my very first book! It’s called “Community Heroes: What a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member taught me about community development“ and you can check it out on my website at this link and this link.

It’s my first foray into self-publishing and being an author, so there’s probably still much that can be improved. And although it’s not about football, I do mention Juventus once, borrow some examples from football to make a few points, and used a César Luis Menotti quote.

My next book — which I’m already working on and hope/plan to release in July 2019 — will actually be about football. Specifically, it will be about what football taught me about myself and life in general. In the meantime, though, I hope you enjoy my first book!