It doesn’t matter who has been the manager at Juventus over the last three or four years, just when the team starts to look like they’re going on a decent run, there’s been an absolute clunker to bring us back down to earth and remind us things aren’t always as good as they may seem.
Wednesday night was the latest.
Not only did Juventus have to use a second-half rally to simply pull even with Sassuolo, the Neroverdi were able to score the game-winning goal with the last kick of the ball in the 95th minute to claim a 2-1 win, their first-ever victory at Allianz Stadium in nine attempts. Juventus’ poor play both caused them to fall behind rather than getting the first goal when they had chances to do so and then be forced to chase the game the entire second half. Sure, Max Allegri went for it, bringing on just about every attacking option that he had available to him, but with it came the absolutely dumbfounding situation where Weston McKennie — the man who scored the game-tying goal — was the only player back defending on Sassuolo’s last counterattack.
You can probably figure out what happened on that counterattack.
And, unfortunately for all of us, it didn’t involve McKennie with a late clearance or Mattia Perin making a point-blank save as he came out of the goal to cut down the angle.
Instead, Maxime Lopez chipped it over the onrushing Perin and we all slowly say the massive amount of pain develop as the ball hit its apex and then went on the downside and into the far corner of the goal. It really was a perfectly-placed chip that left Perin just barely unable to make the save to preserve a point.
Great. Just great. It’s all great. Everything is great.
Except, on this day, it wasn’t. Far, far, far from it.
So much of what allowed Juventus to go on a nine-game unbeaten run entering this game was the fact that they played with the lead rather than chased it. As much as Juve’s attack might have been able to make up for the defensive issues from earlier in the season, things are no longer that great right now. Juventus is not firing on all cylinders in attack, and it doesn’t matter who Allegri tries up front.
That means there’s a very fine line between winning and losing, and entering Wednesday night’s game Juve had been doing just enough in attack to get it done. But then something like Wednesday night does happen where they fall behind on some bad defending and have to claw their way back into the game, only to see final defensive error leave them wide open on the counter and lose the game in the final five seconds.
And it just looks even worse when you recall Allegri’s words at his pre-match press conference a little over 24 hours earlier:
“We had a bad start, so there is no room for mistakes. The draw against Inter is important, but only if we win tomorrow.”
So now not only is Juve’s nine-game unbeaten run officially a thing of the past, Juve’s let a really good chance to, at the very least, keep pace with the front of the pack go by the wayside. It shouldn’t have been like this. Sassuolo, while talented, haven’t exactly been the Cinderella story of previous seasons this year.
But with this win, Sassuolo and their first-year manager made club history and Juventus is even further behind Milan, Inter and probably Napoli, who plays on Thursday. It shouldn’t have been this way, but it’s this way again — a reminder of just when things start to look relatively solid, this team has a way of reminding you that not everything is OK.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- You know that feeling of “Juventus will figure this thing out” that we talked about on the podcast this week? The one where we had a hunch that Juve would get at least a point even though they didn’t play well in the Derby d’Italia? Well, I’d be lying if I said that feeling was there for much of the second half of this game. Juve’s finishing sucks right now, and something needs to change in a hurry because this was the kind of game where you could have seen Juventus letting out some steam. Instead, they scored a single goal and lost.
- I don’t know if it was just after what happened with Federico Bernardeschi over the weekend, but the offside calls seem to take longer and longer to happen with every call.
- Sassuolo manager Alessio Dionisi — handsome dude.
- He also looks a lot like Mattia Perin, which made for some interesting double takes.
- It is very much Mattia De Sciglio’s luck to literally play two of his best games as a Juventus player, get a game off and then come back into the starting lineup only to leave the field injured within minutes of the game starting. This wasn’t a non-contact muscle injury — it was very much the opposite of that — but it’s just so unfortunately on brand for De Sciglio.
- So much for moving into the top four on this day. Meh.
- Why yes, after seeing him the last couple of games, I would like to see Kaio Jorge get a start over the weekend against Hellas Verona. Give Alvaro Morata the weekend off, whatever. Just play Kaio Jorge because he is simply showing a lot more than Morata is right now.
- I mean, Morata had 17 (!!!!) touches in 62 minutes of game time against Sassuolo. That’s wild.
- Also, play Arthur, too. He looked great after coming on.
- Plus it would allow Manuel Locatelli to get a rest. He’s a dude, like Morata, who looks like he just needs some rest because he’s been playing so many minutes lately.
- That was not a great return to the starting lineup for Adrien Rabiot, was it? When you don’t do much in the first half and then get hooked at halftime, you probably haven’t done much right.
- I am struggling a little bit to figure out if Paulo Dybala had a good game or not. He had a beautiful assist on McKennie’s goal to tie things up. He did some other good things in attack, including leading the team in key passes. But, and we’ve said this type of thing before, in a game where Juve needs Dybala to take over and put the attack on his back, it just wasn’t there in totality. I guess for as much of a good substitute performance he had over the weekend, it was just as much of an up and down performance Wednesday night.
- Against a Sassuolo side that has all of one shutout to its name this season — against the juggernaut known as Salernitana — Juventus generated all of ... three shots on goal.
- Of course Juventus begins a week in which you could legitimately see them getting all six points out there they go and drop points in the midweek fixture. Juve gonna Juve. At least the Juve of the last few years, at least.
- Juve’s “defending” on the final goal ... /grumble