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September’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Glimmer of Hope

Is Juventus slowly turning the corner after a horrendous start to the season?

Juventus v Chelsea FC: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Matteo Bottanelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It certainly hasn’t been a fairytale return to Juventus for Max Allegri so far. The team has endured its worst start to the league season in decades as it continues to concede truckloads of goals and exert little control on games.

But things got a little better towards the end of September as the team went on a five-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Will this be the turning point in Juve’s season?

Let’s find out.

Finding form

Juventus returned from the international break to face high-flying Napoli away from home. The Bianconeri scored an early goal somewhat against the run of play as Álvaro Morata took advantage of Kostas Manolas’ error at the back to score in the 10th minute. Unfortunately, though, Wojciech Szczesny continued his poor start to the season with another error on a Lorenzo Insigne shot that resulted in Matteo Politano equalizing from a tight angle.

Moise Kean then one-upped Szczesny with a bewildering defensive header/shoulder flick from a corner that led to Kalidou Koulibaly finishing from a yard or so. A demoralizing 2-1 victory to continue the demoralizing start to the season.

Next up: Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League, a competition that Juventus worked hard both on and off the pitch to not participate in. The Bianconeri breezed past Swedish team Malmö FF thanks to three first-half goals from Alex Sandro, Morata, and Paulo Dybala: 3-0.

Malmo FF v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Then came the cracker at home against in-form AC Milan in the league. Juventus stormed to the lead once again thanks to a remarkable counter attack in which Morata ran all the way from inside his own half to chip the ball over Mike Maignan in the fourth minute. Juventus did what it always did, though: play an excellent first half, but then have a poor second half.

Unsurprisingly, Milan equalized in the second half and although they were inches away from a winning goal, failed to deliver the killing blow to Allegri’s side: 1-1.

Next, Juventus traveled to Spezia for what should have been an easy game. But hey, things are rarely easy, now are they? After taking the lead in the 28th minute through Moise Kean’s tidy finish, Juve conceded yet again as Emmanuel Gyasi’s (lightly deflected) shot went past Szczesny and into the back of the net in the 33rd minute. Things got even crazier when Janis Antiste shocked the crowd and put Spezia 2-1 ahead early in the second half.

Thankfully, the one-man Juventus wrecking crew — i.e. Federico Chiesa — saved Juventus with a scrappy equalizer in the 66th minute. Matthijs de Ligt then somehow ensured that Allegri’s men left Spezia with all three points after a volleyed goal in the 72nd minute. A rollercoaster 3-2 victory for Juventus!

Spezia v Juventus - Italian Serie A Photo by Ciro de Luca/Soccrates/Getty Images

From one insane 3-2 victory to the next, as Juventus beat Sampdoria by the same scoreline a mere four days later. Dybala opened the scoring with a blistering half-volley in the 10th minute (although he later left the field with what looked like a worrying muscle injury) and Leonardo Bonucci doubled the lead from the penalty spot a few minutes before half-time. Maya Yoshida halved the deficit a mere 60 seconds later such that the scoreline was 2-1 at half-time.

Manuel Locatelli restored Juve’s two-goal lead when he scored his first goal for the club after Dejan Kulusevski’s persistence resulted in an easy tap-in for the Italian. Despite Antonio Candreva scoring late in the game to give Juve an almighty scare, the home side held on to secure a second consecutive absurdly nervous 3-2 victory.

Remarkably, we saved the best for last.

On Matchday 2 of the Champions League, Juventus welcomed reigning European champions Chelsea to Turin. But even though we all expected an embarrassing loss, somehow, somehow Juve rolled back the years and displayed a defensive masterclass to beat Chelsea 1-0.

The wings battering rams of Fede, who both surprisingly played as center forwards, were absolutely excellent together as one Fede (Bernardeschi) gave an assist to the other (Chiesa) for the game’s only goal. A remarkable 1-0 victory over the reigning European champions. What a way to end the month!

Juventus v Chelsea FC: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Juventus Women

Juventus Women, on the other hand, had no problems finding form on the pitch. Joe Montemurro’s team secured a perfect five wins out of five games played in September without conceding a single goal. Juve cruised past Vllaznia 2-0 in the first leg of the last round of the Champions League qualification match (note: I still don’t really understand how the qualification rounds work) thanks to first-half goals by Cristiana Girelli and Lina Hurtig.

Back to Italy then, as Juventus played an away game in the Serie A against Fiorentina a few days after their Champions League encounter. The Bianconere breezed past La Viola 3-0 thanks to two goals from Barbara Bonansea and one from Valentina Cernoia.

Juve’s third game in eight days saw the team beat Vllaznia 1-0 in the second leg of the Champions League qualification match. Andrea Staskova scored the winning goal.

Juventus v Empoli - Women Serie A Photo by Filippo Alfero - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

The breathless run of fixtures for Montemurro’s team continued as they played Hellas Verona at home in the league a mere three days after the Champions League game. Two goals by the brilliant Girelli and one by Cernoia secured the second consecutive 3-0 league victory for Juventus. Last but not least, the Bianconere beat Empoli 1-0 at home in the final game of the month thanks to a late Girelli goal. A perfect end to a perfect month!

Defensive frailties

Besides a walk in the park against Malmö and a monumental victory over Chelsea — both in the Champions League, no less — Juventus have been embarrassingly poor defensively. And this isn’t just a recent trend; as we all know, we’ve gone more than half a season without a clean sheet in the Serie A. (A trend that is, thankfully, now over after the weekend’s Derby della Mole win to begin October.)

Since Allegri first left the club two years ago, the team has essentially abandoned its reputation as a defensive stalwart and conceded an unprecedented amount of goals against teams that rarely, if ever, scored against us in the past.

Juventus Press Conference Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Now that Allegri has returned, we do have a coach who is capable of implementing the tactics required to get us back to our status as an amazing defensive team, but the players simply aren’t good enough to execute those tactics.

I argued in two prior podcast episodes that since we’re so bad at defending, perhaps we should stop trying to be a defensive team and go all guns blazing with a “if you score four, we’ll score six” mentality (especially because scoring goals isn’t too much of a problem for us).

Then again, the Chelsea victory showed us that we can be that Juventus of old. The question, however, is if we can be that Juventus every game or only when our backs are against the wall?

Quick adaptation

Leaving aside a few 5-10 minute cameos, Manuel Locatelli has instantly adapted to life at Juventus and has shown us exactly why the Juventus board spent all summer on the beach in meetings with Sassuolo.

Jorge Luiz Frello Filho Jorginho of Chelsea and Manuel... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

In the short time he has been with us, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing the full spectrum of his abilities. His passing range, his defensive abilities, and even little snippets of his box-to-box presence (although that has mostly been Bentancur’s job).

I know it’s a little early to get overly excited, but I think it’s safe to say that it was money (and time) well-spent on the dynamic Italian midfielder.

Or should I say, it’s money well soon-to-be-spent.