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October’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: False Optimism

Juventus continued its good run of form at the start of the month, but then crashed back down to earth in the last week of October.

FC Internazionale v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Maybe it’s because of the nightmarish start to the 2021-22 season, but I always feel like I should have some kind of dramatic introduction to my monthly recaps.

But sometimes excessive drama and “hot takes” distracts us from the reality. And the reality is that this Juventus team that has dropped so many points this season is simply not good enough to compete with top teams in Italy and Europe. Nowhere near good enough.

But you don’t care about what I think, you care about what happened in October, so let’s get to business.

One step forward, five steps back

The Bianconeri opened the month with the always-entertaining Derby Della Mole against Torino. The last few editions of this game have been tight and scrappy contests, and this one was no different. Just when it looked like we were going to have to contend with a frustrating goalless draw though, Manuel Locatelli scored his second goal in Juve colors to give his team the lead. It was a precise shot that bounced off the inside of the right post and into the back off the net: 1-0. Finally, a clean sheet in the league!

Next, we had a massive game at home against (fellow?) Scudetto contenders Roma, who started the season brightly under new manager José Mourinho but have lost a bit of momentum recently. As is often the case in games with the Special Not Special Happy Unhappy One Mourinho, it was a wonderfully controversial game. Moise Kean’s peculiar opening goal after deflecting Rodrigo Bentancur’s header with, ehm, his own head put Juve in the driver’s seat after just 16 minutes.

The most controversial moment of the game came just a few minutes before half time. Tammy Abraham, continuing his rich vein of form for his new club, danced past a few Juve defenders before Danilo’s brilliant tackle stopped him in his tracks. The ball bounced to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was fouled by Wojciech Szczesny for a penalty.

Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Matteo Bottanelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The controversy, however, stemmed from the fact that Abraham scored the equalizer from the loose ball after Mkhitaryan was fouled, but the referee ignored the goal and pointed to the spot instead. Jordan Veretout missed the penalty and Roma were, quite rightly, furious (although nobody would have batted an eye if Veretout had scored the penalty). Juve won the game 1-0.

Juventus then traveled to Russia to face Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League. The game was such a drab affair that, frankly, the only notable event was the goal. A cushioned header in the 86th minute by Dejan Kulusevski went in off the post and ensured that Juve maintained its 100% record in the group phase: another 1-0 victory!

Zenit St. Petersburg v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Another day, another derby. This time, it was the Derby d’Italia away against Inter, another side that is very much in the running to win the Scudetto this year. Inter dominated the first half and rightly took the lead when Edin Dzeko tapped in Hakan Calhanoglu’s deflected shot that also came off the post.

Although Juve didn’t play well, they still equalized from the penalty spot after Denzel Dumfries’ wild swing caught Alex Sandro just inside the box. VAR spotted the foul and Paulo Dybala scored a penalty: 1-1, although Inter may have deserved a victory from this one.

But VAR wasn’t there to save Juve in its midweek game against Sassuolo. Alessio Dionisi’s vibrant side deservedly beat the Bianconeri at the J Stadium, the first time Sassuolo has beat Juventus away from home. Davide Frattesi punished Juve’s scored just before half-time against the run of play, although Weston McKennie equalized in the 76th minute with an impressive header.

Maxime Lopez gave Juve the sucker punch and completed the smash-and-grab when he scored on the counter in the 95th minute: a chastening 2-1 loss that was another reminder that we shouldn’t be fooled by the minor progress made under Allegri during our nine match unbeaten streak that started in September. This team still has a long, long way to go and is likely still years away from winning the Scudetto again.

Juventus v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Chris Ricco/Getty Images

As if to prove my point, Juve went from bad to disastrous in its away game against Hellas Verona. Giovanni Simeone, fresh off scoring a stunning four goals against Lazio a few days prior, finished arguably the best week of his career by scoring another two goals against the Bianconeri, the second goal being a particularly wonderful effort.

It wasn’t necessarily that Juventus were losing 2-0, but the fact that Allegri’s men were pitifully, embarrassingly bad and deserved to lose the game by more than two goals that made it such a painful game to watch. Although Weston McKennie scored a late goal to halve the deficit, it was far too little too late: a 2-1 loss for Juventus.

Juventus Women

Juventus Women started the month as it always does: with a victory. Although Juve conceded early in its away game against AS Roma — Lucia Di Guglielmo scored the goal in the 26th minute for the team that knocked Juve out of the Coppa Italia last season — Joe Montemurro’s team bounced back admirably with two late goals to win the game. Martina Rosucci and Andrea Staskova saved the day with their goals and ensured a hard-fought 2-1 victory for the team.

Juventus then traveled to Switzerland to face Swiss champions Servette Chenois in the first game of the UEFA Champions League group phase. It was a comfortable start to the European campaign as goals from Arianna Caruso, Lina Hurtig, and Valentina Cernoia granted the Bianconere an easy 3-0 victory.

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

Juve continued its winning streak with another win against Napoli in the Serie A. The game was settled within the first five minutes after goals from Caruso and Cernoia (again!) in the first and fifth minute respectively decided the contest: 2-0.

Then came the Bianconere’s biggest game of the season: the cracker against European giants Chelsea FC in front of a rocking crowd of 17,000 people at the J Stadium. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t a victorious evening for the home side.

Erin Cuthbert put Chelsea in the lead in the 31st minute after an embarrassing defensive lapse by Juventus. But Montemurro’s team hit straight back as Barbara Bonansea equalized just six minutes later thanks to a magical assist by Lisa Boattin. Unfortunately, Pernille Harder scored the final goal of the game for Chelsea in the 69th minute to ensure that her team walked away with a 2-1 victory after an entertaining game in Italy.

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

The last game of the month was a thrilling encounter against Inter in the Serie A. We had to wait a long time for the goals to come but when they did, they came fast. Bonansea put Juve in the lead in the 71st minute but Inter hit back five minutes later with the equalizer thanks to a goal from Ajara Nchout. The Bianconere had the last laugh, though, as Staskova scored the winning goal in the 80th minute: 2-1 victory!

Redemption

I can barely believe that I’m writing this, but before they became injured Mattia De Sciglio (last month) and Federico Bernardeschi (most of the season) were fantastic for Juventus. While before the season started I argued that Aaron Ramsey might be the player to experience a rebirth for the club playing in an experimental regista position, it has in fact been the Italian duo who have burst back to the scene and showed us that maybe, just maybe, their Juventus careers aren’t over yet.

De Sciglio’s improvement has been particularly useful given that Juve has struggled in the full back position for the last 1-2 seasons. Meanwhile, Bernardeschi has thrived both in an experimental center forward position and his typical left wing position.

FBL-ITA-SERIE A-NAPOLI-JUVENTUS Photo by CARLO HERMANN/AFP via Getty Images

As our very own Sergio Romero argued during prior podcast episodes, De Sciglio and Bernardeschi’s return to form supports the argument that even though Juventus isn’t a world-class team by any stretch, we do have a decent group of players who, in the last two seasons, have seriously underperformed. Then again, it’s too early to tell if this improvement in form is merely an anomaly or a genuine pattern.

Speaking of false optimism...

False optimism

When Juve were enjoying their impressive nine-match unbeaten streak, it seemed like Allegri had finally restored Juve’s identity as a defensively strong team. Not only that, but it even seemed like we were regaining our ability to do what Allegri loves most and Juve is famous for: grinding out tough 1-0 victories.

But just when we were getting excited, Sassuolo and Hellas Verona gave us a painful reality check and reminded us that this is still an incredibly vulnerable team. Just look at the data: Juventus has conceded a staggering 15 goals after 11 Serie A games.

The last time we conceded that many goals after 11 games wasn’t under Andrea Pirlo and wasn’t even under the much-maligned Maurizio Sarri.

No, it was all the way back in 1961/62.

It’s abundantly clear to me that the impressive wins against Chelsea and Roma were complete flukes. As Allegri painfully but accurately described it, Juve is simply a mid-table team (and arguably with a mid-table squad as well).

So as much as I hate to say it, fellow Juventini, if I were you I would prepare myself for a few years of mediocrity and little silverware for the Bianconeri. That nine year winning streak was fun but, as the great Nelly Furtado once said, all good things must come to an end.