Ladies and gentlemen, it’s officially game week once again.
Come this Sunday, Juventus’ 2021-22 season will officially begin, with Max Allegri’s second stint as manager in Turin getting underway against Udinese. It will mark the beginning to what we hope will be a very successful season, one that comes after Juventus got oh so lucky on the final day of the 2020-21 campaign to even make the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
Allegri’s task is no easy one, especially with the relative inactivity that has happened to make the team significantly better from the one Andrea Pirlo had at his disposal last season. As we (still) await the deal for Manuel Locatelli to be officially announced and for any potential extra fat to be trimmed from the current roster, this appears to be what Allegri will have to work with come kickoff in Udine this weekend.
For some reasons that’s good.
For other reasons that’s not very good.
But with the return of Allegri, Juventus have the exact opposite of a managerial situation than they did a season ago when their rookie manager was learning on the job and trying to implement quite an aggressive playing style that wasn’t necessarily possible on many fronts.
That hope is in the form of Allegri and that he can bring Juventus back to the previous heights. Can it be done this season? That remains to be seen, with the very step of many coming this Sunday night against Udinese.
With all of that being said and the start of the new Serie A season right around the corner, what are the expectations for this Juventus team? The BWRAO roundtable got together for the first time in a long time — maintaining proper social distance, of course — and answered that exact question.
Away we go.
(Editor’s note: These answers were submitted over the weekend and obviously prior to Juventus and Sassuolo finally agreeing to the deal for Manuel Locatelli.)
Given the financially necessary — yet, absolutely hilarious — teardown of reigning champs Inter, I feel that top to bottom Juventus should start the season as the favorites to once again get a foothold atop the Serie A table.
(Oddsmakers agree as the Bianconeri start the season as +115 favorites to regain the Scudetto, by the way.)
Talent-wise, nobody is even close to competing with Juventus, and if the much-rumored but still not realized Manuel Locatelli signing goes through that’d be a major hole in the midfield that could potentially finally be filled. Of course, injuries and bad luck and what have you can derail any season and it’s not like Inter is completely out of it, despite their departures. You can also make compelling arguments for Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio, AC Milan with their continuing project, Atalanta is always dangerous — and fun! — and Jose Mourinho at Roma will be interesting before he burns all bridges there as he’s done everywhere else. But even so, it’s hard to not look at this roster and think that they have all that it takes to win the domestic title. Domestic cup runs are always a crapshoot, so we’ll see, but I would expect Juve to make at least the Coppa Italia semifinals, especially given Max Allegri’s generally good record on the competition.
The elephant in the room is the same big eared trophy that has been looming over Juventus for 25 years and counting. At this point and even more so now that PSG has assembled their death star lineup, I’d be happy if they managed a quarterfinal appearance. Like any cup that features knockout rounds, a lot will depend on the luck of the draw, but after embarrassing round of 16 exits in back to back years, making it to the quarterfinals would be a decent step forward. Anything beyond that is absolute gravy.
This team played really well on Saturday against Atalanta. They showed some really excellent passages of play in that first half, including the absolutely gorgeous counter that led to the first goal. Max Allegri may have discovered something about how to get a rather mismatched roster to play together and maximize (MAX-imize? ... I’ll see myself out) their output, which I frankly hadn’t expected given how bad the roster construction actually was. There is the caveat that we still don’t know if this sort of thing will work when the games count for real, but I perhaps should have had a little bit more faith — finding uncanny tactical solutions is how Max do.
As well as they played, though, you know what would’ve made them even better? Manuel Locatelli playing at the regista spot instead of Aaron frickin’ Ramsey. The Welshman didn’t suck on Saturday, but Locatelli will excel, and he would make a lot of players who have been wayward over the last few seasons slot into places that will, in fact, maximize their abilities.
This is a bit of a cop-out, but my answer to this question is an “if” pick. If by some stroke of luck the transfer falls through, my expectation is a team in the mix for the scudetto by the end of the year and another trip to the knockout rounds in Europe. If Locatelli does become a Juventus player by the end of the window, things shift. With Locatelli in the mix, I think this team suddenly becomes a rather solid favorite to reclaim their title, and with some luck could get themselves past the round of 16 in the Champions League — although I think it will take some out-and-out, Road-to-Berlin magic in order to get them past the quarterfinals.
Either way, I think that we can expect a significant improvement from last year’s results, and silverware is very much in the crosshairs.
My expectations are simple — stability at Juventus again. I want to see a clear plan on how we are approaching this season and the years ahead. I would like a defined formation and logical tactics that match the personnel on the pitch. A return to defensive solidity like in Allegri’s first stint would be great too.
Should we display all of the above this season, then I expect we could get our hands on the Scudetto plus one trophy. This is not a deep enough squad to make a run at the ‘Big Ears’, so I’ll settle for the Coppa, but failing that the Supercoppa will be fine too. But winning the Scudetto will be the most important for me.
On a player front, I would like to see the younger players all continue to make defined progress, with Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Chiesa especially having legitimate superstar seasons, and Paulo Dybala returning to his best self that we have only seen in flashes over the years.
Big Poppa Chuks
Serie A: It really depends on how much Inter regressed this year and how much Milan progressed. I think it’s fair to say that the main thing that killed Milan’s title challenge was their ridiculous injury crisis that lasted essentially the entire season. They’ve strengthened well, adding some depth up front through Giroud and handling the Donnarumma situation excellently. If they can keep everyone fit, I think they have a good chance of winning the title. As for Inter, with Hakimi, Conte, and Lukaku gone and Lautaro Martínez perhaps also on the way out, it would take a Herculean effort for them to retain the title. Nevertheless, I expect them to still compete.
As for Juve, the attack is fine; that was always the least of our problems. The defense, however, is in an extremely risky situation. We’re essentially depending on Cuadrado to stay fit all season and have a stellar season like last year, for Chiellini to miraculously stay fit, and for Rugani to rediscover the form that made him one of the most highly rated Italian defenders a few years ago. And despite Bonucci’s great EURO 2020 tournament, he still had a bad season last year. Moreover, the midfield remains a situation of “Locatelli or bust.”
That’s a lot of ifs, so I’m expecting us not to win the title but to secure top 4 relatively easily and without the ridiculous last-second insanity from last season. Final verdict: a 2nd place finish.
Coppa Italia: I can never make sensible predictions for the Coppa because it’s a complete lottery. In the early stages, it often depends on which team puts out the better B-team and semifinals/final it’s a flip of the coin. So I’m going to put a completely uneducated guess out and say that we’ll make it to the semi-finals.
Champions League: I would be amazed if we reached the quarter finals. My expectations for the CL have decreased more and more with each passing year. That said, Max has clearly been our best and highest-performing CL coach, so I think he can just about sneak us into the quarter finals. Overall, I expect us to finish second in the group stages and a squeaky-bum-time to progress from the Round of 16.
Bonus: Supercoppa. It depends on when it’s played. If it’s played early in the season, I think we can win it. All the turmoil going on at Inter means that they’ll probably need some time to settle and put their crazy summer behind (Sidenote: Inter had, what, all of three weeks to celebrate their title before all the madness started? All that fanfare for three weeks of partying for the first time in 11 years…)
Expectations are even more tricky than usual entering this season.
On the one hand, Max Allegri is back and his success in Europe with this club is definitely noted. But, on the other, there’s not a ton of changes to the roster to see why things will take a massive turn in the right direction. I expect to have plenty of frustrations still with individual players even if systemically it looks better on the pitch.
There are going to be gaps and mistakes made at the back that make de Ligt look like a hero at times while also making him look not that great because his fellow defenders fail him. The attacking line will have some special moments together, but I still expect to see many chances end prematurely when Ronaldo does one too many skill moves or takes a shot into a defender a foot in front of him.
As for the end results, I still think Juventus will be in the hunt for the domestic double until the very end. Allegri should be the difference is some very frustrating dropped points from last season. And the Lukaku move makes me believe Juventus is back as the clear front-runner in Italy.
Unfortunately, I believe a lot of other clubs improved more than Juventus did this summer and expecting anything more than a quarterfinal appearance in the Champions League is a bit of a pipe dream.