Do you remember when everything was going so perfectly for about 30 minutes to start the season? What a time that was.
Paulo Dybala was Paulo Dybala again, there was no need to have Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad and Matthijs de Ligt was destroying every opposing player who tried to touch the ball. Everything was perfect (except for the kits) and the scoreboard reflected that. Until it didn’t. And by the time the final whistle blew, a draw felt a little lucky and maybe even undeserved for Juventus.
So what’s the biggest takeaway from a match like this? When you see the brilliance the squad is capable of only to see all of the preseason concerns pile together to overcome that brilliance in a nightmare scenario for a season opener.
The attack once again lacked cohesion in the final third during the second half and the two-man midfield was overrun without being able to hold any meaningful possession for most of the game.
Wojciech Szczęsny, a goalkeeper who certainly needed a good start to the season for a confidence booster to himself and to earn some fans’ trust back, turned out what may have been his worst performance in a Juventus shirt. Two errors from Szczęsny were directly responsible for the two Udinese goals.
But even then, the entire defeat — yes, it feels like a defeat so that’s how I’m apparently addressing this match now — cannot be placed on Szczesny’s shoulders. The back line could still be considered one of the strong points of the game, but they were not without flaw and it’s not like they did too much to help out on the two decisive plays in the second half.
This is a defense that will put any of its center-backs, full-backs or goalkeepers in position to make some boneheaded plays. We saw it from Szczesny on Sunday, we’ve seen it in the form of an ill-advised pass from Leonardo Bonucci or a flailing arm from Giorgio Chiellini and that doesn’t even touch on the mistakes made by some of the reserve players (the Daniele Rugani list was too long to get to). Eventually, you have to figure this isn’t just about some individual mistakes every now and then but mistakes that come from a unit who for one reason or another can’t figure it out together. At least not while playing for this club apparently.
And there’s really no reason we should have confidence these mistakes are just going to suddenly stop in order for Juventus to reclaim the Scudetto in May. Szczesny has become more prone to these mistakes and the club continues to stand by him as the team’s No. 1 keeper and at this point, I’m not sure what it will take to have a true competition within the team for that spot.
I think it’s safe to say the club will not stop leaking goals anytime soon, but at the end of the day, you have to score some goals to win games anyway so one or two poorly allowed shouldn’t kill you too often. But what do you know, the attack looks pretty much the same as it did a few months back when random individual moments are the only thing that threatens the penalty area. Multiple world-class players make up the attack and yet for some reason, they refuse to play off each other very often and we saw it again Sunday.
Dybala, no doubt, had the best match of any Juventus forward but he worked much better linking with the midfield than he ever did with Alvaro Morata or Ronaldo. Federico Chiesa looked pretty good in his limited minutes, but it was a lot of dribbling that led to just one chance-creating pass which ended up being nothing because Ronaldo couldn’t stay onside (lol).
Meanwhile, the one place on the field that there is plenty of depth and no one can agree on who gets to start gets limited because of Allegri’s formation and tactics. Sure, it may have made sense to start Manuel Locatelli on the bench and Weston McKennie was unavailable, but even with those limitations, a two-man midfield of Rodrigo Bentancur and Aaron Ramsey never made any sense.
It sometimes feels like the obvious solution to the long list of good-but-not-great midfielders is to actually get them out on the field together in a formation that gets the best out of them but for some reason, no one wants to try that. Instead, we’re going to keep running two central midfielders, asking them to do way more than they are capable of because we have to give some left mid minutes to Federico Bernadeschi.
Every fear Juventus fans had during the offseason and in any preseason friendlies came to life all at once in the final 60 minutes against Udinese. And sure, Juventus got a point on the road to start the season so it’s actually not the end of the world but it would certainly be nice to see a sense of urgency from this team to fix some glaring issues.
And for a piece that may have started as an overreaction, I also came to the realization that I’ll need a lot of answers and I’ll need them pretty quickly for me to start believing this team will finish on top of Italy.