As the second half went on Saturday night and Juventus’ attack continued to sputter, you knew those pre-match storylines were going to creep more and more into the spectrum of the broadcast. That, of course, centered around the man who just left the club — which, for the match announcers, were rather convenient since he’s the man who scored over 100 goals in three seasons with Juventus.
For all we know, Juve’s attack will be scoring goals in a regular basis when the winter months arrive.
For now, though, it might be a bumpy ride.
That’s because Juventus’ first official home match in front of a more than just a couple hundred fans was marked with one of the Bianconeri’s least effective games no matter who the coach may be the last few years. Outside of a relatively solid opening 15 or 20 minutes, Juventus absolutely struggled against one of Serie A’s newly promoted sides, falling 1-0 in their home opener and leaving a whole lot of questions to be answered heading into the first international break of the season.
That’s because, regardless of the players missing out due to injury, Max Allegri simply had one heck of a bad night. His starting lineup was ... interesting. His players’ performance in the initial setup was ... far from good. And, when it came to adjustments as the match went on, they simply didn’t make an impact and left Juventus with no real ability to flip the scoreline in their favor despite the fact that Empoli wasn’t exactly packing it in after going ahead in the first half.
The midfield was still a mess.
The attack seemed to run out of ideas as the game went on.
And when you’ve got no real threats in the air, hoofing cross after cross into the opponent’s box just doesn’t have the same kind of effectiveness that it used to.
This was the kind of match where Juventus played like garbage and they got exactly what they deserved to. Maybe Juventus could get by with help from a single moment or two of brilliance from one of their best players, but they will have to be a collective whole now that they main goal scorer from the last three years isn’t on the roster anymore.
That team looked completely out of sorts Saturday. And while Empoli certainly deserve some props for the way they rolled into Turin and played against Juventus, Allegri really does have some things to figure out or else the first couple of weeks coming out of the international break are going to be pretty damn rough knowing who’s laying there in wait on the schedule.
Things need to be fixed, and hopefully they get fixed — at least to some extent — once we see Juventus playing again in a couple of weeks.
It’s easy to say “This is what happens when you don’t have Ronaldo on your roster anymore.” But it’s much bigger than that. There were flaws in this squad before Ronaldo arrived, there major flaws in this squad with Ronaldo on the roster and there remains flaws now that he’s heading back to Manchester United.
Pointing to no Ronaldo is the easy thing to do. But there’s much, much more that needs fixing on this team — and the hope is that Allegri can get to where he’s got an idea of where to go with this team before it’s too late.
Yet, as we sit here after the first two games of the 2021-22 season, Juventus is sitting on one point after playing Udinese and Empoli. Just like we all thought, right? (Don’t answer that.)
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this is supposed to work.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- In case you’re wondering, that’s now 16 straight games without a clean sheet.
- If that run from Federico Chiesa ended up being the first goal scored with fans back at Allianz Stadium, the half-capacity crowd would have sounded like there were 40,000-plus in there. So close to a simply amazing goal.
- Of course Guglielmo Vicario plays one of the best games of his career — especially in the first half — against Juventus. It just fits so well into everything we know about goalkeepers facing Juve.
- Mattia De Sciglio coming on for Juan Cuadrado when Juventus need a goal — I can’t.
- Honestly, I was just waiting for that Daniele Rugani sub for either Matthijs de Ligt or Leonardo Bonucci to happen in the second half and it would’ve been a perfect evening.
- By “perfect” I totally mean I would have wanted to throw my laptop into the ocean.
- Juventus looked a little better once Manuel Locatelli came onto the field, but that still was not enough.
- Danilo, playing as the holding midfielder in front of the defense, completed 84 percent of his passes Saturday night. That’s not gonna do it, folks.
- It was good that we got to see a good game out of Rodrigo Bentancur, though. Oh, no, wait. We didn’t. It was the 2020-21 version of Bentancur all over again, with some truly baffling turnovers putting Juve’s backline in some very unnecessary positions.
- Meanwhile, Alex Sandro’s marking on the first goal continues to amaze me.
- I think with time Weston McKennie could develop into a more advanced role, but man he struggled to really settle into that spot before coming off at halftime for Alvaro Morata.
- Juan Cuadrado completed 3 of his 11 attempted crosses. That ain’t gonna cut it.
- Alex Sandro didn’t successfully complete a cross against Empoli. That ain’t gonna cut it, either.
- Try as much as he want, but Paulo Dybala couldn’t get anything working after Juve’s initial surge. If he’s going to be the centerpiece of this new Juventus, then these are the kinds of games where Juventus can’t afford to drop points that he needs to be taking over and being the difference maker when things aren’t going well — and that just didn’t happen.
- Then again, outside of Chiesa, it’s not like anybody in a Juventus jersey really had a good game. That’s not exactly something you like typing when you know that Juve just played a team that was in Serie B a couple of months ago.
- This international break is going to be so much fun. So, so much fun. Can’t wait for all the talk that will come out of this performance. It’s going to be enjoyable. So enjoyable.