One of my favorite parts about being a sports fan is getting to be reactionary to every moment, no matter how small. I know people get upset when you say something is an overreaction, but sometimes, that’s just part of being a fan.
And, as we all know, the Juventus fanbase has plenty of overreactions. I know I’m guilty of it, too.
The most difficult part with this season is trying to keep up with what we’re supposed to be overreacting to, and the past few days have been the perfect example of that. The wide range of emotions I have felt while watching the past two matches was quite the experience.
In the match against Roma, there was just some pretty remarkably bad defending from Juventus over the first hour of the match. There was no reason to think anything good was coming from it and many of us had resigned not just the game, but pretty much the rest of the season. I believe I saw “pack it up” from more than a few people — and I was right there with them.
Of course, what happened next was one of the fun parts of this season’s roller coaster. Three goals in eight minutes to take the lead. And to put us through even more in a short period of time, they threw in a red card and a saved penalty just for fun or something.
That high rolled into the next match when Weston McKennie put Juventus into the lead against Inter Milan in the Supercoppa Wednesday evening. And even though Inter leveled the score not much later, it appeared making it to penalty kicks was going to happen and that felt like a small victory considering how the 120 minutes went.
As we all know, though, that didn’t happen. The final seconds of the game felt like one of the lowest lows of the season so far.
But while it felt miserable to watch, it was also rather fitting for the 2021-22 season as a whole. A game that had highlights and lowlights finished up by one of several mistakes made in the match by Alex Sandro, who had been looking better over the past couple of games.
This certainly isn’t anything new for Sandro. The man has somehow been the most inconsistent player in a ridiculously inconsistent squad. Scrolling through his SofaScore match ratings is an adventure, and even just his month-to-month summary is enough to see what a weird season it has been for the Brazilian.
And yes, Sandro’s mistake was awful and his play this season warrants criticism, but he isn’t the only one who has a chart that looks like that. Wojciech Szczesny might actually have the biggest roller coaster, but you could’ve guessed that by watching a single match that probably includes a ridiculous save followed by a boneheaded decision.
Alvaro Morata is also a big member of that group with a massive discrepancy between months along with the likes of Manuel Locatelli who peaked in September and has just bounced up and down since then. McKennie is one of the most wildly inconsistent players second-to-second, misplacing passes only to pull some wild run out of his back pocket then committing a bad foul before scoring some random goal. But he may also be the most consistent in terms of match to match performances and that is really saying something.
And this is about more than just somebody’s run of form over two or three weeks. These performances for most players change seemingly day-to-day and it’s hard to see anyone string together solid performances.
The problem continues to be that Juventus can’t seem to get multiple players to have their good performances at the same time for more than maybe 60 minutes.
It becomes even more clear when you look at the team’s results as a whole. Every time it seems some things have been figured out and the team starts to make some small progress in the league table, something like a draw to Venezia or loss to Hellas Verona happens.
It’s even more obvious when you really sit down and think about how the fifth-place club in Italy topped a Champions League group. I’m all on board with saying Italy has improved as a whole, but that’s not just a normal thing that we should all breeze past. You could probably argue whether or not Juventus was actually the best team in the group considering that 4-0 scoreline, but also, that’s just another talking point for an article on inconsistency. Sure, it was nearly two months later so it holds less weight, but my goodness, those two matches against Chelsea could not have been more different.
In those matches specifically, I think you could tell a major difference in one specific area and that was coaching. Max Allegri’s masterpiece in Turin against Chelsea was his best of the year and then it was almost like he just accepted the loss at Stamford Bridge before the first whistle.
And to be honest, when I see inconsistency at any level of any sport, my first thought is to question the coaching staff. You start to think it’s about motivation for some games and not others or different training intensity or less focus or some other thing that coaches are responsible for. While I do think Allegri can shoulder some of the blame, I think it may be unfair to put all inconsistent play on coaching because, as I have already said, the discrepancy in individual performances has been the weirdest part of the whole season.
Some of it probably has to fall on the board as well because there’s no debate that this roster is not exactly bountiful with depth for every position. Even the top players can get worn out, which will obviously lead to poor performances and inconsistent play. Then when the reserves do come in, the drop off is so painful, the starters getting a “rest” are always the first to come off the bench.
This isn’t supposed to be an analysis piece and it’s not about finding some magical fix. Sometimes the problem is simple but without an obvious solution. And until that consistent play shows up, you just have to sit back and hope the right performances come at the right time.
Inconsistency is something you have to deal with in sports and many people will even say unpredictability is one of the beautiful parts of this game. But it’s not so fun when it hits so close to home every single week.