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October’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: The Abyss

Disastrous results in October mean that Juventus continues to plunge deeper into crisis... with no end in sight.

SL Benfica v Juventus - Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Juventus is a bad team.

I could have started and ended my monthly recap with that singular sentence, but that would make this article as bad as Juve’s form the last two seasons.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to watch and tolerate Juve’s performances, not just as a Juventino but as a fan of the beautiful game. There’s little desire to entertain and even less joy in the players as they struggle through game after game of Allegri’s archaic tactics.

But hey, this is my job, so who am I to complain about it? To paraphrase the words of a wise man, I ask not what Juventus can do for me, but what I can do for Juventus. And what I can do for the club is, well, write about it.

On we go.

A little more action, please

I started the month in Cagliari on my honeymoon Juventus players returned from the international break to face Bologna at the Allianz Stadium at the start of October. After a disastrous performance and loss against Monza before the break, anything less than a win would seriously jeopardize the team’s battle for a spot in the top four. Thankfully, a strong first half and efficient second meant that Juve walked away with three points and three goals after the game. Goals from Filip Kostic, Dusan Vlahovic, and Arkadiusz Milik ensured a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Juventus v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

With the World Cup just around the corner, UEFA and domestic European leagues are cramming as many games into the calendar as humanly possible before the competition begins. So another Champions League game, this time against Maccabi Haifa, was on the schedule just a few days after the Bologna encounter (note: Juventus played eight games in 27 days last month). Remarkably, Allegri’s men went into the game with as many points as their opponents: zero. In other words, this was the second must-win game in barely three days time.

And just like against Bologna, Juventus rose to the occasion when they needed to. Thanks to three assists and a sparkling performance by Ángel Di Maria, the Bianconeri beat Maccabi 3-1. Adrien Rabiot continued his fine start to the season with a goal late in the first half before Vlahovic doubled the lead just after the break. The visitors pulled one back in the 75th minute through Dean David and threatened to equalize and even take the lead after hitting the post twice.

Thankfully, Rabiot grabbed his second goal of the game a few minutes before the end to seal the result: 3-1. A glimmer of hope for Juventus to maybe, maybe reach the next round in the competition.

It was a crude return to reality a few days later, as Allegri’s men traveled to the San Siro to face defending champions AC Milan. We were reminded of just how large the gap in quality is between Juventus and the top teams in Italy (and Europe) and just how much the tables have turned in recent years. Milan comprehensively outplayed us and comfortably won 2-0 thanks to a first-half stoppage time goal by Fikayo Tomori and a second-half solo goal by Brahim Diaz.

AC Milan v Juventus - Serie A
A perfect representation of how far behind, both literally and figurately, Juventus is from Milan.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Once this team is down, it tends to continue dropping down into the abyss. Juventus reached a new low when, after failing to heed the warnings from the home game against the same opponents, Maccabi Haifa completely outplayed us on Matchday 4 of the Champions League group stages. A first-half brace from Omer Atzili gave the home team a completely deserved 2-0 victory and essentially ended Juve’s hopes of reaching the Round of 16 of the competition. Yet another reminder of the dire crisis that this club is currently in.

The team bounced back from this embarrassment with a victory in the Derby della Mole against Torino. Except for a remarkable quadruple save by Torino keeper Vanja Milinković-Savić and a one-on-one opportunity for Vlahovic, the game lacked clear-cut chances. Things got a little more lively in the second half and eventually we witnessed the game’s only goal from Vlahovic. He won a corner after Milinković-Savić saved his header and then nodded in Danilo’s header at the far post from the ensuing corner: 1-0.

Dusan Vlahovic of Juventus Fc gestures during the Serie A... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

The floodgates opened in the next Serie A game against Empoli. Despite a shaky first half — one in which Moise Kean put Juve ahead in the 8th minute after sidefooting Kostic’s sublime cross into the goal — Juve exploded in the second half. Two headed goals from corners(!) by Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot put Juventus three goals ahead. The Frenchman grabbed his second brace in as many weeks with a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give Juventus a thumping (though somewhat flattering) 4-0 victory over Empoli.

Then came the game that really mattered. The do-or-die away game against Benfica on Matchday 5 of the Champions League group stages. Nothing less than a victory would suffice for the Bianconeri. Given the fantastic team that Benfica is, I expected little good from this game and I was quickly proven correct. Antonio Silva put the Portuguese team ahead with a strong header, but Moise Kean/Vlahovic/nobody really knows equalized just four minutes later against the run of play.

Roger Schmidt’s team were absolutely relentless though and there’s a reason that they remain unbeaten in all competitions so far this season. They stormed to a 3-1 lead before half-time thanks to a Joao Mario penalty (after a clumsy handball by Juan Cuadrado) and a beautiful backheeled goal from Rafa Silva.

But the misery wasn’t over yet. Rafa Silva got his second of the game soon after the break as Benfica launched wave after wave of attack on the Juventus defense. A 4-1 scoreline was undeserved because it could and should have been more. Miraculously though, Juventus launched a comeback thanks to young Englishman Samuel Iling-Junior.

McKennie and Milik scored two goals in two minutes to restore hopes of rescuing something from the game, but it was too little too late. The final score was 4-3 as Juventus deservedly crashed out of Europe’s premier competition in the group stages for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

SL Benfica v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Valter Gouveia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Last but not least, the away game against Lecce. Nicolo Fagioli scored a wondergoal in the 73rd minute to give Juventus a tight 1-0 victory and a third consecutive victory and clean sheet in the league. Allow me to summarize this game with one wonderful sentence from Livescore’s recap on the game:

“It was a game that was almost interesting, nearly distracting.”

Juventus Women

Juventus opened the month with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Pomigliano in the league. Although the first half was a frustrating, goalless affair, the team finally grabbed the goals it needed in the second half through Sofia Cantore in the 57th minute and goals from Arianna Caruso and Annahita Zamanian in the last ten minutes of the game.

Juve then blew Sampdoria away in an impressive performance away from home. Amanda Nilden and Barbara Bonansea put Joe Montemurro’s team two goals ahead in the first half before Nilden’s second goal of the game and a goal by Cantore put the gloss on the scoreline: 4-0.

Sampdoria v Juventus - Women Serie A Photo by Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Juventus traveled to lovely Switzerland to face FC Zurich in its first game of the Champions League group stage this season. Just when it looked like the Swiss team was going to successfully frustrate Juventus into a goalless draw, Valentina Cernoia and Barbara Bonansea popped up with two goals in the final 20 minutes of the game to secure a hard-fought 2-0 victory.

Alas, all good things must come to an end as Juventus suffered a rare league defeat away at Milan. Kosovare Asllani scored two goals in two minutes as the Bianconere suddenly found itself 2-0 behind. Agnese Bonfantini halved the deficit a few minutes later but, remarkably, Martina Piemonte restored Milan’s two-goal lead less than a minute later.

Malgorzata Mesjasz scored Milan’s fourth goal to essentially eliminate any chance of a Juventus comeback in the game. But never say never, because two Cristiana Girelli goals late in the game gave Milan a mighty scare as Montemurro’s side launched an unlikely comeback. But it wasn’t enough to salvage anything from the game as Milan eventually won this thriller 4-3.

AC Milan v Juventus - Women Serie A Photo by Claudia Greco/AC Milan via Getty Images

The team bounced back from this disappointing loss with an impressive 1-1 draw in the Champions League against defending champions Olympique Lyonnais. Lindsey Horan put the French team in the lead in the 23rd minute but an own goal by Melvine Malard early in the second half ensured that Juventus walked away with a well-deserved point.

The team then had a top-of-the-table clash with second-placed Fiorentina at home in the final game of the month. Goals from new signing Lineth Beerensteyn — who had just returned to the squad a few days earlier following the death of her mother — and Bonansea were enough for Juventus to secure the three points and bring them to within just one point of their opponents and four points off league leaders AS Roma.

Where to next for Juventus?

With the World Cup a few weeks away, you would be forgiven for tuning out of Juventus action and casting your eyes elsewhere. Almost half the team is injured, veteran players like Bonucci and Cuadrado have dropped to unacceptable levels of performances, and the Champions League is officially over for us.

Remarkably, though, and despite our shockingly poor performances this season, a mere five points separates Juventus from second-placed Atalanta, which means that not all hope is lost just yet and we shouldn’t take drastic measures like sacking benching all the veterans. That said, with so many injuries Allegri has little choice but to play youngsters like Soulé and Fagioli.

US Lecce v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maricchiolo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Speaking of the kids, with the Europa League now a reality in the new year, we should play all our youngsters in the competition. Iling-Junior, Miretti, Fagioli, Compagnon, Soulé, and so on: play all of them. Why?

Because Juventus clearly doesn’t have what it takes to win the Europa League, which is a deceptively difficult competition to win, so there’s no point in wasting (first team) resources on a competition we are extremely unlikely to win. We would likely face teams of Benfica’s quality in the Round of 16 in that competition and, well, we all saw how that went.

So we might as well give the kids a chance. They’re already highly motivated to leave an impression on the club, especially as the club’s old players are reaching the end of their careers and leaving room for the youngsters to fill.

But let’s not look too far ahead, because Juventus has two massive home games against Inter and Lazio to play and a tricky away game against Hellas Verona before the World Cup begins.

After that, Allegri and the rest of the club will have a much-needed break to assess the crisis that this club currently finds itself in. Unfortunately, I have little hope that they’ll emerge from this break with a solution.