Juventus have an unfortunate history when it comes to the final matchday of the season. When there’s nothing on the line and everybody is getting ready for vacations, they have a tendency to check out hard and allow their opponents to run out with that all-encompassing “I beat Juventus” moment.
Saturday night’s match against Fiorentina was just such a match.
While Fiorentina were playing for a spot in the UEFA Conference League — their first European place in five years — Juve were playing for absolutely nothing. And with a couple of exceptions, it showed. The Bianconeri never looked like they were going to come close to scoring. Indeed, over 90 minutes Juve only managed to register a single shot, while their opponent, not particularly clinical themselves, picked up goals in stoppage time of each half, dropping their hated rivals 2-0 and securing themselves a place in European football.
Massimiliano Allegri ran out a 3-5-2 formation for the last game of his first season back. Mattia Perin again was given the starter’s gloves at the base. After his emotional tribute on Monday, Giorgio Chiellini was given one last chance to play in a Juventus shirt, joining Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt in the back three. Federico Bernardeschi was another player playing his last game for Juve, starting as the wingback along with Alex Sandro, bookending the midfield trio of Fabio Miretti, Manuel Locatelli, and Adrien Rabiot. The farewell tour was finalized with the presence of Paulo Dybala, who joined Moise Kean in attack.
Vincenzo Italiano sent out the best XI he could possibly face, knowing that a victory meant that their place in European football was very much assured. He arranged them in the usual 4-3-3 that has become his hallmark. Pietro Terraciano was in goal, screened by the quartet of Lorenzo Venuti, Nikola Milenkovic, Igor, and Cristiano Biraghi. Sofyan Amrabat joined Giacomo Bonaventura and Alfred Duncan in midfield, supporting the attacking bank of Nicolas Gonzalez, Krysztof Piatek, and Riccardo Saponara.
While not quite as molten as it was when Juve visited in March for the Coppa Italia final, the Stadio Artemio Franchi was still buzzing with anticipation given what was at stake for the home side, and little Juve did in the first half inspire them to quiet down. They settled into a defensive posture early. There were a few good passes made out of the back that should have made for some good counterattacks, but didn’t develop into any real danger thanks to player slipping or playing just a little too fast. Juve’s lone shot of the game came in the 11th minute when Dybala played a nice give-and-go in his spot in the right channel, but Igor stepped in to block his attempt at one last back-post curler.
The rest of the first half was a rather boring affair punctuated by quick potential opportunities. Bonaventura had a pair of good shots blocked for corners, and in between those efforts Bernardeschi was set loose on a gorgeous long ball by Chiellini. He had tons of options streaking into the box, but his effort found none of them and was cleared out for a corner.
The biggest excitement came just as the first half was ending. First, Kean and Igor began bickering after the two challenged for a ball in midfield, then Fiorentina broke the ice just as the first period ticked into stoppage time. The move started with a floated ball by Amrabat. Piatek won the aerial ball with Chiellini, who quickly moved to tackle the ball off of Bonaventura. The intervention was clean, but then no one in a black and white shirt was able to clear the ball, and it broke away from the scrum and into the path of Duncan, who lashed it into the net with a stranded Perin left to guess which way he might go. Before play restarted Bonucci begged referee Daniele Chiffi for a VAR review for a foul in the buildup, and it soon became obvious why when the camera settled on Chiellini, who, for one last time, had had his head busted open in service of the club.
It was a fitting note to end on for Chiellini, who was substituted at halftime for Daniele Rugani. Also on at the half was Carlo Pinsoglio for his usual end-of-the-season cameo. He immediately had to be on his guard when a cross by Biraghi found Gonzalez for a leaping volley that flew over his bar. Juve, meanwhile, were sleepwalking in attack — with the exception of Dybala, who was dropping deeper and deeper to try to get the ball and start something to get the team a real opportunity, unfortunately to no avail. Not even the introduction of Dusan Vlahovic to his old stomping grounds saw Juve grow much in the way of teeth.
Instead it was Fiorentina creating the danger. In the 78th minute, Piatek was gifted a free header off a corner from the penalty spot that was met with a sprawling parry by Pinsoglio. Bonaventura followed up on the rebound but the ball was cleared off the line by Bonucci, keeping the margin momentarily at one.
But it wouldn’t stay that way forever. In the first minute of stoppage time substitute Lucas Torreira broke into the left channel and was brought down lazily by Bonucci’s trail leg. Gonzalez easily dispatched the spot-kick to give the team the final margin of victory, and a spot in next year’s Conference League, all against their most hated rivals.
So, for Tito, a good day. For us, not as much.
MATTIA PERIN - 6. His only real test was completely lopsided, as he had to guess which angle Duncan would go and proved incorrect. Other than that a solid night from the Juve No. 2.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT - 6. Put up very respectable counting stats, and was often seen roaming forward Chiellini-style out of the back three to lend a hand.
LEONARDO BONUCCI - 5.5. His stats are good overall — including a game-high nine clearances — but he was at least semi-responsible for both goals. The first one he definitely could have found a way to clear, while the penalty was all on him for some extremely lazy defending.
GIORGIO CHIELLINI - 6.5. Two tackles, two interceptions, three clearances and a blocked shot — all in just 45 minutes. And then he gets busted open one last time, just to play with our heartstrings.
FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI - 5. Had a couple of puzzling misses as a passer, either altogether missing good targets or simply moving the ball, although he did get credit for the team’s only key pass.
FABIO MIRETTI - 5. A little drop back to earth for Juve’s starlet, which is probably just as well. Even with the team in difficulty he continually looked to get the ball upfield in an attacking manner. Truly can’t wait to see how this kid develops.
MANUEL LOCATELLI - 6.5. Made a couple of good raking passes and was active all over the place in midfield, leading the team with three tackles and an 88.6 percent completion percentage.
ADRIEN RABIOT - 5.5. Active trying to win the ball back but didn’t have the right touch on things when he got close to the box today.
ALEX SANDRO - 5.5. In what may have been his last game as a Juve player, he was middling at best, leading the team with three interceptions but not doing anything of note in the attacking phase.
MOISE KEAN - 3. Nothing he did worked Saturday night. His touch was terrible, his decision-making questionable. It really was a lost season for him.
PAULO DYBALA - 6.5. Took the game’s only shot and was constantly trying to get something happening. He also stuck his foot in defensively to the tune of a pair of tackles. Deserved better for his last game with the club.
DANIELE RUGANI - 6. Made three clearances, several of them quite good. Adequate for a defense that only really gave Fiorentina a couple of sniffs.
CARLO PINSOLGLIO - 6. Pinso time is the best time — especially when he makes a pretty good save and you’re reminded that he’s not just a cheerleader.
MARLEY AKE - 5. Played out of position at wing-back and therefore struggled a bit in the defensive phase.
DUSAN VLAHOVIC - NR. Got zero service, only touching the ball four times in 14 minutes.
WESTON McKENNIE - NR. Nice to see him get a run out, but didn’t make much of an impact beyond one tackle in defense.
I mean, there’s not much to say about a game that means so little, but ... just ... ugh.
This offensive performance would perhaps be best described by a phrase Danny likes to use: a big ol’ bucket of meh. There was hardly any impetus to attack and when they did it was so disjointed that it rarely cased Fiorentina problems.
Early on in the season we all thought that Max would eventually come up with a scenario in which he would maximize the players available and start romping through Serie A again. This, from past experience, was what Allegri do.
Except that wasn’t how he did this season, and that’s a serious cause for alarm. Yes, he was hampered by an immense injury crisis that never seemed to end and lost arguably his best player for the season in January, but this team was actively defending for their lives against relegation sides this year.
That can’t happen.
Allegri will be back next year, mostly because of his insane salary and his ability to coast on his reputation. But this team has actively regressed under him this season, and if we’re looking at more of the same by January or February next year a change has to be in the cards.
On behalf of Danny, Chucks, Sergio, and Calvin, I’d like to thank you for once again traveling with us through another season. Without you, nothing we do is possible or meaningful. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
It’s been an especially interesting one for me as I’ve navigated the intricacies of becoming a father along with my duties here, and on that note I’d like to specifically thank Caleb Turrentine for filling in for me while I was on paternity leave.
Stick with us throughout the summer as we provide analysis for the upcoming silly season and see how this team will take shape in 2022-23.
That’s all there is. There isn’t any more.