We all remember the Dark Times that came after the false dawn post-calciopoli. The years of Luigi Delneri, Jean-Claude Blanc, Marco Motta, and Amauri. Those were un-fun years.
But I almost prefer them to what we’re looking at right now.
Juventus reached an all new low on Sunday, when they went into the U-Power Stadium to play Monza and were the clear second-best team for the entire game, both before and after the 40th-minute red card shown to Angel Di Maria for a brainless act of violence that is probably going to cost him three games for violent conduct, including the big October match against AC Milan.
While the last few defenders of the current regime will once again point out the list of absentees in this game — including Arkadiusz Milik and Juan Cuadrado, both of whom were suspended in the aftermath of last weekend’s VAR debacle against Salernitana — but that is simply an excuse. If you hadn’t been paying attention, Monza, who are in the midst of their first-ever Serie A season, had gone into the game as the absolute worst team in the division. In their first six games, they had scored only three goals and given up 14, both easily the worst in the league. Last week’s 1-1 draw against Lecce had been their first-ever Serie A point, and even in the aftermath of that they fired their manager. Even with the severely shorthanded group Juve had available, the talent existed to beat this Monza team.
Instead, the hosts were the better squad from wire to wire. Juventus only registered two shots on target the entire game. Not even the shot in the arm of Marco Landucci, heading up the touchline while Massimiliano Allegri served a ban for the same VAR brouhaha, could give them a shot in the arm, and once Di Maria made his stupid, Juve’s 1-0 loss looked almost academic.
Things need to change now. They need to change in the manager’s office and in the directorate. The project has failed. New leadership at all levels is needed.
Landucci oversaw a 4-3-3 setup that was without its usual laundry list of injured players, plus the aforementioned suspensions. Wojciech Szczesny was healthy enough to suit up, but wasn’t yet ready to play, giving Mattia Perin the starting spot yet again for what was his 250th career Serie A appearance. Mattia De Sciglio, Federico Gatti, Bremer, and Danilo stretched along the line in front of him, while Weston McKennie, Leandro Paredes, and Fabio Miretti made up the midfield. Di Maria joined Dusan Vlahovic and Filip Kostic up front.
Monza came into the game on the back of firing their manager over the week. Giovanni Stroppa was sacked earlier in the week after the team’s historically bad start, and was replaced by former Juventus winger Raffaele Palladino, who had been coaching Monza’s primavera side. His first lineup was a 3-4-2-1 formation. Michele Di Gregorio, who has surprisingly kept Serie A veteran Alessio Cragno out of the lineup for the Biancorossi, retained the starting keeper’s job. Marlon Santos, Pablo Mari, and Armando Izzo started in the back three, with Patrick Ciurria and Carlos Augusto playing as the wingbacks. Nicolo Rovella started in midfield with an eye toward proving to Juve that he’s ready to be retained next season, joining Stefano Sensi. Gianluca Caprari and Matteo Pessina supported Dany Mota in the attacking phase.
Alarm bells started ringing in the third minute when Sensi loaded up for a shot that Gatti blocked. The ball was circulated and dropped back to Rovella at the edge of the penalty arc, and the loanee whacked the ball just wide. Nine minutes later, Izzo wandered forward from the back three and slipped in behind Gatti to meet a good ball by Marlon, but he popped his header over the bar.
Juve, meanwhile, was looking lost from the outset. If a player made a decent run, the pass to find him would be inaccurate. Crosses were airmailed over their targets — in one case so much so that De Sciglio not only cleared the box but also Kostic on the other wing. Vlahovic was so starved for any sort of service that if he got his foot to a ball in the Monza box he was trying to immediately turn and fire, despite facing terrible angles and defenders charging him down. Eventually that did produce the only Juve shot on target in the half in the 28th minute, but the weak cross-goal shot from the right channel was easily claimed by Di Gregorio.
At the other end of the field, Monza wasn’t exactly putting Juve under siege, but they were certainly creating more danger. Sensi put forward Monza’s only shot on frame in the 32nd minute, but Perin held the 19-yard bouncer. But they had also forced Juve into a couple of blocks, and just before Sensi’s shot Ciurria ripped one from 20 yards that dipped just under the crossbar.
Juve were doing little to nothing and Monza had the clear upper hand in the game, but fate put a thumb on their end of the scale with five minutes left in the half. Di Maria, who had been annoyed after referee Fabio Maresca declined to grant him a free kick after he’d been body checked, and a moment later was harried by Izzo at midfield. The Italian has a well-deserved reputation as an annoying little s&%@, and Di Maria fell right into his trap when he wound up and planted his elbow into his ribs. Izzo made a little bit of a meal out of his reaction, but Maresca had been staring right at him and the red card was academic.
Di Maria stayed on the field for some minutes trying to argue some kind of case, which was frankly ridiculous, before finally making his way off, leaving his teammates a man light on a day when they had already been playing like crap.
The hosts came out of the locker room looking to make their man advantage pay. Rovella had a chance in the channel just after the restart but mishit the ball and popped it into the air. Mota was then given an excellent cross by Ciurria but couldn’t get the right contact as the ball bounced and pushed it past the near post.
As Monza pressed for a historic moment, Juve found the odd moment to mount an attempt at a smash-and-grab. In the 53rd minute McKennie crossed the ball in from the left side and met the run of Miretti at the penalty spot, but his volley was blocked, and may have been going wide anyway.
Perhaps wary of the potential of another such move succeeding for Juve, Palladino immediately moved to his bench for to put on fresh legs. He made a triple change, including the introduction of striker Christian Gytkjaer for Mota, who had failed to made much out of several inviting opportunities. The Dane soon had one of his own when Izzo got forward to throw in a cross, but he headed it over. He soon forced a save out of Perin in the channel, shortly after Augusto did so with a long-range effort.
Monza were moving ever closer to finally scoring, but they were leaving Juve some openings to pull a surprise. The biggest of those openings came in the 68th minute when some nifty holdup play by Vlahovic triggered a 3-on-2 counter. Unfortunately, two of the three were defenders, and Danilo, who was carrying the ball, chose to try to pass the ball to Bremer on his right as opposed to Kostic on his left. Not only was Kostic more used to these situations, he was also more open, and Mari ended up making a good interception to break up the attack without Juve even getting a shot in. Danilo had a chance to make amends on a free kick a few minutes later, but popped his header into the air.
In the 74th minute, the goal finally came. It was Gytkjaer, who had been their hero in last year’s promotion playoff, who finally made the extra man pay when he ghosted behind a ball-watching Gatti and tapped Ciurria’s cross past a stranded Perin.
Danilo had to intervene to prevent an immediate dagger just minutes later, and it was then that Landucci finally dipped into what amounted to his bench and sent on Moise Kean for Kostic. The young Italian had a golden chance to equalize when he squeezed through two defenders for a free header on a McKennie cross, but he only managed to head it right at Di Gregorio when putting it anywhere on either side would’ve tied the score and potentially salvaged something for his team.
That was the final moment of real danger for Juve aside from a 90th-minute corner that was met by Bremer, whose shot hit Gytkjaer in the chest.
Stoppage time stretched for eight minutes after Izzo went down in a clash of heads and had to be looked at, but Juve spent about as much time chasing possession as they did trying to launch it desperately into the penalty area, and when Maresca’s whistle blew for the final time Monza had a truly historic victory, while Juventus were thrown even deeper into the abyss.
MATTIA PERIN - 6. Was never truly under siege, but made the saves he would be expected to make and had no chance on the goal. A perfectly competent performance in goal again.
MATTIA DE SCIGLIO - 5. Somehow tied for the team lead in key passes despite looking relatively awful going forward. Made a couple of interceptions defensively, but Monza was generally building on the opposite side so it wasn’t like he was getting repeatedly beaten.
BREMER - 6. Good showing in the middle, even though the counting stats were a little low. No one really snuck past him, especially when Juve had to batten down the hatches a man down.
FEDERICO GATTI - 5. Let guys sneak behind him a little too much, most importantly on Monza’s goal. He runs a good offside trap when he is paying attention, but he needs to clean up the ball-watching.
DANILO - 5.5. Competent defensively, but really made a mess of a golden opportunity when he led that three-on-two break, and he wasn’t able to do much on the set pieces he had an opportunity to get under either.
WESTON McKENNIE - 6. Orchestrated perhaps Juve’s best two chances of the evening, and made four clearances defensively.
LEANDRO PAREDES - 5.5. Looked a step slow all night long, which isn’t particularly surprising given how many games in a row he’s played after barely featuring last year at PSG. Made a play key pass and a pair of tackles but wasn’t as crisp as he’d been in previous games.
FABIO MIRETTI - 6. Made a game-high five tackles and was one of only four Juve players to record a dribble. Where that shot off McKennie’s cross would’ve gone had it not been blocked is a question for the sands of time.
ANGEL DI MARIA - 3. Didn’t really create much when he had the ball, but if you want to talk about a really stupid red card, here’s your most recent chapter. A really ugly moment, and because it’s likely to be chalked up as violent conduct his suspension will likely be more than one game.
DUSAN VLAHOVIC - 5. The lack of service is clearly getting to him, because he’s just trying to turn and fire with everything from everywhere as soon as he gets the ball in the box, even if a pass or a dribble would be the better option. Did put the ball on frame once but on a very weak shot.
FILIP KOSTIC - 6. Made two key passes and found the target with three of four crosses. It’s a little concerning, however, that Kostic is becoming somewhat predictable in terms of how hard he tries to get to cross. It could make him easier to shut down, especially in a tactical league like Serie A.
MOISE KEAN - NR. HAS to put that header to either side of the goalkeeper instead of right at him.
NICOLO FAGIOLI - NR. Not given enough time to make a real impact, but did take all the set pieces after being introduced.
MATIAS SOULE - NR. Should’ve come on early if he was going to be used. one of the few Juve players to record a dribble even in his sparse time.
***BONUS LOANEE RATING***
NICOLO ROVELLA - 7. The best Juventus player on the field wasn’t wearing a Juventus shirt. This was 100 percent a show-me game for Rovella and he was excellent, completing 91.6 percent of his passes, registering two key passes, four interceptions, and two tackles. Perhaps he should have stuck around?
Not much to be said here except that Landucci should perhaps have made a move or two a little earlier than he did. The red card obviously forced a serious rearguard action for most of the second half, but he could have shown a little bit of adventurousness, especially given his reputation as someone who triggers the attack better than his boss. Unfortunately, Juve was playing badly even before Di Maria was sent off, and they fully deserved to lose this game.
Red or no red, injuries or no injuries, Juventus should be beating a team like Monza. The fact that they couldn’t even execute any type of plan and barely seem to know what they’re doing in possession regardless of whether there were 11 players on the pitch or 10 is a damning indictment of what Max Allegri has done since he arrived. In their first seven games, Juve have played Sampdoria, Spezia, Salernitana, and Monza and only picked up five points out of those games. That’s simply unacceptable at Juve.
Allegri has to go, pure and simple, and it needs to happen ASAP, lest this situation get any worse. Otherwise, the hole will be too large to get out of.
The players will scatter to their respective national teams for the next two weeks as the last international break before the World Cup arrives. Juve’s next match comes on Sunday, Oct. 2, when they host Bologna, then a Champions League tilt hosting Maccabi Haifa.