The October international break is a good opportunity for most football clubs to take a second to reset their approach to the season while reflecting on how things have gone in the first couple of months.
For Juventus specifically, it’s been a strange month even as off-the-field issues continue to loom darkly over the club. The results in the games that they have been played have been mixed too, with the Bianconeri wavering wildly from dominant to subdued.
The schedule between now and the next international break is pretty straightforward with four league games and no midweek European football distractions. However, there’s a couple of challenging games in there too, with trips to 1st placed AC Milan and 4th placed Fiorentina, interspersed with home games against 16th placed Hellas Verona and bottom of the table Cagliari.
With that in mind, we asked the BWRAO crew to answer one question about this team right now.
It’s been an inconsistent start to the season for Juventus, both on and off the pitch. We might be sitting in third place, but the performances have been far from consistent. What’s the biggest thing that is not working for this team right now, and how should Allegri fix it?
I know Sam wrote an article praising our wingbacks, but I think that’s where one of our problems lies. Now I don’t think we have awful players in that position or anything, I just think they’re not in form at the moment. Specifically, and as I mentioned recently on the podcast, I think their lack of form is placing too much attacking/creative burden on Federico Chiesa.
Since his stellar debut against Udinese, Andrea Cambiaso hasn’t done much, while Filip Kostic finally got back to his old self in the Torino game. Tim Weah has also fizzled out a little which means that, remarkably, Weston McKennie has probably been our most consistent wingback so far this season.
And he’s a central midfielder.
No reason for panic just yet, but I think the wingbacks have to hit form again soon otherwise Chiesa is going to be overworked and teams will figure us out pretty easily; they’ll just mark the Italy international right out of the game.
The biggest issue on this team is the overall talent level in the midfield, and the fact that two of their most talented midfielders are likely going to be suspended for a good amount of time (Paul Pogba and Nicolo Fagioli) only screams out just how big of an issue it will be the rest of this season.
Don’t get me wrong, the likes of Adrien Rabiot, Manuel Locatelli and others are good players, but the fact that the most talented and only possible true game-changing player is currently suspended for a failed doping test, that’s a problem.
With the club’s finances being what they are, I’m not optimistic that a major upgrade arrives in January. That means there probably isn’t a big fix available for Max Allegri to go with outside of a potential change to a 4-2-3-1 or something that probably won’t happen to begin with.
The harder question to answer might be: “What is working for this team right now?”
Certainly the football divinities seem hell-bent on conspiring against the Old Lady. Between injuries, gambling, and doping this team could use a bit of luck. But to answer the present question, my recent midfield report card tips my mind. Adrien Rabiot has not been the same Rabiot as a year ago; Locatelli’s play is good-and-then-bad; and neither Miretti nor Fagioli has been up to snuff. How should Allegri fix it?
Other than procuring a time machine to tell the club to acquire a different midfielder than Pogba, I think the 3-5-2, as fraught as it is with perils, is addressing the situation decently well. But here’s one thought: try Yıldız as an attacking midfielder in a 3-4-1-2, or else hand Caviglia some playing time. Desperate times and all that.
The lack of creativity in this side is to me the biggest concern about Juve in the early going this season. Not that Paul Pogba has even shown it in the last couple of years, but there is simply no player in this squad right now who Max Allegri can call his go-to guy who can put his foot on the ball and dictate play.
Allegri often goes apoplectic during games while we watch the players give the ball back to the opposition time and again after trying one long ball too many. Understandably so too, because short of finding a winger/wingback/fullback out wide on the overlap to fizz a cross into the box, there really are no other sources of creativity in this lineup.
To his credit, Allegri has discovered he can get away with playing the 3-5-2 to manufacture some offense out wide, but could possibly revert to the back four when playing some inferior sides, like they have coming up in two of their next four games.
The immediate thing he could do with with improving though is passing drills — day, night and every hour in between, keep working on passing movements because if we have to watch one more game where Juve are passing to feet when a man has acres of space to run into behind the backline, then that will be one game too many.