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The Juventus attack needs to step up for Max Allegri’s squad to challenge Inter

As fun as Federico Gatti goals are, we need the strikers to start contributing again.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A TIM Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Ciancaphoto Studio/Getty Images

The Old Lady completed Matchday 15 in Serie A with an 11-point lead over fifth-place Bologna, thanks to another knife’s edge 1-0 victory over Napoli this weekend, and I think it’s probably a testament to the strangeness of the year that two things are simultaneously true: that all of us are pretty thrilled with the results and the position on the table, but at the same time it’s quite clear this team still has plenty of room for improvement to reach another gear or two.

If Juventus truly want to challenge Inter for the Scudetto instead of being sated with only a Champions League berth, the Bianconeri need to find that second gear.

With the defense having found consistent success this season and the midfield stuck, by virtue of personnel and circumstance, in a patchwork holding pattern, the strikers and wingbacks are the two units whose improvement could change this team from a good team to a truly inspiring, Scudetto-winning team.

The strikers: DV9 needs to step up

I found myself, for various reasons I won’t go into, watching Manchester United play against Bournemouth with my 2-year-old son on Saturday morning. I was blessed with the Red Devils getting absolutely thrashed, but I was also given a first-row seat into what a complete striker on his game can look like: Dominic Solanke was a man on fire against United. He scored the first, hockey-assisted on the second while driving play forward in possession, and created a fourth goal that was disallowed on an iffy handball. It was the kind of selfless, consistent, “bit of everything” performance we need to see more often out of Dusan Vlahovic.

I don’t think Vlahovic is incapable: just a couple weeks ago against Inter he sparked and then finished a wonderful complete striker’s goal: he recovered possession from the opposition, jettisoned the ball out perfectly to Federico Chiesa, and then made an incisive run into the box, scoring the goal with a no-nonsense finish. More of that, please. More consistent involvement and better distribution, more dirty hold-up play.

The Serbian is not the only striker on the team, but he’s the main one. I know Moise Kean has had what seems like 25 goals disallowed, but there comes a point when “aw shucks, you just haven’t had the right luck” doesn’t carry the day; he needs to score. Arkadiusz Milik needs to score. We need the strikers to score to level up.

The wingbacks: a glimmer of hope, a fading starter, and a Weah in the wings

My good friend Sergio did a wonderful job talking about this in his Napoli grab bag, so I’ll try not to re-trod trodden ground, but the wingback position is in a funny state right now. Andrea Cambiaso had his best performance to date against Napoli, a fact that should be extremely encouraging given the competition — it’s not like he did this against Udinese. The youngster now needs to start showing some consistency in his performances.

Filip Kostic, on the other hand, has seemingly gone through a final year Juan Cuadrado-like atrophy. One would like to think the Serbian, at 31 years old, is just in a bit of a funk rather than truly beginning his decline, but something looks off out there. He’s making bad decisions with and without the ball; counter-attacks are dying at his feet. He’s not the steady engine he was a year ago.

Timothy Weah waits in the wings. The American never found his footing before the injury bug took him away, and while he doesn’t scream “silver bullet” once he’s back on the squad he does, at least, give Allegri the ability to try out Cambiaso on the left and Weah on the right. There is one thing Weah has better than anybody on the team: pure speed. If Allegri can figure out how to leverage that, maybe there’s a more effective wingback combination on the horizon.

Despite the precarious feeling of many of these wins, despite the fact that Federico Gatti, a lumbering center back, has now won two matches in a row with his offensive contributions, despite the lurking sense that luck won’t always be this consistent for us, I feel as though I am splitting hairs to a degree asking the attack to suddenly become better. The time will surely come when smarter folks than I are required to figure out how to put together a better squad, how to fix the midfield and get the best out of Vlahovic, but as my friend Aragorn said before the Black Gate: Today is not that day.

Right now, I think we should all be primarily savoring this moment, this season, this team. It’s not the prettiest football on the planet, but I don’t give a damn. They’re winning, and they’re winning in inspiring fashion. It’s fino alla fine reborn.