You walk into your garage, and you can’t believe your eyes: a brand-new, sparkling F-250 sits there in all its glory. The black truck has the legendary 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel engine markings on the side, the Platinum trim designation, and all the exterior bells and whistles you could ever want. This baby was meant for getting stuff done (in addition to looking cool).
There’s just one problem. Or maybe two.
First, when you open the door and sit down, the interior looks like a 1998 Honda Accord; there’s no leather, no navigation screen, no suite of towing and off-road modes for the vehicle. Then, a little perplexed but still excited, when you take the magnificent truck out for a spin, she doesn’t quite seem to be generating the power she should be. You pop the hood open and discover a four-cylinder thing that belongs in a Honda Civic.
When Danny asked about the trident of Federico Chiesa, Dušan Vlahović, and Angel Di Maria during this week’s podcast — during which there were some satisfying digressions about Batman, Nirvana, and Surge — I felt like the person walking into the garage with the fake F-250. Does it look super cool and fancy on paper to have those three world-class attackers in a trident? It sure does! Does the rest of the jerry-rigged squad diminish, to a great extent, the potency and potential of this trident? It sure does.
The rest of the truck is not so good & Max’s formational dilemma
You’ve got a trident of Chiesa, Vlahović, and Di Maria, but how well are you going to service those three attackers when Mattia De Sciglio is starting, when your midfield is a double pivot of Manuel Locatelli and Adrien “could you remind me where I am right now” Rabiot, when your back three consists of one true center back?
I wrote a few weeks ago that great athletes don’t have to think too much, but Juventus players seem to perpetually over-think, over-process in the moment. If Pep’s best teams pass the ball around with exquisite speed and quickness of a falcon, the current iteration of Juventus pass the ball around with the clunkiness of an elephant trying to complete an obstacle course. And no wonder, when, out of necessity, half the squad is playing out of position.
I know I’ve been beating this dead horse for years, but when you assess this club unit by unit, is there a single one — outside of maybe the goalkeepers — that you feel at all OK about? Between injuries, the terminal stages of certain players’ careers, inexperience, and sheer talent, there are holes the size of Texas throughout this roster.
As far as the consternation goes regarding the formation Max uses, it seems like a lose-lose-lost to me. The 3-5-2 is probably the best option, but that puts Chiesa and Di Maria out of position. The 4-3-3 might be the best for attackers, but Juventus are literally in a position where there’s maybe a single player — Danilo — who I trust as a true fullback, and if you play Danilo at fullback, who, then, is playing center back? There is no single formation that solves all the issues, because the issues exist from top to bottom.
In some sense, these are questions that cannot now be answered. The brass needs to do a better job of putting together a holistic squad, something that it has not done for years. That was something we discussed on the podcast, too; it’s probably been since one of Allegri’s final years in his first run when you could look up and down the squad and say, “Yeah, this is pretty good, no big issues here.”
Right now, we can’t say that. We might be a long way from being able to say that.
Blank checks don’t build great teams fast: the Chelsea example
Unless you were living under a rock in January, you are probably aware that Chelsea spent approximately fifteen billion dollars on new players. They also just drew West Ham last weekend 1-1, a result preceded by a goalless draw against Fulham the week before. I don’t envy Graham Potter’s position from one perspective — having to choose 11 players out of the 242 currently on the roster, having to keep everybody feeling like they’re really a part of this team — but, seriously dude, you’ve got to win games.
The lesson here is simple and dumb: even when you’ve got unlimited funds, building a good team is not easy. Chelsea have unlimited funds, essentially; Juventus do not. Not only do Juventus not have unlimited funds, they have very limited funds. On top of the budgetary issues, they’ve got imminent threats and, as discussed above, the club is not exactly starting with a totally cohesive squad as it is.
I don’t know if all of this is a way for my mind to stretch itself into trying to think Allegri is not doing that bad of a job or else just preparing myself for the worst in terms of the Old Lady’s future, and she has definitely given us many different worsts already this year. The constraints and difficulties ahead are many; the road is perilous; the road is long.
But, you know what? Yesterday I was a cynic; today I’m a stoic. I’ve been reading a great book on the lives of the great peddlers of stoicism, and I am at this moment disposed to their resoluteness. So as such we will close with Marcus Aurelius: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”