January is typically a month of positivity, hope, and new beginnings. People make New Year’s resolutions, put any negativity from the previous year behind them, and look forward to becoming better and happier people.
Unfortunately, it seems like Juventus never got the memo.
Except for a brief ray of light in the first week of January, it has been a miserable month — both on and off the pitch. Dare I say it that we might even find ourselves in a relegation battle if things don’t improve quickly.
Regression to the mean
Juventus started 2023 with two ugly but important victories. The team traveled to Cremona for a tricky away game against still-winless Cremonese, who gave Max Allegri’s team a real fight and almost came away with a (probably deserved) victory. Just when it looked like a goalless draw was going to be the final result, Arek Milik scored a 91st-minute free kick to win the game and continue showing Juventini that he was a surprisingly good free transfer.
The next unspectacular but effective victory came at home to Udinese a few days later. While the Bianconeri offered a little more attacking threat this time, it was still a long way away from, for example, the 3-0 victory against Lazio in November (which was arguably our best and most complete performance of the season). Nevertheless, a moment of brilliance by
everybody’s favorite summer signing Leandro Paredes and Federico Chiesa resulted in an easy tap in for Captain Danilo to give Juventus the second 1-0 victory in a week.
But it was all downhill from there as Juventus traveled to Naples for the game of the season to date. This game would determine if the Bianconeri were true title contenders or whether the 8-game winning streak was just a (surprisingly long) abnormality. Even though it was a wonderfully entertaining game of football for the neutral, it was utterly depressing for Juventini. The league leaders raced to a two-goal lead thanks to a poacher’s goal from Serie A top-scorer Victor Osimhen and the spectacular winger Khvicha “Kvaradona” Kvaratskhelia. But recent World Cup winner Ángel Di María got the Bianconeri back in the game after neat passing on the edge of the Napoli box resulted in a tidy sidefooted finish into the far corner by the Argentine.
Alas, that’s as good as things would get that evening. The half-time break apparently lit a fire in Napoli’s bellies as they went on a scoring spree that blew Juventus out of the water. Goals by Amir Rrahmani, Elif Elmas, and another by Osimhen meant that Allegri’s team returned to Turin knowing one thing for sure: the Scudetto will not return to Juventus this season. A painful 5-1 loss.
Next up, Juventus welcomed Monza to the Juventus Stadium for the Coppa Italia Round of 16. As is generally the case for Coppa Italia fixtures before the quarterfinals, Allegri rested most of his starting XI and played the likes of Daniele “The Man, The Myth, The Legend” Rugani and youngsters like Samuel Iling-Junior.
Moise Kean opened the scoring in the eighth minute after a header from a fantastic Weston McKennie cross. As they did earlier this season, though, Monza made life extremely difficult for the Bianconeri. Mattia Valoti equalized thanks to a header from a corner in the 24th minute. Just when it looked like we were heading for extra time though, Federico Chiesa popped up with a moment of magic to win the game.
He skipped past one challenge, left another defender for dead despite being pulled by the shirt for what seemed like an eternity, and then finished with a great shot in the far corner: 2-1 and a quarter final match against Lazio awaits us!
Juventus then played Atalanta in the Serie A, just a few days after receiving the news that the club received a 15-point deduction for its actions in the plusvalenza case. But the show must go on, as they say. And it sure was a spectacle at the Juventus Stadium.
One of the standout players of the season, Ademola Lookman, opened the scoring in the fourth minute after a blunder at the near post by Wojciech Szczesny. The home side equalized not too long later from the penalty spot after Ederson fouled Nicolo Fagioli; Di María scored the penalty. Juventus turned on the style ten minutes later as a lovely backheel flick from Di María went to Fagioli, who crossed for Milik to score impressively on the half volley.
The goals kept coming in the second half. A rare mistake by Danilo resulted in Danish wingback Joakim Maehle equalizing just 30 seconds after the restart. Atalanta smelled blood, continued attacking, and were soon rewarded for their positivity. Lookman scored his second of the game after some great movement and a sublime header put his team 3-2 ahead. Thankfully, Danilo corrected his mistake after blasting in a low free kick from the edge of the box. Lots of goals, lots of mistakes, but little to celebrate in a 3-3 draw.
Last, and most certainly the least pleasant game of the month was the humiliating home loss against Monza
who will be celebrating with a bus full of ... It was arguably the worst first half of the season as Juventus made Monza look like Real Madrid on a sunny afternoon in Spain. The visitors raced to a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Patrick Ciurria and former Juve youth product Dany Mota (curiously, Monza had only three shots all game to Juve’s 22). They could (and should?) have had a third but thankfully VAR canceled Gianluca Caprari’s early goal because the Monza striker was a few picometers offside. Although the second half was better and Juve displayed far more urgency, it was not enough to undo the embarrassing first-half performance in the 2-0 loss.
From something to nothing
And just like that, Juventus is in a relegation battle.
The club received a crippling 15-point deduction due to its alleged creative accounting practices in the plusvalenza case. Unsurprisingly, the club will appeal the decision and has defended its innocence through multiple strongly-worded press releases.
I’ve stated multiple times that I’m reluctant to say anything about this case because I’m no legal expert and I recognize the need for non-experts to stay in their lane (thank you Tom Nichols). The only thing I can say is that regardless of the outcome of our appeal, the damage to the club’s reputation is already done. Fans and players alike will (and already do) find it hard to separate the words “corruption” from “Juventus.” Moreover, there will likely still be punishments from UEFA for violating Financial Fair Play regulations (meanwhile, Chelsea continues to buy everything and everyone that breathes).
My main question, after all of the legal battles are done, is this: will Juventus be able to recover from the damage to its reputation that this scandal has caused? If not, how will it affect our ability to convince the world’s best players to join the club?
It was a month full of Coppa Italia action for Juventus Women. First up was the away game against Cittadella. Annahita Zamanian and Agnese Bonfantini scored the first two goals in the first half although Cittadella star player Sofia Kongouli halved the deficit before the break. Despite the nervous second half, Cristiana Girelli made sure of the victory with a penalty goal in the 83rd minute: 3-1 and on to the next round ... which was just three days later!
As is the case with the men’s team, Coppa Italia games tend to be opportunities for bench players to get some playing time. Eighteen-year-old Elisa Pfattner was one of them and she even scored the opening goal early in the game after her cross fooled the keeper and (accidentally?) landed in the goal. But Brescia, a squad that many Juve players have played for in the past, wasn’t going to stand there and admire Juve’s greatness: they hit back with an equalizer in the second half through Luana Merli. Thankfully, the senior players rescued the game for the Bianconere as Linda Sembrant, Girelli, and Lisa Boattin scored a goal each in the final 20 minutes of the game to secure a 4-1 victory for the team.
Back to Serie A then, as Juventus welcomed Sassuolo to town. After a scoreless first half, Cecilia Salvai broke the deadlock with a goal early in the second half. Just when it looked like Joe Montemurro’s team was going to walk away with a hard-fought victory, though, Sassuolo equalized in the last minute through Manuela Sciabica. Two points dropped as the gap with leaders Roma increased to five points.
Another difficult game was on the schedule a week later, this time away at Pomigliano. The home side took the lead in the 26th minute through Zhanna Ferrario, although Juventus equalized almost immediately through Sofia Cantore. After struggling to break down the hosts, the Bianconere finally took the lead for the first time in the game thanks to a 59th minute goal by Lineth Beerensteyn. It ended up being the final goal of the game as Juventus battled to a 2-1 victory!
The games got a little easier after that. The team cruised to a 3-0 victory at Chievo Verona thanks to two early goals by Girelli and a Valentina Cernoia penalty. Girelli and the rest of the team saved the best for last as they beat Sampdoria 5-0 at home: a Girelli hat trick and a goal each from Arianna Caruso and Cantore was enough for the three easy points to end a challenging month for Juventus Women.
Please be my American Boy
The only two pieces of transfer news were Luca Pellegrini’s loan move to Lazio after canceling his miserable stay at Eintracht Frankfurt and Weston McKennie’s departure to
USA FC Leeds United. There’s not too much to say about Pellegrini’s move — besides my amazement at how this man continues to maintain a near-perfect haircut — so let’s briefly discuss McKennie’s transfer.
As I mentioned on the podcast this week, even though McKennie wasn’t a world beater with Juventus, I think he can look back at his Bianconeri career and, overall, be satisfied. Was he a Ballon d’Or winner? Of course not. But he was always a quality professional, sacrificed himself for the team by frequently playing out of position (which is basically a given if you play for Allegri), generally put in solid though unspectacular performances. His best run of form definitely occurred in the first half of the season with Andrea Pirlo and one can only wonder what would have happened had he not missed most of the second half of that season through injury.
He’s now moving to a country that has a culture closer to the one he grew up in to play with a midfield partner (Tyler Adams) who he knows well and plays with extremely well. Oh, and he’s probably getting a solid pay raise. Come on, this is the Premier League we’re talking about.
If Leeds decide to buy him in the summer, Juventus will get a very nice (and slightly inflated?) transfer fee for McKennie. All in all, I think everybody wins here.
Given the emergence of Fabio Miretti and Nicolo Fagioli, and the potential return of Paul Pogba, I think it makes sense for Juventus to not sign a replacement for McKennie. Will we sign a midfielder in the summer? Well, that all depends on what happens to a certain hairy Frenchman and a crystal-blue-eyed Argentine midfielder.