For the second weekend in a row, Juventus had the chance to close the gap on those who sit in front of them in the Serie A table and knew of that very fact a good amount of hours before taking the field.
And for the second weekend in a row, Juve fell flat on their face.
With those in front of them dropping points all throughout the Saturday slate of games and the team right in front of them set to face Serie A’s most in-form team Monday night, Juventus’ chance was simple — close the gap. But just like what we saw last weekend in Rome, Max Allegri’s squad couldn’t do much of anything right and only showed a desire to actually play some semblance of football until falling behind, with Sassuolo handing Juventus its second straight defeat, 1-0 at the Mapei Stadium on Sunday evening.
Rather than move closer to the top four and at least keep pace with sixth-place Atalanta, Juventus stumbled and fumbled another opportunity given to them on a silver platter. And this time around, it’s not like they were beaten by a team that’s close to the top of the table. Nope, this weekend it came against a Sassuolo side that, while showing improved form over the last month, is far from the kind of team that Juve should be struggling to do much of anything right against.
But, they did.
I get that the Thursday-Sunday Europa League grind is not an easy one. That’s especially true at this stage of the game as Juve try to get to the UEL semifinals and are just three days out from a very difficult opening leg against Sporting.
With that said, I want to ask a question: Would you rather Juventus come out strong and try to put things away early and cruise to the finish line knowing what went on a few days ago and what’s to come in Portugal on Thursday night, or do you prefer Juve falling behind and then trying to scramble to even pull level with Sassuolo like what happened on this day?
I know which one I wanted to see happen. I’m guessing I’m not nearly alone in that camp.
Yet here we are again. Instead of being proactive and taking the game to a Sassuolo side that has struggled to consistently score for much of the season and had their best player out injured and hanging in the stands with his family, Juve were the ones who were passive and nowhere close to trying to control the game.
When Sassuolo scored, it wasn’t surprising. Nicolo Fagioli’s botched clearance attempt certainly helped, but it was the capper to a 10-minute stretch in which Mattia Perin was called into a couple of big-time saves and Federico Gatti had to clear another shot off the line. It was coming — and to see Sassuolo get the 1-0 lead was about as predictable as it gets.
I guess you could say the same for Juventus’ reaction.
That’s mainly because that was the first time all game in which Allegri’s squad showed a sense of urgency that you would have wanted to see from the opening whistle. But outside having forcing a Perin-like save out of Andrea Consigli — who just last week was the goat in Sassuolo’s loss to Hellas Verona — it’s not like the Sassuolo goal was being peppered.
Consigli, just like Perin, finished with three saves.
This is what this team is. This is who Allegri is. Nothing is suddenly going to change. This is how they play, this is how he approaches games and the tactics are what they are. Scared money don’t make money, and Allegri’s unwillingness to change from the norm of his second stint as Juventus manager will be one of the biggest sticking points for as long as he’s screaming on the sideline.
But like we’ve said many times this season, Juve has just gone out and dropped points against a team that they have no business dropping points against. That’s the worst part of it all, and that is why this team continues to just frustrate the hell out of you a good amount of the time.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Well, that was awful. Sure glad I got up early on a Sunday morning here on the West Coast for that mess.
- Juventus has now scored 13 goals in 15 games away from home in Serie A this season. Five of those goals came within a two-week span in wins over Salernitana and Spezia. So that’s basically eight goals in the other 13 away games. That’s awful.
- Sassuolo also entered Sunday’s game having allowed 43 goals in 29 games this season. They had more losses than wins. And yet ... yeah, I think you get the idea.
- Many people will see the pictures Nicolo Fagioli in tears on the bench after coming off right after Sassuolo’s goal and basically point to the narrative that a young player needs to grow up. That was part of the discourse on the broadcast here in the U.S. — which, at the time, didn’t really feel all that great. I’ll say this: If there is anybody on this team who wants to see Juventus succeed and then takes it extremely personal when that doesn’t happen, it’s Nico Fagioli. And when you play a direct role in Sassuolo scoring a goal with the botched clearance like he had and then you get yanked off — no matter if it was planned well before the goal or not — that’s going to eat at you. At least the kid cares and isn’t afraid to show it.
- The two teams combined for eight shots in the first half. None of them were on goal.
- Dusan Vlahovic attempted two shots. They were both blocked. He was feeding on scraps.
- Juventus’ two starting strikers, Vlahovic and Arek Milik, combined for two shots.
- Just like against Lazio, there were so many unnecessary turnovers and balls given away. Six Juventus players lost possession of the ball at least 10 times.
- At one point, it felt like Juve’s main attacking plan was to just blast the ball forward, hope for a counterattack or somebody out wide got a hold of the ball to send hopefully send a cross in. That’s tactical brilliance, folks.
- Tommaso Barbieri wasn’t terrible in his Serie A debut. He wasn’t great, either, but he was solid if not unspectacular. He’s not the kind of wingback that Filip Kostic is and will never be that kind of player. But he didn’t look lost out there or completely intimidated by the moment — and for a 20-year-old in his first start, that’s a pretty big deal.
- The numbers say that Leandro Paredes played pretty OK, but I am just sitting here trying to remember anything that really stood out about his play against Sassuolo. And I guess that’s the problem with Paredes — even when he’s not a total disaster, it’s not like all that great, either.
- Another one of the problems with how Juve has approached these back-to-back losses is that not only are you trying to come from behind and in desperation mode, you’re also basically banking on your subs having a major impact every single time they step onto the field. Obviously when you have the luxury to bring on the likes of Federico Chiesa, Angel Di Maria and Paul Pogba, you want to see that happen. But it’s not always going to happen — and to expect it might be too much to ask from even that talented trio of players.
- It’s a little easier to absorb Allegri’s choices of style of play when Juventus is winning. But guess what? They’ve now lost three out of their last five in Serie A and have to hang on for dear life to make it to the Europa League semifinals. This is less than ideal, my friends.
- In short, I sure hope Juventus can get back to winning in Serie A next weekend. Let’s see who they have on the schedule ... ah, crap. This could get even worse.