When I think about the last four months of Juventus football, two words come to mind: unsustainable reaction.
When, for what now feels like an impossibly brief stint, Juventus were on a good run, there were many who called the form fool’s gold. The team didn’t look great, but they were winning. Something happened over the World Cup break and winter holidays; the team was galvanized, and the results started tilting ever more favorably, to the point where we were briefly dreaming of Champions League qualification even with the penalty.
But even before the officially official news of getting the points back, the slide had begun. Old habits, they say, die hard, and the Old Lady’s old habits die even harder. Even in that winning (or at least non-losing) streak, there was a hapless offense and plenty of head-scratching to do. The luck vanished and then the results followed.
The Bianconeri have now reached the final crux of the season. With only a handful of games to play in all competitions, the time must be now to start winning again, as impossible as that feels.
Of course, if we’ve learned anything to this point in the season, it’s to expect the unexpected. The Old Lady has a hell of a lot to play for, regardless of what happens with the next iteration of rulings on the off-field situation. There’s one trophy left on the table in the Europa League, there’s Champions League qualification in league play, and, perhaps more than either of those two, there is the fact that heading into the offseason with a bit of wind under the sales would feel a whole lot better than stumbling through to the finish line.
Every team, even the great ones, is going to have its ups and downs, but this degree of volatility is completely unsustainable.
A section about roller coasters
When I was a kid, I loved (and hated) roller coasters.
Now I just hate them, but that’s because I’m well into my 30s, that wonderful stage of life when, simultaneously, you’re experiencing the first true palpable tastes of mortality — aching back for no reason, aching head for no reason, shortness of breath after walking to the mailbox — but also the remembrance of the seemingly indestructibility of your 20s, when you could go carousing about deep into the night with little to no consequence the following morning, when the world was opening instead of closing. I’m not made for violent ups and downs anymore.
I especially hate roller coasters when they involve Juventus, and this year’s roller coaster has been more up and down than the scariest Six Flags (or Universal Studios, or whatever) has to offer. From a 15-point deduction to Paul Pogba’s infinite injury to a great run from the Bianconeri to climb into contention to getting the 15 points back but maybe there being another trial to losing the board to Contract Year Rabiot to a million-billion other things, this year has been perpetually grueling in the least entertaining way possible. It’s like a roller coaster that goes on so long you can’t even feel the differences between the swings in altitude, can’t decipher up from down.
Here, though, is the reality: through 31 Serie A games, Juventus have lost eight. Under Andrea Pirlo, the Old Lady lost six. Under Maurizio Sarri, she lost seven. Juventus have lost two times to Monza, a side with a payroll about 25% the size of Juve’s.
Mad Max making the Juve masses mad
I have tried my very best as recently as this month to harvest some sort of optimism, even contriving to argue two months ago that Max Allegri was showing signs of evolution, but even with the 15 points back, even with the semifinals in the Europa League, the feeling for this squad is extremely low. The wins are excruciating, the draws are unbearable, the losses are numbing. The team hasn’t scored more than one goal in a match since mid-March against Freiburg (a meaningless goal in the 95th minute, to boot), and, maybe worse, the goals seem to be scored in a totally random manner.
I understand a coach not wanting a Sarri-like approach to attack, but when your forwards don’t (collectively) score goals for long stretches of the season, it feels like there’s something wrong.
There is a lot I admire about Allegri. And I think that Juventus could be in a much worse place than they currently are without him (I watch Chelsea highlights to self-soothe), but whatever brief wave of energy this team was riding earlier in 2023 is gone. It’s not just been the inept offense, but the continuation of injuries, random bouts of bad luck, and about everything in between.
The word “unsustainable” still comes to mind. I don’t think getting rid of Allegri this summer magically fixes anything; maybe it makes things worse. But, terrible as it is to hear, maybe things need to get a little worse before they get better. This team, the results, and this club are so up and down right now; the entire atmosphere surrounding Juventus is rife with negativity. I don’t know that a man entrenched in his ways, successful as they have been in the past, is the right persona to lead this group out of the chaos.
As I said above, though, Allegri and co. have one final shot to turn the ship around. There are nine games left, with the possibility for a 10th. It’s fino alla fine or turn in early and hope things somehow get better next campaign.