Juventus are tottering, make no mistake. Three consecutive league losses and elimination at the Coppa Italia semi-finals is seeing the wheels coming off the Bianconeri bus which not that long ago seemed to be making something reasonable out of what has otherwise been a wasted season.
Rumours this week of player unrest and departing assistant coaches has only served to fan the flames and a very visibly aggravated Massimiliano Allegri was in a foul mood for the pre-match press conference today as Juve prepare to take on Bologna.
“What we have to do now is remain quiet, as we already did in other difficult moments this season.
“We have to work and do. You are on the wrong side when you don’t win in football, so now we have to react.”
Regarding the rumours that there have been more player arguments with the coach, Allegri denied vehemently.
“There was no confrontation with the players. What happened? Why? Who reported it? Tell me the names, now we only have to focus on tomorrow’s game.
“People have a lot of imagination and when Juventus lose many false things are said. The other day, I heard (NBA star) Giannis Antetokounmpo talking about failure. There will be moments when we don’t win, but we need to create the conditions to do it. Only one team wins and we need to be that team.”
Allegri continues to insist that Juve can still make something of the campaign.
“We still have a target to play for in the league, we want to reach the top four, hopefully, finish second to improve the result of last season. The target is always to get to March-April with something to play for and this season we made it.
“Our primary target is to play in the Champions League, we can do it and we’ll try to win Europa League.”
How has he been dealing with the pressure?
“I have fun, I like everyone and it’s amusing. Think about when I will be no longer here, you’ll have to target someone else. To me, it’s stimulating. I was aware of Juventus’ problems when I returned. Last season people saw us as a title contender until we lost to Inter.
“We reached the Coppa Italia Final and lost the Supercoppa at minute 120. Many young players have emerged this season, but in life, things change depending on the perspective. I don’t have to defend myself, I just have to work as I’ve always done. Let’s see how this season ends.”
Would he be satisfied with a top-four finish?
“You have to say that! I wasn’t satisfied when we were eliminated from the Champions League. What question is it? There are smarter questions. Write what you think. I believe in respect of fans and I thank them. I’ve always worked with honesty.
“There are difficulties. If at the end of the season, the results are not satisfying the club will decide. The coach is responsible for everything this is clear.
“You asked me a question: ‘Are you satisfied?’ I am satisfied when I win the title, the Champions League, the Coppa Italia, but it’s impossible. Otherwise, I have to mention Giannis’ press conference again.
“Are you satisfied if you’ll be here asking questions again next season? I am asking you. If you’ll be here again, it means you have failed? Now, I can’t tell you if I am satisfied because there are 35 days before the end of the season.
“Napoli have won the title, one will win the Champions League, one Europa League and one Coppa Italia, so the others have failed.
“Now I am serene, it’s an amusing situation, what you are writing not so much. If we don’t win anything in 35 days it means Allegri is not good enough. We need to win tomorrow, the rest doesn’t count.”
Regarding the squad selections and the fitness of key players Federico Chiesa and Paul Pogba, Allegri said -
“Everyone is fine, it’s not a question of who is playing. Everything is normal. Federico is an extraordinary player, he flies and can solve the game. But he comes from 10 months of inactivity. Regaining that physical and mental balance is not easy.
“The performances he is doing are within the norm. Pogba has been idle for a year. And he’s not in the best condition to play a game. I would like to have back the Pogba of when I first coached him, but that’s not the case at the moment.
“Usually, the longer someone is out, the longer it takes to recover. There are studies. Everything is normal. The luck that was… in the misfortune of not having top players like Pogba and Chiesa, or also Vlahovic who is coming from a major groin issue and it’s not that now he has become poor, to return to his levels he will need time.
“But there was luck, thanks to the work done in the ten years with the youth sector done by Juve and the second team, in having Fagioli, Miretti, Soulé, Iling. Who have played so many games. Miretti is a teenager. He played more than 40 games for Juventus. Fagioli played 25-30 in Cremonese, winning the league and is talented, he played 30 games.
“It’s not easy to play 30 games at Juventus or 40. Even the good ones… Once, with Buffon, he told me: I arrived in my first year at Juve and I didn’t understand anything, in my second year I didn’t realise. Juve are a unique thing, there are the pressures, the stuff…. There are times of growth.
“I understand that you want everything right away. But you need patience, planning. And from the negative things, like Pogba at 100% and Chiesa who I knew would come back like that, we found assets for the club. For the club, also economically, it is very important.
“We must continue and move forward, not losing sight of the goal. Now is the most difficult moment, it’s now. Not the least fifteen. It is now. I’m not just talking about the team, but about everything.
“The club has to be a one-two punch, we have 35 days which are the most important of the season, as always, unless we are out of everything. We are within two goals, and we have to be a granite block. I’m talking 360 degrees.”