Losing is not fun. Losing to Inter Milan is really not fun, so unfun, in fact, that such a calamity invites all sorts of speculation, introspection, and perhaps even circumspection. In this case, however, as several others have already stated before me, I think the obvious lesson is the simple one: the Nerazzurri are better at almost every single position than Juventus.
I am not going to lie to you: I was not surprised by the result at the San Siro last weekend, nor am I worried. This Juventus was always and remains a serious work in progress. I’m not suggesting we sit around and fist-bump each other for only losing to Inter 1-0, but I am certainly saying that freaking out about this seems silly.
In a way, there might be a bit of a relief, however subconscious, for the players, management, and brass of the club. With the title race seemingly out of reach at the moment, the club can, and should, officially turn its eyes to next season. The best way to do that is tinkering and learning.
With that in mind, these are the experiments I would conduct if I were Mr. Max Allegri:
1. Let Charly run early and often
Juventus have less than four months to decide if they want to spend a pretty chunky chunk of change — assuming no swap business or price changes involving Matias Soule or anyone else — on Charly Alcaraz from Southampton. If this was a player fully transferred to the club, then, given his age and newness, I’d be all for integrating him at a more moderate pace. But now is not the time to dally. I think you get him on the field with the starting XI early and often, as soon as the Hellas Verona game next weekend.
2. Figure out whether Andrea Cambiaso can play fullback
There’s a whole conversation about whether the three- or four-man backline makes the most sense, but given Allegri’s past I incline to think that the latter would be the eventual desire if the manager is to stay on. The Old Lady can’t go to a four-man backline at the moment for a myriad of problems, the most pressing of which is probably a midfield that simply can’t support it, but the second most pressing of which is probably the lack of true fullbacks. Filip Kostic, whose form has been, well, not great in recent weeks, is not a fullback. Timothy Weah is not a fullback. In fact, probably the only fullback on this team is Mattia De Sciglio. At Danilo’s age, I’m not sure the Brazilian is really a week-in, week-out fullback anymore. But Cambiaso? He’s young and has played there a bit before; I think it’s worth exploring whether he’s viable at the position for Juventus as a full-time starter.
3. Play around with four-man backlines
Fullback questions abound, as I mention above, but I still think there are tantalizing possibilities to field four-man backlines. Just to try them. Just try! What about Cambiaso-Danilo-Bremer-Gatti? What about trying McKennie as a true fullback? He’s done a hell of a job as a wingback and he’s a gritty defender. What about Cambiaso-Rugani-Bremer-Danilo? Just try stuff.
4. Play around with three-man frontlines
If we’re going to four at the back, we’re probably going to three at the front. Soule is out on loan, so we can’t see what he looks like, and while the injury bug is back in earnest there’s still a bevy of attackers to play around with in different combinations. I would love, love to see Samuel Iling-Junior actually play the wing. Iling-Junior-DV9-Chiesa? Mamma mia, that sounds fun. What about Yildiz-Milik-Chiesa? Yildiz-DV9-Weah? Or just go full speed: Iling-Junior-DV9-Weah. The club has a lot of wingers; I know at this point a three-man attack stretches the midfield too thin, but I still think you look for places to try it out.
5. Play around with double pivots
Is a double-pivot possible with the current crop of midfielders? Well, I suppose anything is possible, but is it wise? I don’t know. Mabye not. Still, I think Allegri should try it! Rabiot-Alcaraz? Rabiot-Locatelli with a player like Alcaraz or even McKennie in the No. 10 spot with instructions to track back defensively? I think there’s more room for play than one might think at first blush.
6. Onboard Tiago Djaló and see what he can do — and when
I love the Djaló move, irrationally so. ACL injuries are not the most difficult things from which to recover — they weren’t when I tore mine in 2007, and they’re even less so now. Djaló’s stock was at an all-time low, and I think he could be a sneaky good defender. Assuming he is indeed fit to start playing games soon, I’d love to see whether he really can play fullback, and whether, even as a right-footed player, he can hold up as a left center back.
7. Aggressively tinker with midfield combinations
With the addition of Alcaraz, this is another area where, I think, you let the iterations go a little bit. The Rabiot-Locatelli-McKennie trio has been the bread and butter, but it’s still not good enough. Try Alcaraz at on either side of Locatelli. Give Hans Nicolussi Caviglia some more time. Try Charly at the 10.
(Side note: Could Enzo Barrenechea be an intriguing legitimate option next year? He’s getting positive reviews at Frosinone and he’s playing a ton of minutes as a 22-year-old. Color me interested.)
I do not expect Juventus to go full-on mad scientist like I’m suggesting, but I do hope the spirit of experimentation is there. Next year’s campaign begins now, and figuring out some answers to these questions is critical to fielding a palpably better squad next as well as to knowing exactly what needs to be done in the transfer market.
Even if you fold in some of these experiments in 30-minute increments sitting on a 2-0 lead, I think you do so. And absolutely when the day comes that Juventus have mathematically clinched a top-four spot, you throw caution to the wind and try things out to learn. Secure the Champions League for next season and then learn, learn, learn.