Crisis at Juventus… but who is to blame?

After back-to-back defeats, Juventus are in trouble. Succumbing to a 2-1 home defeat on Wednesday against Sassuolo could have perhaps been forgiven but another 2-1 loss last night to Hellas Verona has made it clear that the Bianconeri are in crisis. Two goals from an in-form Giovanni Simeone yesterday sunk Allegri’s side, despite a late attempt to spark a comeback after a consolation goal scored by Weston McKennie.

As Juventus fans point the finger as to who is to blame for this downfall, who really should be held responsible for the somewhat dire state of affairs at this historic club.

Is it really that bad?

The first issue to discuss before getting into the debate about responsibility is whether or not things are really that bad at Juventus. At a quick glance, you could be forgiven for thinking things are not going well but that they could be much worse. Juventus have shown good spirit this season in big games.

The Bianconeri fought back to secure a point at San Siro when they drew 1-1 with last season’s Scudetto winners Inter in the Derby d’Italia. A competent 1-0 victory over Roma came just before that.

In the Champions League, Juventus sit atop their group with 3 wins from 3 and are yet to concede a goal. This included a 1-0 win against last season’s Champions League winners Chelsea – the same team who currently hold top spot in the Premier League.

However, the reality behind the Bianconeri situation is that Juventus currently occupy 9th place in Serie A after 11 games played. We are nearly one third of the way through the season and Juve have secured just four victories. In addition to this, Juventus’ 15 goals conceded is their worst tally after 11 matches since the 1961/62 season. In said season, the Bianconeri finished in 12th place and while such a result is unlikely this season, it is still a rude awakening for Juventus.

Furthermore, Juventus have never finished a season higher than 4th place after losing 4 of their first 11 games. This happened as recently as 1970/71 so it is clear that the Bianconeri are in a bit of a bind currently, especially when compared to their dominant performances in the past decade.

Is Allegri the Prime Suspect?

The quickest and easiest way to answer the question of who is to blame for the Bianconeri’s woeful start to the season is to point the finger at head coach Massimiliano Allegri. Allegri returned to the club during the summer after club legend Andrea Pirlo was given a season at the helm in which he failed to convince the top tier of Juventus leadership. It is no lie that Allegri is struggling to get the best out of his current squad, despite the Bianconeri having a talented and well-paid group of players.

Allegri has tried a handful of different tactical approaches and has, in his credit, demonstrated adaptability based on the injuries and selection problems that have come his way. When both star forwards Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata were out with injury, Allegri changed his tactics accordingly and the Bianconeri put in some defensively solid performances to grind out narrow wins that could have easily gone either way.

And in this current footballing climate, is there a better alternative out there? Lots of teams are struggling with their managerial situations and the constant shifting at Juventus does not help the players attain the consistency required to challenge domestically and in the continental competitions. The last few years alone have seen the Bianconeri part ways with Allegri to bring in Maurizio Sarri, only to lose Sarri and hire Andrea Pirlo. Then, after just a season, Pirlo’s time in charge came to an end and Allegri returned. Where Allegri seems like a smart choice lies within his knowledge of the team and players. If someone experienced with coaching this group of players is struggling; someone with no experience leading them would likely struggle far more.

Are the players underperforming?

In their last six games, Juventus’ highest xG in any given game has been 1.8 in the match against Inter Milan. In that match, where the Bianconeri only managed to pick up a point thanks to a late penalty (which, it must be said, influences the xG significantly), they had an xG against of 0.8. This suggests that Inter were lucky to get a point in the match and that Juventus should have come away as victors.

In the victories against Roma and Torino, where the Bianconeri were 1-0 winners, Juventus were in fact outperformed in terms of xG. Both games saw the opposition register a higher expected goals statistic which demonstrates that even in two of the most important wins for Allegri’s side this season, they were perhaps undeserving of the three points.

A lot of this boils down to a lack of attacking threat. The Bianconeri have struggled time after time again this season to create convincing opportunities going forward, despite a wealth of talented forwards. After the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, it looked to be the perfect time for Juventus to step up as a team and show that collectively they are stronger together than any individual player. However, despite all the talk in the media, it is clear that whilst perhaps they are more humble now, they’ve grown accustomed to relying on a formidable player like Ronaldo to snatch results from matches where the Bianconeri perhaps were not the better team.

In all, it is hard to pinpoint the precise source of the blame and perhaps it is time for each part of the club to acknowledge their role in the bad spell. Those at the top such as Agnelli and Nedved are not free of blame either, enforcing a managerial carousel in recent years that has removed the option of stability. It is in the club’s best interests to give Allegri more time to turn things around and rally the players. If everyone works hard and works together, putting divisions aside, there is still yet time for Juventus to make their presence felt this season.

 

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