Less than six months from their Champions League final appearance, Juventus find themselves in unfamiliar territory struggling to find form in the league. Ravaged by injuries to key players, the current Italian champions are 10 points adrift of top spot after only one win in their opening six games of the new season. Lying in 15th place with only five points to their credit, it’s perhaps too early to panic but for many fans it’s a worrying time. The old lady has fallen over and in her fragile state is struggling to get back up. Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Napoli highlighted the clubs current problems as a sub standard Napoli, who are struggling themselves to find form dispatched Juventus with a fair amount of comfort.
The departure of key players Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal in the summer has certainly had an effect on how Juventus have started this season. And it could have been worse if moves for Paul Pogba had gone through. But it’s the injuries to holding midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Sami Kherdira and strikers Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata have highlighted the squads lack of depth. Despite having a squad of 85 players (58 of which are out on loan), Juventus are struggling for quality replacements when first team regulars drop out with injuries. Added into this, the bedding in of new signings Paulo Dybala, Hernanes, Mario Lemina, Alex Sandro, Juan Cuadrado and Simeone Zaza appears to be taking a lot longer than hoped with only glimmers of recognition of what they are meant to be doing on show. It’s not helping that Massimiliano Allegri keeps shifting formations using three so far – 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2 but to be fair to the manager the shuffling is due to a variety of factors including the lack of available players and the need to find a suitable winning formation.
The bigger concern is that Allegri doesn’t know what his best eleven is, even at this stage in the season. Only the return of all of his injured players will allow for a clearer view of how Juventus exactly should line up. Even when he does have a team on the pitch, the basics are still not there. Juventus are creating chances but at present have the worst chance to goal conversation ratio of all sides in Serie A. Misfiring strikers are bad at any time but when your side is starved of confidence and in need of a win, it heaps more pressure on the team. The Juventus midfield, in particular Paul Pogba have tried to make up for their strikers lack of form in front of goal but have only managed to contribute two goals between them. That is only one less than the strikers but two better than the entire defence highlighting another major headache for Allegri to address.
There are however some signs that the Old Lady is slowly getting back to her feet. A solid 2-1 win over Manchester City in the Champions League despite falling a goal behind thanks to an own goal by Giorgio Chiellini was followed swiftly by a their first win of the season in the league at Genoa. Three days later they were moments away from their second win of the season against newcomers Frosinone before collapsing under the pressure, failing to clear a 92 minute corner with Frosinone defender Leonardo Blanchard leaping highest to head past Neto for a share of the points. Facing Napoli only three days later hardly helped as Allegri tried to rebuild his sides confidence and having Napoli score early on won’t have helped. They did rally within a minute of Higuain putting Napoli further ahead through a goal from new signing Mario Lemina but Napoli held on for all three points. Juventus now face Sevilla in the Champions League then entertain Bolonga before the international break. Allegri’s objective will be to get though the next two game and make it to the break with the hope that some of his injured stars return before they face league leaders Inter Milan on the 18th October. A Juventus revival is on the cards, that is once the old lady is fully back to her feet and off running again at full speed.
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