“It’s a difficult moment, but I’ve been through more complicated moments at Juventus,” claimed Massimiliano Allegri after Juventus’ loss to Napoli and even before the media confrontation with winning coach Luciano Spalletti. Allegri’s second term began with one point out of nine possible – a total of the second time in the last 52 seasons that Juventus have not won in the opening three rounds – and he has not forgotten that he was with him the previous time as well.
The 2015/16 season, a moment after an impressive double (championship with a 17.point advantage over second.placed Roma) and reaching the Champions League final, Juventus catastrophically opened. It was Allegri’s second season at the club, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez just left, and Juventus reached a short and injured league. She opened with a home loss to Udinese, also defeated in Rome and then drew a home draw against Kiev just thanks to a late Paulo Dybala penalty. A point in three rounds and a crisis that culminated with a loss to Sassuolo in the 10th round that left the Bianconeri in 12th place and 11 points behind Rome who stood at the top.
But then it was a proud champion who ruled the league with a level hand. And she had an extraordinary leader in the person of Gianluigi Buffon. After the loss to Sassuolo, and even before the sweeping monologue broadcast on Sky Italy, the legendary goalkeeper convened his teammates and told them: “I do not want to be made fun of at the age of 38.” The club decided on a closed training camp ahead of the derby against Torino, and the victory in it changed the season from end to end. Juventus galloped to a streak of 15 wins and lost a total of four more points until the end of the season – three of them already after securing the championship by a gap of nine points from Napoli and 11 from Rome.
Allegri therefore believes that the current situation is also reversible. His personal experience at Juventus shows that he has something to rely on. The problem is that this time it is not a proud champion in distress, but a team trying to recover from a traumatic season (its worst in the last decade) and the lineage, which barely made changes in the summer and parted ways with the player who held its attack for the past three years.
The current Juventus has lost its deterrent. With Ronaldo on the roster she still had it and she was considered the leading candidate to win the Scudetto, despite failing in the league last season and getting a ticket to the Champions League right in the last round (and only thanks to a kick in the bucket from Napoli). The Series A Model 2021/22 is much more egalitarian than it was six years ago, in the previous crisis on which Allegri relied. So the brakes were younger too, he had Paul Pogba at his peak and Paulo Dybala came in as a new and exciting talent. This time he has to shake off the dust from the Argentine diamond in order for it to shine again (he also appointed him vice.captain in the hope that it will restore his confidence and eventually lead to a contract extension), and at the same time find solutions for almost every part of the lineup. Maybe even between the beams.
Wojciech Szczesny, who became Juventus’ first goalkeeper in Allegri’s previous tenure, is in worrying shape. Probably the worst of his career. After a very disappointing Euro with Poland, he started the season with three terrible mistakes that went up in the absorbers and made many wonder why Juventus did not sign Gianluigi Donaroma in the summer who could have arrived as a free agent. “He sabotaged with his own hands at the start of Yuba’s season,” attacked journalist Fabio Rabzani. “The mistakes are already too many, he is also wrong in the team. At this stage, his removal from the goal for a few weeks is an act of compassion that does not suffer delay – for him and the team.“
Matthias Perrin, who returned to Juventus after the loan season in Genoa and took Buffon’s place as the second goalkeeper, hopes to make amends in the battle he lost three years ago, but in the meantime Allegri continues to back the Polish goalkeeper. “If they had told me that Chesney, a reliable and senior goalkeeper at the European level, would make three mistakes in three games – I would not believe it,” the coach claimed before the easy 0: 3 against Malmo in the Champions League. “He is an excellent and valuable goalkeeper, and he will continue to be Juventus’ first goalkeeper.“
The season with Pirlo on the lines, despite the sweet ending with the cup win, illustrated how much Juventus need a new blood flow. Many thought it would happen this summer, but Allegri was content with bringing back a few players like Moise Ken, Luca Pellegrini and Perrin, the Brazilian talent Cayo Georges and in fact only one reinforcement for the squad: national team player Manuel Locatli. Continuing to deal with the issue of Ronaldo prevented Juventus from focusing on the other problems, and the late separation from it also left it without an adequate offensive replacement.
Ronaldo himself scattered hints of leaving even at the end of last season and the return of Allegri who recommended even before he left in 2019 for President Andrea Aneili to get rid of the Portuguese, only increased the chances of parting. But then the euro started, offers did not land on Juventus’ table and after the summer break the star returned to training. At one point he already seemed to continue despite everything and Allegri even declared at the press conference before the opening round: “Ronaldo told me he was staying at Juventus.” The bench in front of Udinese gave the signal for drama, and the deal was completed at the end of the window. It was too long, too tedious and as expected also charged a heavy price.
“Cristiano, where are you?” Cried the headline of “Totosport” after the loss in Naples. “Who is supposed to fill that gap of 101 goals in three seasons?” They asked on Saturday, and that question only sharpened in light of the 36.year.old Portuguese duo in the renewed debut in the Manchester United uniform about two hours earlier. Juventus have actually lost 30 almost guaranteed league goals and are now praying that Dybala, Ken and Albero Murata will suddenly rise together to fill in the gaps.
So, after the terrible opening in 2015, Juventus got Genoa in the fourth round to calm the system for a moment. This time, on Sunday evening, a hot meeting with the impressive AC Milan awaits her – one of three perfect teams currently in Italy and the one that humiliated her in Turin with 0: 3 just about four months ago.
Juventus have conceded a goal in each of their last 17 league games, as Chesney is said to be in problematic shape and also new European champions Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are not getting any younger. And with Bonucci there is also the matter of personal relationships. The 34.year.old brake left for Milan in 2017 for one year after quarreling with Allegri, and is now the one sent to the campaign to help the coach deal with the media crisis.
“Young players who have been here for a year or two need to understand that Juventus’ shirt is no longer a shirt,” Bonucci clarified in a monologue reminiscent of Buffon’s famous speech. “You must not let go, you must not be relaxed. You can not take anything for granted. If you are afraid of pressure, you can not play for Juventus. We must rediscover the humility of our success seasons and return to the unique way of Yuba.”
Allegri can only hope that he says there will be an impact similar to those of Buffon in 2015.