The fact that Juventus were top (or at least have shared top position) in Serie A is old news. 552 days old, to be precise. But Juve dropping to joint second spot with Bologna, two points off the top spot, is not.
Admittedly, it is very early days. The teams have only played three games. However, in Italy, league standings in Serie A are front-page news, so it will be important – especially to Juve’s fan base.
Juventus have been in pole position in the league table since March last year. But the fact that their opponents last weekend, Fiorentina, who managed to hold the Bianconeri to a 0-0 draw at the Artemio Franchi Stadium, ultimately put an end to the run.
It meant that Inter Milan, who maintained their 100%-win record by beating Udinese 1-0 at the San Siro, leap-frogged them into top position.
It is not a good start to the new season for Juve’s manager and head coach, Maurizio Sarri, who joined the club pre-season in June this year.
The 60-year-old was treated for pneumonia in August. It meant that he had to sit out Juve’s first two games against Napoli and Palma. He was finally on the bench for the third game and witnessed the goalless draw against Fiorentina which was hardly memorable.
Sarri’s previous managerial role was at Chelsea. He didn’t do a bad job for the most part. The Blues finished third in the final Premiership table, although they were 26 points adrift of top-placed Manchester City. They did, however, win the Europa League title, maintaining a 100% undefeated record throughout the tournament.
The reason for Sarri’s departure from Stamford Bridge at the end of last season is not clear. The man, himself, claims he wanted to return to Italy to be near to his ageing parents. The Metro newspaper, however, wrote that it was the offensive chanting during the match against Cardiff City, denigrating “Sarri-ball,” that sealed his decision to go.
When the late, lamented former Chelsea legend Ray Wilkins was interviewed before his untimely death, he gave a hint about Sarri’s style of management. He said that Italian coaches can be very cagey. They tend to let tactics rule. It sometimes means that good players get shackled, and they do not get the opportunity to let their attacking skills have free reign.
As far as the Juventus board are concerned, they have hired Sarri with his tactical ability very much in mind. Their aim, it seems, is to develop a pacy style of football that is pleasing to the eye. It is part of their ambition to attract a bigger fan base across Europe and the rest of the world.
Their primary aim is to win the Champions League. The only thing they must bear in mind is that this style of football could cost them dear in their own country.
They began their reforming strategy last year when they bought Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for the princely sum of 100-million Euros, plus a 30 million Euro per annum salary.
Juve also looked to shore up their defence by acquiring the 20-year-old Dutch defender, Matthijs de Ligt; Brazilian defender 28-year-old Danilo Luiz da Silva, and the 21-year-old Turk, Merih Demiral.
In midfield, they have bought Adrien Rabiot from Paris St-Germain and Aaron Ramsey from Arsenal.
Juve’s bosses are hoping that Maurizio Sarri is the man that will be able to mould all of these players into the team that will lift the Champions League crown in the coming season. The only question on some people’s minds is whether or not CL success could cost Juventus the Serie A title.