Juventus are in a tough spot, as things stand. On paper, it doesn’t seem too worse. But a deeper look into the situation would show that things aren’t quite right for Maurizio Sarri’s men. The recent loss to Lazio was only an extension of that. It was a mere confirmation of the fact that there’s something wrong.
Ciro Immobile’s missed penalty and rebound was only a saving grace. Or it could have been a lot worse. Juan Cuadrado’s sending off didn’t help Juve, but Sarri’s men had 60 percent possession. They could register only nine attempts on goal, only four on target.
There was a lack of cohesion and lack of balance in attack. There was a lack of creative spark, as Paulo Dybala was taken off in the second half. But it was coming, considering how Juve have been getting away with similar sort of performances over the last two months.
Sarri has always been using a 4-3-3 shape before the Juve stint began. The usage of the 4-3-1-2 shape is new for Sarri himself, let alone Juve. More than that, this is a club that has been playing a pragmatic brand of football for the last eight years. Since the Antonio Conte days, they have had a side that would rely on counter-attacking football.
With Sarri, it has been a radical shift. Under Massimiliano Allegri too, Juve would use a more pragmatic system. Sarri’s possession-based system is miles different. It was expected to take time. If Juventus expected immediate results from Sarri, they made a mistake. More than that, they made a mistake in the summer transfer window too.
Matthijs de Ligt was brought in from Ajax. A technically superb defender, he was the one seen as the man who could help Sarri’s side build from back. Juve brought in Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot on free transfers. These are two men who are struggling with their fitness, since they came to Turin.
Apart from them, the Bianconeri signed Danilo in a player plus cash deal for Joao Cancelo. They roped in Merih Demiral, signing both Luca Pellegrini and Cristian Romero before loaning them out.
But with that ‘uncreative’ midfield under Sarri, how did Juve expect things to go well. Bar Miralem Pjanic, Sarri has no midfielder who can be that technical and creative outlet. Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira are ageing players, while Ramsey and Rabiot are struggling with fitness. Emre Can is seen as disposable.
Rodrigo Bentancur is stepping up, as he got an assist against Lazio. It was his fourth assist of the campaign. But for a manager who has had midfielders with creative spark, Juve have done injustice.
They tried to get rid of Paulo Dybala too. The Argentine was close to a move to Tottenham and Manchester United in the summer, before the move fell through. Their inability to sell him has been working to Sarri’s advantage. La Joya has seven goals and two assists to his name in all competitions, scoring against Inter, AC Milan and Atalanta.
The club’s operations in the transfer window were aimed at getting some cash in the bank. They were constantly looking to sign Mauro Icardi by offloading players. It didn’t work out and they were left with a team that doesn’t exactly suit how Sarri wants to see Juve play.
It shows that there was a lack of plan all along. The target wasn’t to suit Sarri’s needs. It was to get financial profits for the club. Because of this, Sarri is suffering and taking criticism. He is dealing with the pressure of getting Cristiano Ronaldo to play a brand of football he’s never played before. And considering the stature of the player, he has the pressure of not dropping him.
It isn’t to say that Sarri isn’t blameless. Federico Bernardeschi has been given chance after chance. Despite the Italian not doing enough to justify his chance. Demiral has started just a single game in the Serie A- against Hellas Verona early in the campaign. Sarri can still change the formation to his traditional 4-3-3, but he can’t.
The 4-3-1-2 brought the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. He had Isco and Karim Benzema around him, helping them win the Champions League three times in a row. It tapped into Ronaldo’s goalscoring abilities by placing him closer to goal. He isn’t as quick as he was ten years ago.
But the system at Real was very different. The technical demands in Sarri’s system are immense. Ronaldo will take a while to adjust to these demands.
And like Ronaldo, Sarri deserves time. If Juventus knew what they were going into with his appointment, they will give Sarri time.