With Juventus‘ season over after a disappointing Round of 16 exit against Lyon, it is time to reflect on their dismal season, in which they did however win the Scudetto – for the 9th consecutive year.
Before we dive into the specifics, it is important to look at what did go right for Juventus, however little that may be. Ronaldo had a record-breaking season, becoming the first Juve player to score 30+ goals in the 1955/56 season. He was their star performer. Dybala showed up during the restart and played a great role in Juve’s title-winning season. De Ligt improved from his early-season woes and became a strong force in the back. Juventus were able to secure the Scudetto and further their streak to nine.
That’s pretty much all that went right for Juventus this season – three players and another Scudetto.
Now let’s take a look at what went wrong:
First and foremost, their midfield was abysmal.
Juve’s midfield racked up just 21 assists throughout all competitions while scoring 10 goals. Their inability to create space and control the game led to many of Juve’s defeats. Their midfield which was usually played by Pjanic, Bentancur, and Matuidi/Rabiot, just could not work together.
Sarri’s tactics weren’t enough, as the playing styles of the players were much too similar and they could not get the ball moving forward. Pjanic and Bentancur played a deeper role, which could have led Sarri to possibly use a double-pivot system, yet they did not have a proper 10, as Rabiot and Ramsey aren’t at the level needed to play in the position. With Arthur coming in next season, it will be interesting to see how Pirlo, a former midfielder, will change the midfield.
Their second biggest problem was in their defense:
Having lost their leader and captain Chiellini through an injury, it was up to Bonucci and De Ligt to secure the back. However, Bonucci failed throughout the season to take charge, and De Ligt had to learn the reigns without much support. Having lost their next option, Demiral, Sarri did not have many options at the CB position. Their fullbacks had a very tough season.
Juve’s opponents could very easily expose the flanks, on either side, without much challenge. Cuadrado who is a natural winger would get too high up the pitch, leaving the right side susceptible to a quick counter. Danilo who had to play LB had difficulty switching from a defensive position to a wing-back role when in possession. This led to Ronaldo getting less of the ball, forcing him to move across the front three.
Alex Sandro, who sustained an injury, did not impress before and after his injury. Sarri, who is not known to play the Italian style of soccer, tried to adjust the defense, which proved to be a daunting task, as the Juve defense was used to staying back and defending for years now. Sarri’s stubbornness to not change his defensive tactics and shape caused lots of problems. Juventus let in 43 goals, their worst since the 2009/10 season – the last time when they were not Serie A champions. Juventus need to address their fullbacks issue for next season, and with De Ligt surely out for the beginning of next season, Pirlo will hope that their original pairing of Bonucci and Chiellini will be enough.
Their lack of offensive power this season is one of Juve’s weaknesses:
Ronaldo led the charge, with 37 goals, and Dybala with 17. Higuain 11, and Costa just three which goes to show Juve’s over-reliance on their main man CR7. Juve also performed very poorly in other offensive areas such as free kicks and corners. Ronaldo, who seems to have lost his touch with free kicks, had one of the worst free-kick rates in the league.
Juventus also failed in providing proper corners and crosses for their forwards to capitalize on, and at times could not get the ball past just the first defender. This became a very prominent issue, which led to Ronaldo getting frustrated by the lack of proper deliveries inside the box. For next season, Pirlo will have to work with his fullbacks and outside-mids to at least give their forwards chances of scoring.
As far as the manager is concerned, Maurizio Sarri was the wrong man for the job from the start. His tactics and style of play differ greatly from Juve’s long history of being a prominently defensive team. With Pirlo coming in next season, there are hopes that he will be able to transform Juve into their former selves while improving their midfield and attack.
Juventus surely look forward to the upcoming season, as this year was not the way they wanted. Not only did they get knocked out by a Lyon team that hadn’t played in months, but also failed to win any domestic trophies. Their Scudetto campaign was very unconvincing as they relied on the defeats and mishaps of their rivals, Inter and Lazio. Juventus will surely reflect on this season going forward, hoping to become the best in Europe once again.
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