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Juventus’ Defense Again Buckles on the Road

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A recurring theme this season has been Juve’s lack of stability away from the Allianz Stadium.

It’s been a tough week for the ItalJuve brigade. After Monday’s apocalyptic failure to qualify for the World Cup, the Bianconeri headed south to Genova to take on Sampdoria. It’s a been tough hunting ground historically for the Old Lady in recent memory as both Genoa and Samp have scored some upsets.

After today’s 3-2 defeat, which a very late two goal comeback makes the scoreline appear a lot closer than it actually was, Juve needs to do some soul searching and try to piece things back together. For a usually stellar defense, this is the second time this season they have allowed three goals away from home. They’ve also already conceded multi-goal games against Udinese and Atalanta. Something is amiss.

While the Bianconeri now hold the best offense in Serie A, is it just a mere coincidence that league leaders Napoli have the best defense? In this league the defense wins out and often times not the offense. Even with Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, it’s going to be a very difficult task.

It’s very easy to point towards Leonardo Bonucci’s departure but in all honesty, with an aging Barzagli a switch to a back four was always going to happen. With a changed system, Bonucci most likely would not have played the same as he did in a back three. Gone are the days of the BBC, both for club and country. The Italian bastion is no more.

Daniele Rugani has begun to fill in as the second centerhalf alongside Giorgio Chiellini, but a major problem continues to be on the wings. Lichtsteiner isn’t like he used to be, and is certainly a downgrade over Dani Alves. Meanwhile Alex Sandro has been subpar this season and Kwadwo Asamoah is hardly a Serie A-caliber backup. It’s a very bad mix for Juventus, who’ve dominated the decade based upon excellent defense.

I’m not sure it’s a systematic problem rather than a personnel issue. Rugani needs to step up and begin to develop beyond his Empoli level, so far, there’s been very little change in his abilities since coming over from the Tuscan minnows.

Overall, the decay is clear. Juve’s defense remains barely in the top five for goals allowed and even a few mid table clubs have comparable defensive records. It’s worrisome that Bologna and Atalanta have allowed almost the same amount of goals that Juventus has. Albeit, the latter’s explosive offense has hidden quite well the gap in quality.

As Alessandro Del Piero said years ago, “strikers sell tickets, but defenders win championships.”

@ItalianFD

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