Juventus struggle to hold on to a double points to lack of motivation and form.
In the wake of a difficult home Champions league win in Turin Wednesday night, the bianconeri faced a tough piece of business, visiting Atalanta in Bergamo Sunday night.
Allegri continued to place his faith in the attack-minded, but leaky, 4-2-3-1 formation that worked wonders in 2016-17.
The match got off to a great start for the bianconeri creating chances and scoring twice with Higuain netting his second in the last two appearances, and Bernardeschi scoring his first goal in black and white – and that’s where the trouble started.
Caldara pounced on a Buffon rebound, halving the deficit, and in the second half Cristante’s fantastic flying header put the teams level at two. And that’s how the score stayed.
VAR sideshow aside (goal rightly disallowed to Mandzukic due to a Lichtsteiner foul 13 seconds earlier, and a penalty shot erroneously awarded to Juventus – and missed by Dybala), the bianconeri struggled to impose their game play for 60 minutes, often not looking like the dominant side.
This is troubling, especially if one considers that the hosts were reeling from an away Europa League match in Lyon, the side that eliminated Roma from the same competition last season, Thursday. Juventus was not able to take advantage of this despite enjoying an extra day of rest.
Depth on the fullback positions is lacking. Alex Sandro is the only world class option that Juventus has, with Lichtsteiner making up lack of pure skill with experience. Asamoah doubles as a fullback but is hardly a solid choice. De Sciglio’s injury exacerbates the difficult start that he has had to his first season in black and white, and Barzagli’s pales in comparison to Lichtsteiner on the right.
Juventus centre backs are ageing and are prone to mistakes. Benatia has alternated world class performances to ones that – on the other hand – featured defensive amnesias. Chiellini is rocky as always, but mechanical in his movements. Unlike a fine wine, his feet have not refined with age: almost all of his long balls end up in dead man’s land.
Besides the technical lacunae outlined above, this Juventus is still forming. Many newbies are yet to adapt to life at Juventus, to understand their role fully, in order to make a difference. Understandably so. Douglas Costa and Bernardeschi are both very talented players, and have shown their brilliance in flashes, but the alchemy that turns great players into a great team is still at work.
Allegri does well to mix new players with the old in order to ensure that the team progresses and “gels” concurrently, but change and renewal comes at a price.
Losing two points that Juventus had firmly in their hands – right before the international break, to boot – is a shame, especially considering the penalty shot missed that would have granted Allegri’s men a “great escape” of sorts. Perhaps these two points lost in Bergamo can give time to reflect, regroup, work on tactics, and most importantly give stimulus to move forward to the next set of key matches. Player motivation is perhaps one of Allegri’s coaching weaknesses, and it showed.
Juventus is, as always, called to victory. Her fans demand it. This is all the more important when domestic competition resumes in two weeks time, with a scintillating match at Allianz Stadium against Lazio.