With the new Serie A season in full swing and Juventus F.C. looking for their ninth straight scudetto, the real issues are in their struggles in European football.
Juve have just recently announced their 23 player squad for the six upcoming group stage UEFA Champions League fixtures. Year after year Juventus are said to be one of the favourites going into the Champions League, and this year will be no different.
But, tournament after tournament they always manage to fall short. Even after bringing in superstar Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, they could not make it past Matthijs De Ligt’s AFC Ajax last season.
This summer, they decided to bring in De Ligt for a large transfer fee, along with a new coach in Maurizio Sarri, who many are hoping will bring Juve to glory. The blame cannot be put on Massimiliano Allegri anymore, so what will be their downfall this season?
Not even two games into the new Serie A season, Juventus’ captain and arguably their best player Giorgio Chiellini had reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), leaving him unavailable for the next 6 months if not longer. Also, considering his age at 35 years old this injury could potentially be a career-ending injury for the defender many call “King Kong”.
Not only will his play be missed on the pitch, but his leadership throughout the team will certainly be missed also. Mattia De Sciglio has now also picked up an injury, although much more minor than Chiellini’s, De Sciglio will also be missed on the right side of the defence.
Undoubtedly both injuries hurt the team, but these injuries cannot be used as another excuse if failure in the Champions League occurs again. The argument can be easily made that this is one of the deepest Juventus squads in history, especially at the back-end.
No one can replace Chiellini but injuries were certainly one of the main reasons why Juventus brought in the likes of De Ligt, and Merih Demiral this summer. Not to mention Leonardo Bonucci and Daniele Rugani who have already played together and have been with the squad for years. This team can defend with or without Chiellini. If the issue is not with the defence and the injuries, then it must be in their lack of goal scoring in crucial games.
A Dynamic Attack
Juve have had their issues in scoring in crucial CL games in the past but with the likes of Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi and the return of Gonzalo Higuain it is hard to see this team not be able to score goals this season.
Just like the defence, the forward depth is incredible and on their day, can arguably go up against any defence in Europe. Led by one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the game in Ronaldo, the electricity of Douglas Costa, the clinical finishing of Higuain, plus the skill and pace of both Dybala and Bernardeschi coming off the bench, the sky is the limit with this attack.
Since the issues don’t seem to be with the injuries, the depth, the defence or the attack of Juventus, that only leaves one potential issue, the midfield.
A Lacklustre Midfield
Juve certainly did attempt to address their need for midfielders in the summer transfer window by bringing in Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey, both on free transfers. Both are very good players and add to the overall depth of the Juve squad, but that is not the issue.
The issue with this midfield and Juve’s continued struggles in Europe is their lack of a world-class midfielder. Miralem Pjanic, Rodrigo Bentancur, Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira, Rabiot and Ramsey are all decent players when healthy but none are World Class midfielders.
The midfield is crucial in today’s game and especially important in Maurizio Sarri’s “Sarri Ball” but it remains to be seen if this midfield will be able to deliver. Khedira and Ramsey both have had many injury issues over the past several years which makes people question why Emre Can was left off the CL squad.
Emre is certainly more versatility having played right back, centre back or even as a defensive midfielder before and is arguably more technically gifted than both Khedira and Matuidi. This decision by Sarri is very questionable to say the least and may have repercussions in the CL group stage.
Is this the year?
Many Juventus fans are asking themselves, is this finally the year for Juve to win the coveted Champions League trophy? Evidently, this deep Juventus team will be put to the test in both Serie A and in the CL.
Although it won’t be easy, they should be able to overcome the loss of captain Chiellini, they have the scoring power, they have the depth to do well in both leagues but in the end, it will come down their midfield.
Juve were already put to the test in week two of Serie A when they barely got past S.S.C. Napoli winning 4-3 thanks to an own goal by Kalidou Koulibaly. But the real test will come in a few weeks time, on September 18th.
That is when Juve will visit Atlético de Madrid for their first game of this seasons CL group stage. The Juve midfield will go up against a strong Atlético midfield and overall a talented team. It is certainly not crazy to think this Juventus squad could have a strong chance to finally lift the coveted Champions League trophy this season, but there is also the chance this team could fall short like the ones in previous years, but only time will tell.