Are Juventus’ hopes of winning Serie A already over?
Juventus went into last season having won nine Serie A titles in a row, before this streak was ended by Inter Milan. They have long been the dominant team in Italy, and they are always one of the favourites for the trophy. However, they have performed way below expectations so far this campaign. After more than a quarter of a season, they sit ninth in the table after eleven matches — a whopping sixteen points behind joint leaders Napoli and AC Milan. That is already a huge deficit to make up, and it looks unlikely that they will be able to regain their crown this year. Last season was turbulent in their bid for a tenth successive title, and this one could be similarly so.
The first reason that can be given as to why Juventus will not win Serie A this season is the squad and the current performances. The squad has declined in the last few seasons since reaching the Champions League final in 2017, while the club has had three managers in the space of two years. Maurizio Sarri was appointed to replace Massimiliano Allegri in the summer of 2019, after the latter’s five successful years at the helm. Allegri had won the Serie A title in every season,, as well as securing four Coppa Italias and reaching two Champions League finals. This meant that Sarri had big shoes to fill, but he ultimately fell short of the expectations for a Juventus manager. He did narrowly lead his team to a ninth title in a row — one point ahead of rivals Inter Milan — but the first half of the season was not convincing at all. Besides, there was disappointment in the cups, losing the final of the Coppa Italia and falling to Lyon in the Round of 16 in the Champions League. It was evident that his replacement, Andrea Pirlo, would have had some work to do if Juventus were to improve the following last season.
However, there was regression more than anything. Not only was the title streak ended, but at one stage Juventus looked unlikely to even qualify for the Champions League. They scraped it by one point ahead of Napoli on the final day of the season, but never looked close to toppling champions Inter Milan. Crucially, they were carried by the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 36 goals in 44 games. Ronaldo left and returned to Manchester United this past summer, so it is not surprising that Juventus have struggled since then.
Allegri now has a squad that has changed a decent amount since he left two years ago,, but so far has been unable to get the best out of them. Four defeats in eleven games is concerning, and the team still has plenty of talent, including in attack with the likes of Chiesa and Dybala, indicating that the performances have been unexpectedly poor. The team has plenty of work to do, especially given how the other clubs have performed.
AC Milan and Napoli stepping up is another reason why Juventus may struggle to finish on top this campaign. Both have been near faultless until now, with ten wins from eleven games., Napoli have only conceded three goals, with the impressive Kalidou Koulibaly in the centre of defence. This looks like a well-organised side and, when you combine a solid defensive foundation with the likes of Mertens, Lozano, Insigne, Zielinski and Politano in attack, all bodes well. AC Milan also showed last season that they are a threat, sitting on top of the table on a few occasions. Ibrahimovic is still fit and firing alongside Giroud; the Ivorian Kessie is a powerhouse in midfield; and, despite losing key goalkeeper Donnarumma in the summer to PSG, the back four of Hernandez, Tomori, Kjaer and Calabria has shown its potential in the first few games, holding firm. Both sides already hold a sixteen point lead over Juventus, and at the moment it is hard to see that gap shrinking.
Reigning champions Inter Milan are also in the mix, seven points behind these two, and should not be ruled out of the title race.
They lost key players Hakimi and Lukaku in the last transfer window but replaced them well with Dzeko and Dumfries, and, continuing the five at the back system under previous manager Conte, manager Inzaghi has got this side playing well. Even they are nine points clear of Juventus, and could pull further clear in challenging the top two.
Overall, Juventus are currently in a difficult position for a number of reasons. The squad has gradually dipped in quality, and the departure of Ronaldo especially appears as if it has been tough to take. Allegri is also having to get used to management again, having been away on a two- year sabbatical. With these two things combined, it is not surprising that this has led to underwhelming performances.
Yet, take nothing away from Napoli and both Milan clubs for their solid starts to the season. Napoli in particular look a really good bet with their defensive record and have the talent to hurt teams on the break. The title might not be gone for Juventus just yet, but it is slipping away fast. Allegri has worked wonders during his time in management, particularly in reaching two Champions League finals in three years, but, if he could pull this one off, it might be his biggest achievement ever.